Sharpness, fitness and attacking instincts. The RiverDogz Reserves boasted all of these traits, while the Buffalo & District Soccer League's Amherst Sharpshooters fell short in all three categories in a decisive 4-0 loss to the Rochester foes in the play-in round of the USASA Amateur Cup..
Rochester's William Stone potted two first-half goals for a 2-0 lead at the break, then Isaac Kissi and Michael Cunningham scored insurance markers in the second 45. Sharpshooters, on the other hand, won a few corner kicks in the first half but never tested the Dogz's Tyler Brew.
"I felt like we were a little rusty for sure, [our] first time playing 11 vs. 11 in a while," said Sharpshooters manager Trevor Lawler. "They were probably a little bit fitter than we were, which showed, especially as the game went on."
For an area that received roughly 20 inches of snow just four days ago, the turf at Roberts Wesleyan College was impressively clear and almost entirely dry, and temperatures in the high 30s made for a reasonable Sunday of soccer.
RiverDogz Reserves, 1-0, 23': Pretty build-up from the RiverDogz Reserves led to the first goal. Luke Pavone, a RiverDogz first-teamer who also plays at Buffalo State, laid the ball off to Jesse Toth, who picked out his brother, Jared, dashing down the left side.
Jared skidded the ball across the six-yard box, where striker Stone was there to poke past Adam Durst in close. Although they didn't factor often in the box score, the Toth brothers were two of the most influential RiverDogz.
RiverDogz Reserves, 2-0, 36': Nine minutes before the intermission an awkward exchange between Pavone and Jake Schindler produced a non-threatening bouncing shot from the latter.
Several Sharpshooters defenders raised their arms to indicate offsides as Stone alertly pounced on the rolling ball and poked another past Durst. Appeals to the assistant referee were denied with a shake of the head.
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RiverDogz Reserves, 3-0, 74': Already pressing their back four high up the pitch as the first half wound to a close, Sharpshooters eventually paid the price in the second half. Substitute Isaac Kissi, a former Major League Soccer draft pick, sneaked in behind the Sharpshooters' defense, shouldered off a defender, dribbled around Durst and slotted home.
RiverDogz Reserves, 4-0, 79': A giveaway from Durst resulted in the RiverDogz final goal. Kissi dispossessed the keeper, who'd charged outside of his own 18, then slid a pass across the goalmouth to Cunningham, who faked his shot with poise, cut to his left and popped a shot into the empty net.
"I thought we played pretty well [defensively] - I thought it was real even - we just had two slip-ups, [where] we lost those guys, little breakdowns on how they got their first two," said Sharpshooters defender Graham Harris, who, along with center back partner Drew Braun, cut out several attacks. "The second half, those last two, we were just pushing real hard and they caught us."
SHARPSHOOTERS' CHANCES: With the game scoreless, good interplay beyond midfield by Jon Cary and Dan Barrie pushed the ball out wide to Zach Schwartz, who served a bending cross into the box. Barrie got his head on the ball but couldn't direct it on frame.
Throughout the first 45 minutes, Amherst strung together passes in the midfield through central trio Cody Rouse, Brandon Loncar and Brendan Lawler, but chances were scarce.
"I thought we had spells in the first half where we did a good job of moving the ball into the attacking end when we got down there - I don't think we got enough established possession in the attacking third of the field," noted Trevor Lawler, who's recovering from a torn ACL.
"Overall there were decent spells throughout the game, but we didn't string it together consistently enough over the 90."
Halftime substitute Matt Campana provided a spark for Sharpshooters, adding pace to the left side and playing quite direct. The former Meryhurst midfielder struck a shot from distance that worried Brew - but knuckled a yard or so wide of the right post.
Schwartz played facilitator again late in the second half, cutting a cross back to substitute Ricky Martinez, stationed near the penalty kick spot, but the St. John Fisher alum couldn't direct his shot on target.
Sharpshooters: Adam Durst; Zack Wood, Drew Braun, Graham Harris, Jon Cary; Ben Mozg, Cody Rouse, Brandon Loncar, Brendan Lawler, Zach Schwartz; Dan Barrie. Harris and Braun receive co-man of the match honors for the BDSL side.
RiverDogz: Tyler Brew; Anthony Rozzano, Dan Cavanaugh, Sam King, Jake Schindler; Jesse Toth, Jared Toth; Michael Cunningham, Rafael Godoi, Luke Pavone; William Stone. Stone receives RDSL's MOTM for the first-half brace.
FULL DOGZ: Roster rules for the Amateur Cup itself are lax - at least relative to the club's usual summer rosters - and they're even less stiff for the play-in game.
Zero players in the RiverDogz Reserves' 18 Sunday actually suited up for the Rochester & District Soccer League team in summer 2016, while five were regular starters for the RiverDogz first team last year.
Sharpshooters, on the other hand, started nine players from their 2016 summer roster and brought in four subs also on the side. Ultimately, the continuity wasn't enough to overcome a significantly better RiverDogz squad.
FINAL QUOTES: "It was a decent effort - later in the season, I think we could compete with them, but it was a very strong squad that they brought with them," said Trevor Lawler. "It was a tough day, but hopefully we'll be back at it next year."
"It was fun - we were all amped for it," said Harris of the competitive nature of a pre-tournament match. "It was fun to play them - I wish we could have done better, but they came out and beat us. Best of luck to them."