Gambles cost Rhinos against Vancouver - Democrat and Chronicle

Jeff DiVeronica Staff writer The seven-match unbeaten streak is over. The push toward the top tier of the USL First Division is on hold. The Rhinos lost 3-1 on Friday night to defending champion Vancouver thanks to what coach Darren Tilley called some "kamikaze" defending before a crowd of 6,411 at Marina Auto Stadium. Fifth-place Rochester had been on a 4-0-3 streak; the Whitecaps were only 1-5-2 on the road before Friday. But another controversial call against the Rhinos put them in a 1-0 halftime hole and uncharacteristic defensive lapses in the second half were costly. "We have to play disciplined defense as a team. We can't gamble. It's definitely frustrating, embarrassing," defender Kenney Bertz said. "You've got to close guys down. They have players who can shoot from distance ... guys in this league that will punish you." Forward Marlon James scored twice for Vancouver (7-7-3), which jumped from eighth place to sixth in the USL, to tie Rhino Johnny Menyongar for the USL lead with eight. Rochester (8-6-5, 29 points) remains four points behind fourth-place Carolina (10-5-3), which visits Wednesday. Midfielder Tiger Fitzpatrick's curving, 20-yard shot in the 63rd minute cut the Rhinos' deficit to 2-1, but Tyrell Burgess whistled a 23-yard shot past goalkeeper Tim Melia six minutes later. James and Burgess were each given too much space to operate. "Completely deflates you," Bertz said of the third goal. "You can't let that happen. We were going at them." Tilley's Rhinos beat Cleveland 4-1 last Saturday using a three-forward formation and he stuck with that. Rochester controlled much of the first half, but came up empty. Newly acquired defender Steve Kindel sent in a cross in the 20th minute that forward Ryan Heins got to, but his leaping header from eight yards was just wide. About 30 seconds later, Heins centered a pass to Menyongar, but it was just behind him. In the 26th minute, Vancouver goalie Jay Nolly bobbled Andrew Gregor's low cross but a defender cleared the loose ball just before Menyongar could get to it. "We did have our own chances," Tilley said, "and we didn't score." Vancouver went ahead in the 43rd minute on James' penalty kick after Rhinos defender Brent Sancho was called for a handball near the six-yard box on Gordon Chin's shot from just a few yards away. Video replays showed it hit Sancho's groin area and went through his legs. "Horrendous call. The ball wasn't even close to my hand," said Sancho, the player/assistant coach. "That kills the game. It changed the game." James' 16-yard blast that went off the left post and in after a give-and-go with Burgess made it 2-0 in the 60th minute. Fitzpatrick curved a 20-yard shot inside the left post after Nolly punched out a cross by John Ball. But the suddenly energized Rhinos lost all momentum on Burgess' shot past Melia, who was leaning toward the far post. Melia had allowed only three goals in going 4-0-4 in USL play before Friday. "It's going 100 mph and it's moving in the air," Tilley said about the shot. But shoddy defending, which has been solid most of the season, was the major concern. It was only the second time this season Rochester has allowed three goals. "Players wanted to win the ball instead of just holding people up," Tilley said.