Look out MLS NEXT Pro Eastern Conference, rampaging RNY FC is coming for a playoff spot, and maybe more.
Without a few key players due to injury? One shot in the first half hour against Philadelphia Union II? Down a man for the final 30 minutes of the contest?
None of these things concern Rochester right now: this team is on fire, and is playing like one of the best teams in MLS NEXT Pro (which RNY FC might be).
RNY FC won its third league match on the bounce, with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Union II. The victory moved Rochester up to fifth place in the table, after it started the season with just two points from its first four games. That first month of action seems like eons ago now, as RNY FC (11 points) has outscored its last three opponents in the league 9-2. Rochester still has a game in hand over Philadelphia (15 points) and two over NYCFC (14 points).
Rochester got another Man of the Match performance from April’s RNY FC Player of the Month Pedro Dolabella, who has started running circles around the midfields of the other league teams. Dolabella scored twice in the contest, while Gibran Rayo converted from the spot in a key moment, to send Rochester into this key week on a high.
The two teams started the game slowly in the hot and humid conditions, with each team registering just one effort on target in the first half hour. The chance for RNY FC came early, as Rayo took a cross from Jesus Batiz on the six and hammered it towards the net, only to see Union II keeper Brooks Thompson make a spectacular stop to keep it scoreless inside of six minutes.
The teams got a hydration break right at the half hour mark, and it was Dolabella that opened the scoring in the 33rd minute. The midfielder took a cross from Jacob Akanyirige in stride just inside the 18 and coolly slotted it home to give Rochester a 1-0 advantage.
The match looked to have changed right after the hour mark. A RNY FC penalty claim was waived off by the referee, and Akanyirige picked up his second yellow card to leave Rochester a half hour to play down to 10 players. But 20 seconds later, Rochester was awarded a penalty for another foul in the box, and Rayo’s spot kick was spot on, to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.
What a swing of emotions!
With a two-goal advantage but down to 10, the final 30 minutes could have been tough for Rochester. But the pressure never materialized from the visitors, and in fact it was RNY FC that would get a stoppage time goal to end the comprehensive victory.
Substitute Paulo Soares lofted a cross into the box, and an unmarked Dolabella slid and got contact on the ball, which trickled into the net past Thompson, who had tried to come get the ball with no success.
It was truly the icing on the cake for Rochester, which has battled through adversity through the first two months to get to this point. Yes, the schedule is getting tougher, but so is this team.
It has now gotten to the point where RNY FC is the team everyone is looking at on their upcoming schedule and has started to think “If we can get a point off them it will be a good result.”
Soon, we might be hearing this ballad sung from the corners of MCC: Rochester’s on fire, your defense is terrified, nanananananananana.
It would be apropos as well: this team is on fire right now, and looking to keep climbing the table.
RNY FC: Sunday, May 29, at Columbus Crew II, 2 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. UK time), stream link here
Philadelphia Union II: Friday, May 27, at New England Revolution II, 7 p.m. EDT