This was the moment.
When the whistle finally went on the game Sunday at York Lions Stadium, and RNY FC escaped from Canada with a slim 1-0 victory thanks to an early goal from Jesus Batiz, the cheers could be heard clearly across Lake Ontario back in Rochester.
After a month and a half without a victory, RNY FC came out of the doldrums and have now won three games on the bounce after its massive win Sunday over Toronto FC II.
The victory has done three things. Firstly, it moved Rochester into second place in the MLS NEXT Pro Eastern Conference. Secondly, it moved RNY FC up into first place in the Northeast Division with one Rochester match left to go in the 2022 regular season: Toronto plays Inter Miami CF II Wednesday night with its game in hand and can move back ahead heading into the final match day of the campaign.
Finally, and probably most importantly, the three points got Rochester to 39 in the table. While there is no “x” next to RNY FC in the standings Tuesday, there will be Wednesday night if Miami drops points. That “x” signifies the teams in each conference that make the playoffs.
Yes, that is right: we are talking about playoff games in the first year back for Rochester (we told you to Believe Impossible from day 1), and hopefully, it is a home playoff game at John L. Dimarco Field on the Monroe Community College in front of a raucous sold out crowd.
It all came about when Ed WIlliams opened up his body and, with his first touch, played a deftly-weighted ball into Batiz in the 17th minute of the contest Sunday. Batiz slotted home to give Rochester an early 1-0 lead, and the team made the lead stand up over the final 75 minutes.
The last three matches have seen the team do a 180 from the first three games in August. RNY FC allowed nine goals in three losses to start August, but since that 2-1 loss in Miami on August 21, Rochester has tightened up at the back: in the three subsequent victories, RNY FC has allowed just one goal in 270 minutes.
So the defense has stepped up, but so have the players in attack. Williams has two goals in the wins, including a stoppage time winner to beat the Philadelphia Union II. Gibran Rayo has a game-winner, and now Batiz does in that period.
So, there might be celebrations in Rochester Wednesday night, or they might come on Sunday at home in the regular season finale. In fact, if it goes to plan, Wednesday and Sunday night have parties in Rochester fans’ homes, pubs around the city, in the parking lot prior to kickoff against NYCFC II, and in the stands.
This resilient team turned it around in what looked like the toughest of times, and there is now a very good chance we get some playoff soccer again in Rochester.
Toronto FC II: vs. Inter Miami CF II, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m. EDT, York Lions Stadium
RNY FC: vs. NYCFC II, Sunday, Sept. 18, 3 p.m. EDT (8 p.m. UK time), John L. DiMarco Field at Monroe Community College