We have long since passed the point of wondering whether or not this RNY FC team is good.
Whatever lingering doubts there were after a winless first month-plus were tampered down in May and somewhat in June.
Now, in July, Rochester has shown it is a force in the MLS NEXT Pro Eastern Conference, and its position in the table reflects just how good this team is.
After two wins already in July, Saturday night’s 1-0 away victory over a NYCFC team that had been rampant of late showed exactly why Rochester has a legitimate chance to bring home silverware at the end of the 2022 season.
NYCFC had scored 14 goals in its last three matches, with John Denis bagging six of those, but the in-form striker (and the rest of the New York City attack) hardly got a sniff of goal all night. And when they did, Caíque Santos was there to make the saves, and make sure RNY FC gained some revenge from an earlier home loss to their opponent, as well as a defeat in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup to the senior side.
While the battle between two of the top scorers in the league did not really materialize, it was another striker, who came in off the bench in the first half for an injured Jesus Batiz, that made the difference in the contest. Will Inalien, who had been the go-to player for goals early on in the 2022 campaign before an injury derailed him for a period, got on the end of a Pedro Dolabella cross (that is what we are calling it) and turned the ball into the net in the 77th minute to break the deadlock.
Before Gibran Rayo started scoring goals for fun over the last couple months, Inalien was the one bagging all the goals. He had two in the 3-2 loss to NYCFC II on April 23, and had scored three times in two games, before an injury saw him leave the NYCFC II match early. He missed six weeks of action, and has played sparingly since, logging 123 minutes before he came on in the 39th minute of the contest Saturday.
While RNY FC had a majority of the chances in the first half, the second half was pretty even, and the breakthrough came late. Dolabella was the first to pounce in the box when NYCFC II keeper Alex Rando was unable to clear a cross. The ball fell to Dolabella, and the midfielder put his left foot through the ball. It was heading towards the far post, when Inalien stuck out his boot and turned it into the net for the game-winner.
Santos had to come up with a huge save in injury time to derail the comeback attempt: the Brazilian came off his line to make himself bigger after Piero Elias snuck behind the Rochester defense and was one-on-one with Santos, and made the save with his body to deny the hosts for the final time on the evening.
The win moves RNY FC up to second in the table with nine matches to go, and Rochester is now crucially seven points clear of fifth place Inter Miami CF II, with the top four in the Eastern Conference making the playoffs.
Columbus Crew 2 is the only team ahead of RNY FC right now, and Rochester is a point ahead of NYCFC II with a game in hand.
Now, Rochester has three-straight games at home to consolidate its place in the playoffs. Can they take care of business?
NYCFC II: vs. Inter Miami CF II, Sunday, July 24, 6 p.m. EDT, Belson Stadium
RNY FC: vs. FC Cincinnati 2, Friday, July 22, 7 p.m. EDT (12 a.m. UK time), John L. DiMarco Field at Monroe Community College