FC Indiana came into Friday’s match in Rochester with a 1-5-2 record while the Riverdogz held a 2-4-3 record. With both teams long-since eliminated from NPSL Midwest playoff contention, there was little more than pride to play for but Rochester players can certainly hold their heads high to end the 2016 season.
Rochester Riverdogz FC head coach Matt Tantalo lined up his squad in the usual 4-2-3-1 formation he’s employed for much of the NPSL season. Lenny Wilson; Zikret Osmic, Jake Schindler, Sam King, Anthony Rozzano; Gianluca Cuomo, Jayme Kapinos; Rafael Godoi Gamarra, Gary Boughton, Ben Derleth; Matt Tucker
Riverdogz players looked lively to start the game but faced formidable resistance from the visiting defense. FC Indiana not only kept their back line tight but also held most of their 5-man midfield deep, as well. Rochester needed to utilize its speed and width to stretch out the compact Indiana defense to find a breakthrough.
After a long ball into the left channel found Rafael Godoi, the Brazilian-born attacking midfielder sent a low cross into the area. Gary Boughton did well to control the service with a soft touch to set up forward Matt Tucker for an easy goal. Boughton and Tucker both showed composure in 18-yard box and Tucker was able to pass the ball into the corner of the net in the 12th minute.
Two minute later Rochester showed intent to press their advantage. Godoi tucked inside and played Boughton into space in the channel. Ben Derleth controlled a long service from Boughton at the far post but fired his shot wide across the face of goal.
FC Indiana showed a flash of brilliance in the 41st minute but the end-product was deflected wide. Target forward Alexander Clark drew defenders to him on a central run before hitting a back-heel pass into the path of teammate Andrew Higgins. Higgins took a touch into the Rochester area but his shot across the face of goal nicked off a defender for a corner kick.
The visitors came out of the halftime break much the same way as they went in but couldn’t unlock Rochester’s defense. As FC Indiana pushed players forward in the opening ten minutes of the second half, the Riverdogz created chances on the counter attack. In the 49th minute Kapinos played a diagonal ball over the top to the right channel. Full back Osmic cut in from the wing and took a touch into the 18-yard box before trying to chip Indiana’s goalkeeper. The goalkeeper anticipated the attempt from Osmic and stayed tall to block the chip with both hands. Tucker’s rebound shot was blocked by the Indiana defense while the goalkeeper was out of the position.
In the 57th minute, winger Moulid Somow replaced Gary Boughton and Godoi moved inside. Somow showed energy and inventiveness in attack while offering the Riverdogz an outlet for the final half hour of the game.
The best chance of the game for FC Indiana came off the foot of Nicholas Guynon. Rochester attacked down its right flank but left space open for the visitors to exploit. Guynon controlled a long ball into the channel, beats King on the dribble, and curls a right footed shot towards the goal. Lenny Wilson was relieved to turn and see the lofted shot bounce off the top of the crossbar for a goal kick instead of dropping into his net in the 69th minute.
Heading into the last 15 minutes of the match, Austin Gerber replaced winger Ben Derleth and Tim Crawford came into the game for an injured Osmic. In the 79th minute, birthday-boy Gerber carried the ball forward to the left of Indiana’s goal. Gerber hit a low cross that forced the goalkeeper to dive to punch the ball out of the six-yard box. The rebound fell to Godoi whose shot pinballed off a defender but found the back of the net for Rochester’s insurance with ten minutes to play in regulation.
Inside stoppage time, Kapinos caught the substitute goalkeeper for Indiana dawdling on the ball and dispossessed him. Trying to turn his hips while still running at speed, Kapinos could only manage a tame effort while off-balance and the goalkeeper saved the shot.
The 2-0 win was Rochester’s second consecutive win at home and the team’s clean sheet was just the second of the season. While missing the playoffs by some margin, only two teams from the division advance to the postseason, the Riverdogz established an on-field rivalry with neighbors FC Buffalo and provided a platform for local players to showcase their abilities.
After the game I spoke with Rafael Godoi Gamarra, who attends junior college in nearby Batavia, NY, and scored the second goal of the night. “At GCC I scored I think 14 goals during the season and assisted maybe 15. But this was my first goal for the Riverdogz.”
“Normally I’m used to playing as a holding mid or as a number 10,” Godoi said. “Out wide, it was a kind of a new position for me. I’m trying to play this position well and I have opportunities to score or to assist my teammates, so it’s a good position for me.”
I asked Godoi about scoring his first goal on Friday. “I feel good because this is the first year of the team and I’ve been trying to score, but it didn’t happen. I’m happy because yesterday was my father’s birthday and today is my mom’s birthday so it’s a gift for them. I’m really happy.”
Riverdogz coach Matt Tantalo praised Godoi’s attacking instincts and willingness to work hard for his teammates. “He’s played inside most of the season but he’s so versatile and his work rate inside late in games is important for us.”
“It was great to see Rafa get a goal. He’s a tireless worker, one of the hardest working players I’ve ever coached. It’s a great way to finish what I thought was an outstanding season for him.”
Despite taking the lead into halftime, Tantalo said the team wasn’t doing enough to break down Indiana’s compact but high defensive line. “We weren’t happy at halftime. Obviously it’s good to get the goal but we weren’t playing to our standards,” he said. “When we were playing through the midfield, we’ve got players with time and space and Indiana’s not dropping. We talked about that at halftime.”
“They were playing with a high restraining line,” Tantalo noted, “and the solution wasn’t as complex as we were making it. We were giving balls away in bad areas at times. We said at halftime if we don’t change our attitude, they’re going to get one. We came out and I thought we were better for a while.
I asked Tantalo about the team holding out for the clean sheet after conceding three late goals to AFC Cleveland the week before. “We’ve given up goals late in matches. So it was really important because we’ve talked about staying disciplined for 90 minutes and finishing out matches. It was really important and a great way to finish the season.”
Rochester Riverdogz FC finished their inaugural season with a 3-4-3 record, only losing to the two playoff-bound teams Cleveland and Indy Eleven NPSL.
“For being 6 months old, we worked really hard to put together a quality product and I think we accomplished that,” Tantalo said on the season. “I really enjoyed working with our players and with our team. We had tough injuries this year but we kept playing. We continued to get better and I thought we finished the season strong.”
“It was a good first year for us, a positive first year and something to build on.”