It took a full 90 minutes for the Revs to dispose of USL-1 front runners Rochester, as the local lads beat the Rhinos 4-2 Tuesday night at PAETEC Park. Taylor Twellman scored the go-ahead before the curtain on regular time fell, and Steve Ralston scored an insurance tally at the 93+ minute mark, giving the Revs the US Open Cup tournament victory over the Rhinos.
Manager Steve Nicol held true to his promise of playing the first team for the non-MLS match by dispatching the likes of Ralston, Twellman and Reis, among others, despite the match being sandwiched between Saturday night's 1-1 tie to Chivas USA and this weekend's road match vs. Red Bull New York.
Perhaps one of the more surprising aspects of Nicol's starting XI was the inclusion of Marshall Leonard on the left flank. Leonard, who missed most of last season with an Achilles tendon tear, saw his first action on the first team since last April. While he has been healthy enough this season to participate in reserve league action, it was encouraging to see the sixth-year veteran return to the pitch with his first-team cohorts.
When Kyle Helton came on for fellow rookie Gary Flood in the 84th minute, it had to have been a clear indication of Nicol's emerging confidence in the former Blue Devil. Helton, who was signed less than two months ago, has quickly risen through the ranks by playing virtually every minute of reserve league games since arriving, and has been listed as a substitute in first-team matches in the past four games. It appears to be just a matter of time before the most recent addition makes his first-team start.
Another interesting aspect of the final match report was rookie forward Chris Loftus appearing on the "substitutes not used" list. Loftus has been quietly performing for the reserve team all season, and appears to be an unfortunate casualty of the Revs depth at forward. Whether Loftus acquires first team action in the August 7 match vs. the winner of the Harrisburg (USL-2)-DC United contest remains to be seen.
The fact that Rochester was able to not only excavate their way out of a two-goal deficit, but outshoot the lads 7-3 in the first ten minutes of the second half will surely fail to alleviate concerns about the New England back line. The defenders have looked amazingly adept at times this season, only fall flat on their faces soon after, and last night was a glaring example of the latter against lesser competition.
Giving up two goals in less than ten minutes to the same player (Hamed Diallo) is frightening, and repeat performances of this variety will undoubtedly increase the sales of Pepto Bismol in New England. If the Revs are to return to the MLS Cup final, the back line must first find some level of consistency.