0602 RNY

All winning streaks must come to an end at some point.

Heck, even Real Madrid has only won five of the last 10 UEFA Champions League titles.

So the RNY FC supporters knew that, despite a dominant month of May, Rochester was going to stumble somewhere in this run of matches.

But even without all three points Thursday night, RNY FC still managed to pull many positives from its Lake Ontario Derby clash with Toronto FC II.

Rochester got a late goal from Jesus Batiz to take the lead, then saw the visitors find an even later goal, in the 85th minute from Themi Antonoglou, to see the match end in a 1-1 draw.

RNY FC recovered to win the penalty shootout 4-3, which gave the hosts an extra point in the table. Those two points earned were enough to see Rochester, which started its 2022 MLS NEXT Pro campaign with no wins from its first four games (and just two points), now sit in the playoff places in the Eastern Conference table with a 14-point haul from its last five games (4-0-1).

Yes, it is early in the season: but it is never a bad thing to be near the top of the table, and above the playoff line instead of below it.

RNY FC actually had plenty of the action early in the contest, but had to deal with TFC II keeper Luka Gavran, who looked every bit the MLS draft pick on the night. Gavran made an early fingertip save on Ed WIlliams, but his double save in the 31st minute, first on the shot from Batiz, then a rebound attempt from Gibran Rayo, stunned the crowd. Gavran scrambled to his feet to save the second shot in quick succession, and stopped what looked to be a sure goal.

At the other end of the pitch, RNY FC GK Caique Luiz Santos da Puricaçāo was able to keep it scoreless as well heading into the intermission with a couple saves of his own, and it was all to play for in the final 45 minutes.

Rochester midfielder Pedro Dolabella had a great chance in the 57th minute, as Ian Garrett’s free kick was headed into the middle of the six. Dolabella stretched every sinew to reach the cross, but just could not get enough on the ball to keep it down under the bar.

The breakthrough for the hosts finally came in the 78th minute, on a textbook example of a lightning-quick counter attack. Dolabella played a beautifully-weighted one-time ball from just outside his own box right into the path of Batiz, who took it from mid-pitch all the way into the Toronto FC II box. While Batiz could have looked to square the ball to Gabriel Costa, the attacking midfielder fired it home at the near post with his left foot to set off the celebrations in the Monroe Community College stands.

With just 10 minutes left plus stoppage time, you would have fancied RNY FC to close it out and stretch the winning streak to five games. But the warning bells were ringing right away: Toronto FC II hit the post within 45 seconds of the restart, as Stefan Karajovanovic got it past Caique. It looked like the hosts had escaped with all three points, but Antonoglu bundled it home to make it 1-1 and send the match to penalties, with the extra point the prize.

RNY FC made the first three, with Caique saving the third one from TFC II, then a miss on the final kick handed Rochester the added point with a 4-3 win from the spot.

Does it go down as a win?

No. 

But it keeps the positive momentum going until next Sunday. RNY FC will get another chance to visit Northern Kentucky and take on a FC Cincinnati 2 team under the lights at NKU Soccer Stadium, and play on the turf where this unbeaten run began way back on May 8.

That game may end up as the one people look at as the turning point in the 2022 season, although the better case might be made for the stunning win in the U.S. Open Cup Third Round when Rochester beat FC Motown on penalties down to 10-men for an hour, and nine for almost 40 minutes.

Either way, RNY FC once again is headed up the table, and ready for a fun summer.

NEXT GAMES

RNY FC: at FC Cincinnati 2, Saturday, June 11, 8 p.m. EDT (1 a.m. UK time), NKU Soccer Stadium.

TFC II: vs. Philadelphia Union II, Saturday, June 11, 8 p.m. EDT, York Lions Stadium.