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Punchless Riverhounds blanked again

| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 9:06 p.m.

Goals are becoming tough to find for the Riverhounds.

Despite an edge in time of possession, the Riverhounds were shut out for the third straight USL Pro game in a 1-0 loss to Rochester at Highmark Stadium on Saturday.

The Riverhounds (0-4-3) remain mired at the bottom of the USL Pro standings after back-to-back 1-0 losses and a scoreless draw with Charleston, all home games. On the other hand, Rochester (3-1-4) is undefeated in its last seven matches.

“When we're passing through the midfield and with our backs, we're moving quickly and the passes are pretty sharp and on point,” Riverhounds coach Justin Evans said. “In the attacking third (of the field), we're just not finding that one last pass, and that's the toughest thing to do in soccer.”

Rochester netted the lone goal four minutes before halftime when Alex Dixon scored after a long scramble for a loose ball in the Riverhounds' box.

Riverhounds goalkeeper Michael Lisch punched away a corner kick, but the ball only went as far as defender Pat McMahon near the midfield stripe. McMahon floated a ball back toward goal, and Lisch collided with Tony Walls, which allowed the ball to pop free.

Two Rochester players missed the ball before it rolled back to Dixon, who calmly placed a shot into the left corner of the net.

The Riverhounds players protested for a foul on the collision with Lisch or an offside call against Walls, but the goal stood as the only one of the game.

The Riverhounds dominated possession in the second half, as Rochester — already a defensive team by nature — played with 10 and sometimes 11 players behind the ball to protect its lead.

“Historically, that's how Rochester plays, even when the score is 0-0,” Riverhounds midfielder Seth C'deBaca said. “When you go down one against them, it's definitely frustrating, but at halftime, we were just as confident as we were in the beginning of the game.”

Evans tried different attacking contributions to produce a spark, and changed the team's formation from a 4-1-4-1 look to a more offensive-minded 3-5-2.

Collins John entered the game at halftime for Joseph Ngwenya, and C'deBaca replaced Matt Dallman in the midfield in the 70th minute. Robert Morris product Miro Cabrilo made his Riverhounds debut in the final 10 minutes — he came on as a midfielder to replace defender Sterling Flunder — but the team was never able to score or even create many scoring opportunities.

“We've got the players to do it, but that final ball that needs to be played just isn't clicking,” Evans said. “We have to ask a lot more of their defenders, and we need to work the goalkeeper more. Even the shots we had, they weren't necessarily on target or tough shots.”

John had two of the Riverhounds' best chances, the first of which came early in the second half.

The Riverhounds played a simple long ball forward from their defense, and John used his large frame to shield away the defender and control the ball with his chest. His turning shot had plenty of power but was blocked away by the Rochester defense, which led to a half-hearted appeal for a handling call.

In stoppage time, John took a curling free kick from 25 yards away, but the shot skimmed off the top of the wall and carried over the net for a corner kick.

“We don't lack confidence. We're confident in the guys we have in the locker room,” C'deBaca said. “We haven't been out of any game this year. It's one of those things where I feel once it gets going, we're going to get on a roll.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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