(July 10, 2004) — Losing to Montreal is pretty maddening for the Rochester Rhinos. Losing to their biggest rival when an ex-Rhino scores the winning goal is even worse.
Fred Commodore blasted home a shot from six yards in the 86th minute Friday night to give Montreal a 1-0 victory at Frontier Field and sole possession of first place in the A-League's Eastern Conference.
About 2,000 of the 11,168 fans staged an on-field pillow fight afterward in an attempt to make it into the Guinness Book of Records. The Rhinos could have used a few of those pillows to yell their frustration into.
“I'm getting a chance to play,” said Commodore, who has a team-high seven goals for the Impact (10-2-4, 34 points) after scoring four, including three in one match, last year with the Rhinos (10-4-1, 31). “Before, in Rochester, I wasn't getting the same chance.”
He sure is now. Commodore, a halftime substitute Friday who has seven starts, has played 655 minutes for Montreal after 643 minutes over 20 matches last season.
“The first day he came in (and tried out) I saw him attack the box,” said first-year Montreal coach Nick DeSantis. “We signed him that day.”
Commodore did exactly that Friday, attacking after chesting down defender Mauricio Vincello's long floater into the penalty area. The ball had sailed over defender Carlos Semedo. Commodore took a couple of touches and with goalie Theo Zagar leaning toward the near post, ripped it high into the center of the net.
“He just hit it as hard as he could, powered it past me,” said Zagar, who had nearly no time to react. “I got a touch, but it wasn't enough.”
The ball should have been cleared, said Rhinos coach Pat Ercoli.
“It should not get behind our defense like that,” Ercoli said. “Obviously, there was an error. Sometimes you get caught ball-watching.”
Semedo had replaced John Wilson (ankle injury) in the 39th minute.
Rochester also lost 1-0 Wednesday in Montreal, dropping to 1-12-1 in Quex bec. The Impact is 4-10-1 in Rochester but is 3-2 the past three seasons.
The Rhinos will tell you those regular-season numbers are secondary to this: The four times they've played Montreal in the playoffs (1996, '98, 2002 and '03), Rochester advanced.
“There are things a team grows from or doesn't. It's a character type of situation,” said Ercoli. “We have a young team. We'll see how we respond.”
The Rhinos play host to defending A-League champion Charleston (2-9-4) on Sunday. They Battery ended a 10-match winless streak Thursday in Toronto. Montreal had been in a 0-2-3 slide before Wednesday, including consecutive road losses last weekend.
“I think they got their second wind (in the second half),” Ercoli said. “They dropped off and were pressuring in their end of the field better.”
The Rhinos moved the ball crisply in the first half, changing fields quickly and often while maintaining more possession. But didn't translate into a bunch of scoring chances.
“They weren't getting any solutions,” DeSantis said.
Rochester's best first-half look came in the 29th minute. Doug Miller, starting in place of suspended forward Chris Carrieri, found 6-foot-4 David Wright with a throw in the penalty area. Wright's flick went in front, where forward Corey Woolfolk nearly chested it in. But goalie Greg Sutton (league-best 11 shutouts) was there.
Montreal shifted the momentum early in the second half.
In the 65th, Zagar had to sprint back into goal to save a header by Eduardo Sebrango on a play similar to Wednesday's goal. Sandro cq Grande took another long shot that caught Zagar off his line. Wright challenged Sebrango's header and then Zagar, after scrambling back, snared it. A moment later, Semedo cleared Mauro Biello's shot in front.
Rochester finally mustered a chance in the 75th minute, but Sutton stretched his 6-foot-6 frame to save Wright's near-post header off Ryan Trout's flick.
“I probably could have gotten more on it,” Wright said. “We've gotta be better. We expect more.”