The Eastern Conference-leading Rochester Rhinos were given a scare by last-place Wilmington Hammerheads FC on Saturday night, but managed to record a 2-1 win at Sahlen’s Stadium in the state of New York. Grant Van de Casteele scored the game-winning goal in the final 10 minutes of the match to secure three points and possession of first place in the division.
Rochester opened the scoring in the 26th minute when Kenardo Forbes finished a cross from fellow midfielder Alex Dixon. The Hammerheads drew level midway through the second half when substitute Justin Moose found himself at the end of a cross from Qudus Lawal’s with a free header from the penalty spot. It was Lawal’s second assist in as many matches, but center back Van de Casteele finished a loose ball with his head from eight yards out in the 81st minute to hand Wilmington another late game setback.
Trailing 1-0 in the middle of the first period, Wilmington had two chances in its search to find an immediate equalizer as midfielder Sunny Jane was able to chase down a loose ball in the left corner. After Rhinos right back Pat McMahon closed down Jane, the Maryland University product turned away from the end line and dropped the ball to midfielder Ross Tomaselli at the top left corner of the box. Tomaselli centered the ball to Will Heaney at the top of the defense, but Heaney could not put his effort on target. Two minutes later, Heaney took a free kick from 25 yards out on the angle, but it was easily handled by Rochester goalkeeper Brandon Miller.
The two sides traded chances in the first 10 minutes of the second half and Wilmington Hammerheads FC found the equalizer in the 59th minute after Rochester’s outside backs were pushed up into the attacking half of the field when Lawal chased down a loose ball down approaching the final third. Moose then finished a free header into the upper left corner to level the score at one. It was the third consecutive match the Rhinos gave up an equalizer to their opponent.
As play opened up after the Wilmington goal, Rochester scored the match-winning goal after two quick attempts inside the penalty area from a pair of services sent in from outside the 18-yard line. Van de Casteele was first to the second loose ball and headed the bouncing ball into an empty net from eight yards out.
Wilmington dropped to 3-13-6 and sit at the bottom of the USL Eastern Division standings. The Hammerheads return to the pitch for a week of training leading up to their next home match against FC Montreal on Saturday, Aug. 22.