By Jimmy LaRoue
RICHMOND–The Richmond Kickers recovered from an early defensive breakdown to score four unanswered goals and defeat the still winless Rochester Rhinos 4-1 Saturday before 2,270 at City Stadium.
Having just talked about not having an early letdown to a team playing on the second of back-to-back nights, the Kickers did just that.
The Kickers’ two central defenders, William Yomby and Conor Shanosky, miscommunicated on an early play, allowing Rhinos forward Matt Luzunaris to go in alone on goal, beating Andrew Dykstra for an early 3rd minute lead.
“I’m thinking, we just talked about that two minutes earlier, just before we walked out,” said Kickers coach Leigh Cowlishaw. “The fact that they’re playing the second game, have a lot of pace up top, they have some good forwards. They’ve been very direct so far in their first three games, and that’s exactly what we talked about. Our central defenders weren’t ready for it. The fact that they miscommunicated and their center forward was able to walk in for the first goal is very disappointing.”
However, the Kickers (2-0-1, 7 pts.) settled into the match and posed constant threats to the Rochester defense, breaking through in first half stoppage time. After Nate Robinson forced Rhinos’ goalkeeper Kristian Nicht into a stellar save a minute earlier, Robinson, after left back Sascha Gorres sprung him, set up Mike Callahan for a low-liner from 12 yards that beat Nicht to tie the match at the half.
“It’s massive,” Cowlishaw said of the goal. “That’s the most important goal. That gives us all the momentum. It gets Rochester really thinking now ’cause their tired–can we survive for 45 minutes?”
With the familiarity between the two coaches, as Rhinos coach Jesse Myers was an assistant in Richmond for 15 years, the Kickers needed time to unearth a solution to their deficit. The Rhinos took Callahan out of the game for much of the first half, Cowlishaw said, but the Kickers had made the adjustment late in the half, got Callahan’s goal and carried the momentum into the second half.
The Kickers got three more goals after halftime, all coming after the Rhinos (0-3-1, 1 pt.) were at less than full strength due to red cards.
Five minutes after intermission, Rhinos defender George Kyrasis was sent off on a straight red card challenge in the box on Joseph Ngwenya, who made a nifty dribble move through three Rhinos defenders and going in alone on Nicht before Kyrasis tripped him from behind.
“It was a great second goal,” Cowlishaw said. “It was a good play. It was a red card, no question.”
Ngwenya powered home the penalty past Nicht to put the Kickers up 2-1 and pick up his second goal of the season.
“Rochester’s two lines of back four, midfield were very compact, but as we started to switch the point of attack, we stretched them out,” Cowlishaw said. “We kept saying, ‘If Joe can get in the hole and turn, he can cause some chaos, and he did for the goal. It’s something he can do, and it’s something, if we possess it well, we’ll find him.”
With the man-advantage, the Kickers stretched out the game on the tired Rhinos and got a third goal in the 66th minute from Jason Yeisley, who redirected a Robinson shot after the former Michigan Bucks player had scuffed a corner, his third in an offensive flurry for the Kickers. Though Robinson didn’t get credit for the goal, he was a key factor in the Kickers’ success throughout the game.
“To get Nate out of our pro tryouts, and to come in and really be a player who could start for us and make things happen, has been a fantastic addition to the squad,” Cowlishaw said. “He’s brought some exceptional service from corners. We talked about him coming inside on his right foot for striking it. He practices it non-stop in training. We know what he can do. He’s starting to get the understanding of the system. He comes from a very strong club in Michigan Bucks. He’s going to be a strong addition for us.”
In the 77th minute, the Rhinos went down to nine players after Tyler Rosenlund was sent off for a takedown of Kickers’ right back Juan Arbelaez, making his professional debut after coming on for Alex Lee, who left the game late in the first half after injuring a hamstring.
Seven minutes later, following some nice distribution from goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra to kick start the Kickers attack down the left sideline, Stanley Nyazamba scored his first goal of the year, beating Nicht on a shot from the top left corner of the box to provide for the final margin.
While Cowlishaw wasn’t pleased with the early defensive miscue, he was pleased with another strong offensive effort, as they’ve scored eight goals in two wins against teams the Kickers lost to at home last year, especially after an opening with an anemic offensive display against Pittsburgh.
With the Rhinos playing their second game in two days–having played in a downpour during a scoreless draw with Charlotte last Friday–Cowlishaw said he expects to win in those circumstances.
“It’s difficult to turn up in Richmond at 4 a.m. and then turnaround and play a real fresh team,” Cowlishaw said. “Again, I’m not going to get carried away. We expect to win that game. Every time you play a team on a back-to-back, you’ve got to take those three points.”
Cowlishaw said that, despite the win, he wants to see the Kickers step up defensively and have more patience in possession.
The Kickers had to make a last-minute shuffle to their lineup with the absence of three of his D.C. United loanees. Casey Townsend, who scored twice last week, stayed behind with United and may make the gameday roster for Sunday’s match against the Philadelphia Union (Update: He made the gameday roster and was set to enter the match late, but ultimately did not play). Taylor Kemp was sidelined with an injury, and Michael Seaton was unavailable to the team. Recently re-signed Matthew Delicate is still a few weeks away from being match fit.
The Kickers had two of its United loanees–Dykstra and Shanosky, who both played 90 minutes. Brian Ownby, who played 90 minutes for Houston’s reserve squad on Tuesday, played 83 minutes and displayed a high workrate and physicality during the match. He played three games in the space of a week.
Cowlishaw hopes to have Seaton for the Kickers in two weeks when they play back-to-back games at Wilmington and home against Charlotte.
Still, he says he’s familiar enough with the United players that when available, he can insert them in the right places, as needed–”They’re all very motivated and on board with performing well for the Kickers when here.” He said the team is set up to deal with “worst-case scenarios,” with one of those taking place Saturday.
“It’s satisfying for the fact that, everything we prepared for during the week was thrown out the window,” Cowlishaw said. “We had to shuffle two or three players. In addition, you don’t have Delicate, you don’t have Seaton, you don’t have [David] Bulow, you don’t have Townsend. That’s four game-winners there, in my opinion, who can score goals for you. But we’re set up that way. We know it’s going to change from week-to-week, and we have a squad with a lot of depth, and we’re able to change position when we need to. We’re very flexible, and I’m very comfortable in that environment.”
Soccerwire.com Man of the Match: Nate Robinson – The former Michigan Bucks and University of Detroit-Mercy standout rattled the crossbar on a shot just before he set up Mike Callahan’s first goal, and then had the shot that Jason Yeisley redirected for the team’s third goal. He gave the Rhinos fits all evening down the left flank.
ROC – Matt Luzunaris 3rd minute
RIC – Mike Callahan (Nate Robinson) 45
RIC – Joseph Ngwenya (penalty) 50
RIC – Jason Yeisley (Nate Robinson) 66
RIC – Stanley Nyazamba (Luke Vercollone) 84
Kickers: GK Andrew Dykstra, Sascha Görres, William Yomby, Conor Shanosky, Alex Lee (Juan Arbelaez 43), Luke Vercollone, Mike Callahan (Henry Kalungi 83), Nate Robinson (Joseph Haboush 83), Joseph Ngwenya (Philippe Davies 83), Brian Ownby (Stanley Nyazamba 83), Jason Yeisley
Rhinos: GK Kristian Nicht, George Kyriasis, Troy Roberts, Bilal Duckett, Michael Tanke (Kendell McFayden 40), Gabe Latigue (Tyler Polak 52), Tyler Rosenlund, Lance Rozenboom, Danny Earls, Blake Brettschneider (Lucas Fernandez 73), Matt Luzunaris (Tam McManus 73)
Shots: RIC 12, ROC 6
Shots on goal: RIC 8, ROC 3
Saves: RIC 2, ROC 4
Fouls: RIC 5, ROC 8
Corners: RIC 9, ROC 0
ROC – Danny Earls 28
ROC – Blake Brettschneider 55
ROC – Lucas Fernandez 87
ROC – George Kyriasis 50 (professional foul) 50
ROC – Tyler Roselund (serious foul play) 76
Referee: Charles Carson
Assistant Referees: James Brooks, Matthew Nelson
Fourth Official: Patrick Rosas
Weather: Party cloudy, breezy, 60 degrees
This story has been updated.