MLS NEXT Pro Match Report

Match report: Rochester New York FC 3-0 Philadelphia Union II

Photo: Ben Ross

Rochester New York FC’s defensive center midfielder Pedro Dolabella scored a brace in Brighton, NY to send the resurrected independent side to a convincing 3-0 win over a Union II group that clearly missed its usual first-team reinforcements.

In the fifth minute, Union II goalkeeper Brooks Thompson made a spectacular save on wide-open Rochester striker Gibran Rayo at the far post. The shot came from a cross off the foot of winger Jesus Batiz – and expected goals chance of 0.7. However, a Union II midfield failure to mark a Dolabella run into the box from deep midfield to meet a cross from the right corner gave Thompson no chance in the 33rd. He was sent the wrong way on a penalty kick from Rayo in the 62nd, and he had no chance in stoppage time as Dolabella screwed down the coffin lid, netting from a counter-attack’s early cross.


Union II played away Saturday near the upstream ends of both the Erie Canal and the Mohawk River. The Union played Sunday near the mouth of the Columbia 2,700 miles away. In his Thursday presser, Head Coach Marlon LeBlanc correctly anticipated no significant first-team additions beyond his usual defensive trio — left back Anton Sorenson, left center back Brandan Craig and defensive center mid Cole Turner — for the Rochester match.

The former “Raging Rhinos” side is the lone unaffiliated independent in 2022’s version of MLS NEXT Pro. It last played official league matches in the 2017 season, and was on continuous hiatus until this year.

Its resurrection has added Jamie Vardy of Leicester City and the English national team to David and Wendy Dworkin’s ownership. Beyond that, it has adopted a new philosophy that reflects both Vardy’s own career path and the values of his annual week-long V9 soccer academy: Rochester presents an alternative pathway into professional soccer outside the conventional “academies-track” of major professional clubs. RNY FC’s current 23-man roster has players from 10 different countries, with the United States (16) and Brazil (6) most heavily represented. There are several dual citizenship situations as well.

First Half

In a match affected by the northeastern U.S.’s heat wave and Union II’s developmental need to condition all squad members, Rochester controlled Union II in the first half.  Neither side had many shots, but the Union’s second-tier striker duo was not as effective pressing defensively as it might have been.

Rochester’s shape is set up to counter-attack out of a seven-man block of two lines, one at the penalty box’s outer edge and the other 12 or so yards to its front. When Carlos Paternina went off unable to continue in the 35th, Union II lacked the creativity to find a way through. Nathan Nkanji was a defensive bright spot at times, but Craig had trouble with Rayo, particularly before the first hydration break when he received advice from one of his coaches while downing his water and electrolytes.

They are imprecise observations, but the boys in light blue and yellow seemed to lack “edge” and “bite.” They could not get the surfboard up onto the crest of the wave.

Second Half

Within one notable exception in terms of age, LeBlanc’s substitutions at halftime and in the second half made his side taller, stronger, and older.

His players have a knack for coming out of the halftime locker room with a burst of offense. Unfortunately this time they failed to score, and Rochester adjusted quickly. Rochester coach Bruno Balthazar has found an approach and a combination of personnel that makes his side tough to play against, even mores if they take a lead.

Union II’s prospects whipsawed within 22 seconds of each other in the 62nd and 63rd minutes.

Rochester suffered a red card when right outside midfielder Jacob Akanyirige picked up his second caution of the half for time wasting. But then Craig gave up a penalty kick that his nemesis Rayo buried, and effectively the match was over. Ernst Tanner does not construct teams that exploit man advantages consistently since he does not like to buy ready-made creative midfielders, and the ones he developed he sells.

No one can fault Union II’s effort. The press seemed better by eyeball with Donovan replacing Riasco. Union II had two open nets with the Rochester keeper out of it in the 65th and 70th minutes, but neither time did the shot manage to roll in while avoiding desperate Rochester defenders. Rochester deserves full credit for the defensive effort that made Union II’s passing completion percentages abnormally low, especially in their offensive third.

Union II next play in four days: Friday, May 27, at Gillette Stadium at 7:00 p.m. against New England Revolution II. As of Saturday night, they remain ahead of New England in the division on the total goals scored tiebreaker, but New England plays at Cincinnati early Sunday evening.

Three Points
  1. Eighteen-year-old Venezuelan striker Jose Riasco made his starting debut in North America. He was consistently a step late trying to press and earned a yellow card for persistent infringement in consequence. But he can only get game fitness by playing, and saving Donovan for the second half, particularly with a trip to New England on Friday was an understandable roster decision.
  2. Long-injured attacking midfielder Anthony Ramirez dressed for his first North American professional match.
  3. Not starting Bajung Darboe against Rochester’s central defensive midfield tandem of Bubacar Djalo and Dolabella was validated by the young Gambian’s lack of impact on the match when he did come on in the 63rd minute.


Union II (4-4-2 “narrow diamond,” L-R): Brooks Thompson; Anton Sorenson, Brandan Craig (Nelson Pierre, 82′), Nathan Nkanji, Frank Westfield; Cole Turner, Boubacar Diallo (Ian Abbey, 63′), Juan Perdomo (Bajung Darboe, 63′), Carlos Paternina (Jack Jasinski, 35′); Jose Riasco (Chris Donovan, HT), Stefan Stojanovic. Unused substitutes: Damian Alguera; Jackson Gilman, Maike Villero,  Anthony Ramirez. Distribution: 1st – 3, 2nd – 9, Ac/Am – 8. Injury rehab: Gino Portella.

Rochester (3-4-3, L-R): Caique Santos; Lamar Batista, Gerardo Lopez, Gustavo Rissi; Christian Wood, Pedro Dolabella, Bubacar Djalo, Jacob Akanyirige; Jesus Batiz (Dante Brigida, 81′), Gibran Rayo (Paulo Soares, 81′), Ed Williams (Raymond Drai, 63′). Unused substitutes: Phillip Ejimadu; Ian Garrett,  Preston Popp,  Davis Smith, Gabriel Costa. Distribution is not relevant to an independent, unaffiliated side.


RNYFC      33rd minute      Pedro Dolabella (Jacob Akanyirige)

RNYFC      62nd minute     Gibran Rayo (PK)

RNYFC     90+2 minute     Pedro Dolabella (Paulo Soares)


Union II      yellow      41st minute      Jose Riasco (persistent infringement)

RNYFC        yellow      49th minute     Jacob Akanyirige (foul)

RNYFC        red            61st minute     Jacob Akanyirige (time wasting)

Union II     yellow      62nd minute     Brandan Craig (foul)

Whistle: Ref: Abdou Ndiaye,   AR1: Max Smith,  AR2: Joe Franks,  4TH: Gary Gutierrez.









Possession %









Duels won



Shots on goal



Tackles won



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Yellow cards






Red cards



  1. So Riasco came out at half time. How is he fitting in… promotable to the 1st Squad anytime this year or wait til next?

    • Tim Jones says:

      An excellent question, JFav. I suspect you are not the only one asking it. I certainly am.
      Ever since I began covering Bethlehem Steel FC formally in June of 2016 Dan Walsh and now Peter Andrews have asked me to write up a midseason roster review of the professional development side.
      This year’s will at least mention 33 players so it is divided three ways, for my sanity and yours! Part One on the 14 academy amateurs is scheduled for this Wednesday. Part Two on the 10 first-teamers has been drafted but neither polished nor scheduled. And Part Three on the 9 U II pros is in the middle of being drafted.
      I just wrote my first thoughts on Riasco earlier this morning. I need to let them sit and revisit them in a day or two. They are not yet ready for the light of day.
      BY the time you see them I hope I will have watched at least two more practices, maybe three, and watched the New England match this Friday, maybe even the one on June 11 against Toronto in York, Canada. Touch wood that all those hopes come to pass.
      I’m working on it, JFav, I’m working on it.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    At times the game was almost unwatchable. The camera was just going back and forth from goal to goal without focusing on anything. MLS really needs to work on improving the broadcasts. Unfortunately, I have a family commitment Friday night and will miss the next game (and probably won’t get to watch the first team’s game until Monday).

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