Brendan Doherty & Rob Elder contributed to this report
After a terrible start to the season due to a torturous road schedule and a plague of injuries, the one thing the Rochester Rhinos can almost always count on for sunshine is the US Open Cup. Though it was not easy, the club posted its first win under returning, but interim, coach Pat Ercoli Tuesday night by defeating GPS Portland Phoenix of the PDL 1-0, advancing to play host to the New England Revolution, who also happen to be their MLS affiliate, in the Third Round.
Ironically enough, the deciding goal for Rochester on the night came from one of their loaned players from the Revolution, Bilal Duckett. The right back got his head on the ball at the far post in the 65th minute to redirect a corner from Danny Earls past the keeper for the win.
The victory is only the second on the year for the Rhinos, who played six of their first eight on the road and had lost both home contests, including Saturday’s late 1-0 decision to league leading Orlando City side that played over an entire half a man down, prompting the dismissal of head coach Jesse Myers the following day.
The change resulted in Ercoli returning to the sidelines for the first time since 2004, though he has been serving as COO. The USL Hall of Famer won 16 trophies as the head coach of the Rhinos reached the Final on seven occasions in major competitions, including a runners-up finish in 1996 and the famous 1999 championship campaign in the US Open Cup.
The opening sequences were fairly wide open as both teams enjoyed promising chances even though Lance Rozeboom and Tyler Rosenlund combined well to control midfield. Portland found a break on the counter attack that resulted in a couple of corners in the 10 minutes, but both were cleared by the Rhinos without much worry.
Ross LaBaeux was fouled in the 14th minute which allowed Danny Earls to play a ball in to Blake Brettschneider at the far post. He headed it back across the front of goal to Tam McManus who had the first real chance for the Rhinos with his first timed volley smacked off the crossbar. Reidy was active again for the Rhinos down the right flank and trying to cut inside to find a shot.
In the 18th minute Blake Brettschneider had a chance from service by Bilal Duckett but the Portland goalkeeper does well to block the attempt and smother and rebound. Brettschneider failed to keep up the pressure on Portland’s net as he appeared under the same spell as the rest of the Rhinos team as of late and was keen to pass the ball back at every chance.
GPS Portland’s first shot of the night came just after the hour mark but sailed wide of the mark without calling Nicht into action. Before the halftime whistle, GPS Portland had two yellow cards for late challenges
At the break the Rhinos had 4 shots, 2 on target, 4 corners, and 10 fouls. Portland only had one total shot, 2 corners and 4 fouls. There was a delay for a little over an hour as a summer thunderstorm passed through Rochester. GPS Portland took advantage of the time to regroup and came out for the second half to sub Ben Havey in for central midfielder Sean Rosa.
In the 54th minute Interim Head Coach Pat Ercoli, after watching Mike Reidy cross into the accepting arms of Portland goalkeeper Perron, decided he didn’t like what he was seeing on the field, 2012 Rhinos player of the year and USL All-League team J.C. Banks came on for Ross LaBaeux.
GPS Portland showed they weren’t pushovers in the 56th minute as Danny Earls cleared a headed corner kick off the line before Appiah’s forced Kristian Nicht into a diving save. In the 60th minute George Kyriazis comes off for Tyler Bellamy but it appears to be a hamstring injury not the upper body injury from the end of the first half.
Mike Reidy showed Pat Ercoli why he should stay in the starting line up by latching onto the end of a long ball in the 64th minute but his shot was saved by a diving Perron for a corner. New England Revolution loanee Duckett nodded home the resulting corner served up by Danny Earls in the 65th minute.
Earls did well to overlap down the left side to cross balls into the box in the 83rd. Immediately after their goal the Rhinos pressed to apply the killing blow but after a corner kick the play moved back to the midfield.
In the 78th minute Bompart came out for Diebold who was active crossing into the box late. DaSilva went down under questionable contact outside of the area but the Portland bench was outraged calling for a penalty. Former Rochester Rhino Nano Short put a header just wide for Portland within the last 8 minutes.
The flow of the match swung back to Portland as they forced another Kodak-moment save from Kristian Nicht. Portland had a chance late but their free kick from within 30 yards was deflected out for a corner. The resulting kick was punched out by Kristian Nicht who earned his shutout.
The final whistle had the USL-Pro Rochester Rhinos over the PDL GPS Phoenix 1-0. The Rhinos their 18 year winning streak in their opening round in the US Open Cup alive and will now host their MLS affiliate New England Revolution next Tuesday at 7:35PM.