For Pedro Dolabella and the RNY FC team, two weeks was a long time to have to wait to get back on the pitch for a competitive contest.
But that time was not wasted: Rochester used its fortnight to train and prepare for what is going to be its most challenging week of the season (so far), and to set itself up for what looked to be a great opportunity to win its first match outside of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
The game plan that Bruno Baltazar and his staff developed for the first of three games in seven days worked nearly to perfection, and now Rochester will head into its biggest game in years with some momentum.
RNY FC picked up three huge points on the road Sunday night, knocking off FC Cincinnati 2 2-1, thanks to goals from April Player of the Month Pedro Dolabella and Milan Vanacker. Rochester had to sweat out the final few minutes after Avionne Flanagan scored in the 87th minute, but it was able to hold off the hosts, and pick up three valuable points.
The victory moves RNY FC up to eighth in the Eastern Conference table on five points, with one or two games in hand on most of the teams around it in the standings, and was the first in the new competition for Rochester in its fifth try.
After a slow start to the contest, Rochester picked up the high press, with Preston Popp leading the line. RNY FC made the hosts pay late in the first half, as Popp's pressure won the ball up the pitch. Weaving his way through the defense, Popp slid the ball across the box to a wide-open Dolabella, who slid home to make it 1-0 in the 42nd minute.
"We scouted them pretty well about pressing them, and we kind of changed our strategy from the previous games, as we we sitting in the mid block more," Dolabella said. "This game, we were able to press, and the first goal came out of a pressing moment. We worked on that press throughout the week. Preston is a great presser.
"He did really well stealing the ball from the other guy, and I just looked to get into the box to support him. Sometimes, when you get into the box, the ball falls to you. I was happy to be able to put it away."
RNY FC went into the break with a 1-0 lead thanks to keeper Caique as well, who made a point-blank save in the final moments before the whistle to keep the hosts at bay. That save loomed large late in the contest, after two goals in just over two minutes swung the momentum from one side to the other very quickly.
Rochester got its second goal through Vanacker in the 85th minute. Substitute Jesus Batiz won the ball deep in his own end, and after making the first defender miss, he drove deep into the FC Cincinnati 2 end of the pitch, got on the end of a give and go, and floated a ball to the back post that found Vanacker ghosting in unmarked to make it 2-0.
FC Cincinnati cut the deficit to 2-1 in the 87th minute through Flanagan, but could not find an equalizer even with five minutes of stoppage time added.
The victory comes just three days before RNY FC heads to New York City to face defending MLS champion NYC FC in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. Rochester then will head home to face Inter Miami II at Monroe Community College, looking for its first MLS NEXT Pro home win.
"It gives us a lot of momentum," Dolabella said. "The first one is always the hardest. It was great to get that first one today, and just get that feeling. We put in so much hard work over that two weeks, and to leave with a positive result in an away game, it is priceless. It means that all the hard work worked well.
"Obviously, it is not easy playing away from our fans. We know how nice it is to play in Rochester. I think as soon as we get a sequence of home games, we will get more and more wins. That is what we are working for."
Wednesday, May 11, RNY FC at NYC FC, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round, 7 p.m. EDT (ESPN+)