ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Orlando City Soccer Club closed out the road portion of the 2012 USL PRO regular season the same way they started it, a win. The Lions defeated the Rochester Rhinos 1-0 at Sahlen’s Stadium on a goal by Jamie Watson in the 65th minute. The win is Orlando’s third straight, and seventh in their last eight.
The first half played out much like the last Orlando/Rochester encounter with City dominating possession. The difference came in the presence of Rhinos defenders George Kyriazis and former Orlando City Lion Jack Traynor. Both players missed the match in Orlando, and both made their presence felt in the opening frame. Kyriazis was especially effective, shutting down the Lions league-leading goal scorer Dennis Chin.
The best scoring chance of the first half came from Rochester in the 30th minute. Off a corner kick, Rochester managed three shots inside the 6-yard box. Orlando Goalkeeper Sean Kelley saved the first effort, the second was cleared off the line by a host of City players, but fell to Kyriazis. Both he and Tam McManus went for the ball, with Kyriazis connecting first. The confusion forced the Greek defender to rush his shot, and it sailed high and over the crossbar.
The second half began much like the first, but as time wore on Orlando City started to find cracks in the Rhinos defense. Rochester Goalkeeper Kristian Nicht made two big saves in the 59th and 63rd minutes on Chin and Jamie Watson, but in the 65th Watson broke the deadlock.
Watson collected a long pass from the Lions half, and drove toward goal. Though he had Chin and George Davis running step for step with him, the fiery midfielder called his own number. The low drive skipped past a diving Nicht and into the net for Watson’s third goal in as many days.
City continued to press on, but Rochester remained equally committed to the attack. Everything changed for the Rhinos when J.C. Banks was sent off in the 76th minute for a collision with Adama Mbengue. Banks was already carrying a yellow card, and earned his second for taking out the Senegalese defender’s leg on a late challenge. The man advantage was short lived for the Lions as Mbengue was sent off four minutes later under the same circumstances.
The Rhinos were not without equalizing chances in the second half. Danny Earls struck the crossbar in the 67th minute, and Andrew Hoxie forced Kelley into a diving save in stoppage time. On the resulting corner, Hoxie saw his header sail just over the crossbar.
Next up for Orlando City is a week off. The Lions will rest up for their regular season finale on Friday, August 17, at home against the Dayton Dutch Lions.