Photo courtesy Matt Wittmeyer / Rochester Rhinos
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The Rochester Rhinos got a first-half goal by Jochen Graf to see off Bethlehem Steel FC on Tuesday night at Capelli Sport Stadium in the USL Game of the Week on ESPN3, a win that moved the Rhinos into the top four in the Eastern Conference and kept Bethlehem from clinching its first playoff berth in club history. Neither side created much until the 24th minute when a cross from the right by Rochester’s Kenardo Forbes came to Graf, but the forward’s shot was deflected wide of the left post. The Rhinos took the lead in the 38th minute as Graf notched his ninth goal of the season as Forbes played an angled ball into the penalty area from the right channel that allowed the forward to get on the end. Steel FC threatened late in the first half as Adam Najem’s shot from the edge of the penalty area forced a first save by Rhinos goalkeeper Tomas Gomez, while Rochester almost added to its lead just before the hour mark as a side-footed effort by Wal Fall slid just wide of the left post. Steel FC looked to try and level as the second half wore on, bringing on Seku Conneh to accompany Cory Burke in attack, but the Rhinos once again proved difficult to break down as they recorded their 10th home shutout of the regular season to move into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
38’ – ROC – Jochen Graf (Kenardo Forbes)
Three Things That Matter:
1. The Rhinos put themselves in position to at the very least host an Eastern Conference Quarterfinal with Tuesday night’s victory as the side moved into fourth place in the standings, level on points with the third-place Tampa Bay Rowdies and one point back of the second-place Charleston Battery. They did so with a typical Rhinos performance as the side proved very difficult to break down, was industrious in all areas of the field, and took advantage of the chance it needed to for a second consecutive shutout victory.
2. The player that took the chance was once again Jochen Graf, whose ninth goal of the season might not have picked up too many style points but once again highlighted the forward’s effectiveness if given an opening. In replacing Christian Volesky at the top of the Rhinos formation this season, Graf has brought a high work-rate and a knack for anticipating the types of delivery he capitalized on in Wednesday’s game from Kenardo Forbes, which has allowed the Rhinos to retain its prominence in the Eastern Conference’s contenders.
3. Bethlehem had some good moments, and their passing at times was sharp and allowed the side to move well through the midfield. Once Steel FC got into the final third, however, it was unable to find a telling pass to give the likes of Cory Burke or second-half substitute Seku Conneh a clear look at goal. Neither player finished with a shot on goal in the contest, leaving Bethlehem to hope for a favor from Tampa Bay on Thursday night to clinch a playoff place. If Orlando City B takes victory in the I-4 Derby, though, the pressure will magnify for Steel FC’s final game of the regular season.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Joe Farrell, Rochester Rhinos – Farrell led the Rhinos’ back line beautifully, recording five tackles, four clearances and two interceptions to hold Bethlehem to only one shot on goal for the contest.
Rochester Rhinos vs. New York Red Bulls II – October 14, 6:05 p.m. ET, Capelli Sport Stadium
Bethlehem Steel FC vs. Saint Louis FC – October 15, 3 p.m. ET, Goodman Stadium