Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Steel FC
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – In the Week 2 season opener for both sides, Bethlehem Steel FC and the Rochester Rhinos appeared to be headed to another draw in their head-to-head series. Second-half sub and Rhinos newcomer Jochen Graf put an end to that trend with an 88th-minute winner as the visiting side earned a 3-2 victory Saturday at Goodman Stadium. After drawing against each other twice last year, Graf’s right-footed volley from Jalen Brown’s cross was the difference. It was a topsy-turvy match with a number of goals as the Rhinos could not maintain a two-goal lead. Darius Madison and Wal Fall each scored in the opening half, but Bethlehem fought back. Former U.S. Men’s National Team striker Charlie Davies and then Seku Conneh converted their PK, but Rochester would eventually swing things back in its favor down the stretch with Graf’s winner.
9’ – ROC – Darius Madison (Mike Garzi)
34’ – ROC – Wal Fall (penalty)
45’+3 – BST – Charlie Davies (penalty)
72’ – BST – Seku Conneh (penalty)
88’ – ROC – Jochen Graf (Jalen Brown)
Three Things That Mattered:
1. With completely new pieces to Rochester’s attack this season, that probably was the biggest unknown heading into 2017. Who would take over in that department with the losses of Steevan Dos Santos (Ottawa Fury FC) and Christian Volesky (Saint Louis FC)? Within the first 10 minutes Saturday, Darius Madison certainly made a good first impression to fill that void. A former Premier Development League player with Reading United AC and a 2014 College Cup winner with Virginia, Madison backed up his strong resume with Rochester’s first goal this season. Mike Garzi had the assist, but it was mostly Madison’s effort when he received the ball outside the box, dribbled in, fought off several Steel FC defenders and as he was falling down, muscled a shot inside the left post for the 1-0 lead in the ninth minute. Jochen Graf also did his part as a second-half sub, so the front line stepped up in a big way.
2. Bethlehem’s roster certainly utilized some experience for its opener. Philadelphia Union striker Charlie Davies started for Steel FC on Saturday and calmly converted a penalty kick in first-half stoppage time to cut Rochester’s lead to 2-1 heading into the half. He played for the PDL’s Westchester Flames back in 2006, but this marked Davies’ first appearance in the USL. Longtime Union midfielder Brian Carroll also got the start in Bethlehem’s lineup and wore the captain’s armband. Carroll is a former Richmond Kickers loanee during the 2003 A-League campaign when he was with MLS’s D.C. United.
3. Rochester certainly wanted a different result after starting the match with a solid effort on both ends. From a midfield standpoint, the Rhinos are going to lean on the well-rounded play of Wal Fall and Kenardo Forbes to lead Bob Lilley’s club. Fall’s play continued to rise during the 2016 season and his hesitation approach on a first-half PK gave Rochester a 2-0 lead in the 34th minute. As the Rhinos continue to solidify their game up front, this tandem in particular will be the focal point as the new pieces continue to mesh.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Kenardo Forbes, Rochester Rhinos – Forbes did not figure into the scoring, but he stepped up in the opener to dictate the flow of the game, particularly in the first half.
Bethlehem Steel FC vs. FC Cincinnati – April 9, 4 p.m. ET, Goodman Stadium
Rochester Rhinos at Toronto FC II – April 7, 7:30 p.m. ET, Ontario Soccer Centre