ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Despite being down a man for a majority of the match, Lions’ Midfielder Erik Ustruck scored the game winner in the 85th minute of play Saturday night over the Rochester Rhinos at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, New York. The late score gave the Lions a 1-0 lead, enough to hold off Rochester in the closing minutes for the victory.
The Lions controlled much of the possession in the first half, playing a controlling-type of game that limited the Rhinos’ frontline. Rochester, who scored a total of four goals coming into the game, had a tough time getting past a veteran Orlando City backline led by 2011 USL PRO Defender of the Year Rob Valentino.
Despite the possession, the game shifted in the 38th minute, when Midfielder Jean Alexandre picked up his second yellow card of the game after holding Rhinos Midfielder Ross LaBeaux near the half-field line. The second yellow put Orlando down to 10 men for the rest of the match, with Assistant Coach/Midfielder Ian Fuller having to adjust his lineup heading into halftime.
Fuller, who assumed coaching responsibilities due to Head Coach Adrian Heath missing the trip because of a stomach illness, exchanged Forward Long Tan for Midfielder Christian Duke in the 40th and brought in league-leading striker Dom Dwyer for Dennis Chin in the 65th. Dwyer, who broke the franchise record for goals scored in a single season Saturday night in Harrisburg, Penn., kept up continued pressure on the Rhinos’ backline while Duke assisted in an increased presence in the midfield.
Orlando Goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo made his third consecutive start after missing the early portion of the season with a knee injury, reinforcing confidence at the backend despite the man-down disadvantage. The Torreon, Mexico, native made big saves in the 60th and 64th minutes, giving Orlando hope heading into the last portion of the match.
The game-winner came in the 85th minute, when substitute and 2012 USL PRO MVP Kevin Molino swung in a cross to a charging Erik Ustruck, who headed in the pass to the upper-left corner for the 1-0 advantage. Ustruck, who was making his first start of the season, found himself past the Rochester defense and capitalized- whipping the ball into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead and win.
The Lions have a quick turnaround between matches, entering into the 100th edition of the US Open Cup Tuesday, May 21, in Ocala, Fla., against the Ocala Stampede (PDL) at Forest High School. Kickoff for the match is set for 7 p.m. with tickets available at the gate for $10. If the Lions top the Stampede, they will host Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids at Fifth Third Bank Field at the Florida Citrus Bowl on Tuesday, May 28.