USLLIVE.com-After an anemic 0-0 draw before a crowd of 7,758 in Rochester's Marina Auto Stadium, the RailHawks are now six points behind Portland, with six games to play for each team.
The 'Hawks aren't going to catch the Timbers: Four of Portland's last five games are at home, and four of Portland's last five games are against Cleveland and Austin, the twin doormats of the USL-1. The RailHawks have already earned 16 of the 18 possible points from the City Stars and the Aztex; Portland's pace at the top of the table is all the more remarkable given that they've held these four fixtures in hand all season.
Meanwhile, the RailHawks' last six games will be a grueling stretch against three different playoff contenders, including three against the Montreal Impact—two of which will be on the road.
Last night in Rochester, Martin Rennie showed a lineup that was unusual in two respects:
In contrast to the last game in Rochester, he went with an attacking lineup. That Aug. 5 game, which Carolina won on a 90th-minute goal by Kupono Low, featured two defensive midfielders: Amir Lowery and Brad Rusin. Last night's midfield was a reversion to what we've tended to see at WakeMed, with Lowery anchoring the central midfield behind Daniel Paladini and Matt Watson.
The second notable thing about the lineup was Rennie's decision to put winger Gregory Richardson in the lone striker spot in his 4-5-1, leaving Sallieu Bundu and Andriy Budnyy on the bench—although the latter would come on in the 74th minute.
It seemed that the plan was for Richardson to use his speed to beat his defenders to long balls, and at times, there were flashes of that—most spectacularly on an exquisite ball from the rear by Jeremy Tolleson in the 66th minute. However, it seemed (to me, anyway) that Richardson lacks the size and strength to be effective up top. He only mustered one shot, and went for long stretches—particularly in the first half—without so much as a touch.
While Richardson seemed to struggle up top, John Cunliffe and Luke Kreamalmeyer ran the flanks. Both were active, but neither took a shot. The RailHawks only took four shots to Rochester's 11, and two of them were by Lowery and right back Greg Shields.
On the defensive end, Caleb Patterson-Sewell recorded his ninth clean sheet of the season, and his fourth in a row. The RailHawks lead the league with 15 shutouts.
It'll be interesting to see if Rennie continues to experiment with Richardson as striker. It seems that he's more dangerous on the wing, but it's also possible that the lineup was intended as a way to rotate Bundu off the pitch for a game. The stretch run beckons.
Stat box here.