The Rochester Rhinos are well-known in American soccer as a defensive powerhouse but the reigning USL champions have notably struggled to dispatch lower division sides in the US Open Cup. Southie FC is a Boston-based team that participates in the Massachusetts State Soccer League and the Bay State Soccer League. Rochester’s head coach Bob Lilley rolled the dice with heavy squad rotation against the lively side from Massachusetts.
That heavily-rotated lineup was more than enough as the Rhinos dominated Southie FC, 7-0 to improve the club’s all-time record against amateur opponents to 15-0. The Rhinos also extend their Modern Era record of consecutive opening round victories to 15 games.
Southie FC started the match purposefully, moving the ball around the field with crisp short passes, but the Rhinos quickly made the breakthrough. In the sixth minute second-year forward Christian Volesky dispatched a penalty past Southie goalkeeper Colin O’Donnell. Left-winger Marcos Ugarte, who grew up near south Boston, went down in the box after contact from behind while running onto a pass from Sofiane Tergou.
Rochester midfielder Andre Fortune II, in his first start for the team, doubled the hosts’ advantage in the ninth minute with a wonderful solo effort. Fortune picked up the ball in the right channel and cut inside near the top of the 18-yard box with one thing on his mind. The first-year Rhino angled for an open shooting lane before curling a shot to the far post out of the reach of the Southie goalkeeper.
Despite going down two goals in the opening ten minutes, Southie FC players were resilient. The visitors did not resort to direct “route one” play and instead continued to play their deliberative passing style.
Just before the half-hour mark, Ugarte played an impressive one-two with Tergou in the attacking third. Tergou’s return pass split the Southie defenders and Ugarte was able to latch onto the ball in the air. With the goalkeeper rushing off his line, Ugarte chipped his shot to the far post for the team’s third goal in the 27th minute.
Asani Samuels, who scored twice in the 2015 USL Championship, grabbed two quick goals before halftime on Wednesday. Southie FC had tried to hold a high line ten yards from half, but Samuels broke through on a pass from Ugarte and rounded the goalkeeper before tapping home in the 42nd minute. Just two minutes later, Volesky cut back onto his right foot and curled a cross into the area from the left channel. The cross found the feet of Samuels, who made no mistake from six yards out.
Rochester went into the halftime break leading 5-0. While Southie FC scored an own goal early in the second half, a lot of the play after the break favored the visitors. Bob Lilley credited the Southie players for working hard and putting the home side under pressure.
Southie, who brought only two substitutes with them, showed tremendous fitness to harass and harry the Rhinos until the final whistle. Even though the scoreline seemed insurmountable, the amateur team from Boston continued to play positive soccer and attack their hosts.
In the 77th minute, Samuels completed his hat-trick after great work from Tergou and Ugarte in the build-up. Holding onto the ball inside the Southie penalty area, Tergou played a disguised pass to Ugarte towards the endline. The winger cut a low ball back to Samuels and the forward finished emphatically from close range for his fifth goal in two U.S. Open Cup appearances for the Rhinos.
Marcos Ugarte drew a penalty, scored a goal, and added two assists on the night against Southie FC. He talked to media after the game about the team’s preparation for the cup match.
“Coach said that this was going to be a good game,” said Ugarte. “I’m from the Boston-Providence area so I know a lot of these guys, I played with a lot of them at Providence College for two years. I knew what they were capable of and I know it was going to be a good game. We came out strong and we put them away early.”
Rhinos head coach Bob Lilley spoke to media after the game about his team’s resolve in the face of the unpredictable nature of the Open Cup.
“You never know with these games. It was good to get the early first few goals. I thought the guys were pretty focused on doing a job,” Lilley said. “We had a job to do, it not always easy, and I think the guys handled it well.”
Asani Samuels, who scored the first hat trick in Rhinos Open Cup history, credited the big win to the fact that the Rhinos did not approach the game against Southie FC any different than a league match.
“We treat every game as the same. We went through the same match preparation, we did everything the same,” Samuels said. “We just went out there to play our game.”
Sofiane Tergou, making his full debut with Rochester, agreed with those sentiments.
“We took this game very seriously, even if it was against an amateur team. When you’re in the cup you never know what can happen.”
“They were missing a couple of guys. Today could have been close,” Lilley said referring to Rochester’s recent record of tight games in the early cup rounds. “They had some pieces that were more than capable of hurting us today but once you put a team in the hole, it’s hard for them. They’re not training as regularly, the energy it takes to pull those goals back is pretty difficult.”
Lilley had praise for the fighting spirit of his team’s amateur opponent.
“I thought they deserved credit. In the second half – the game was 5-0 – but they played more in our half. They wanted to score. They were pretty committed to scoring.”
The 7-0 victory over Southie FC shatters Rochester’s club record for most goals in a US Open Cup match, and the largest margin of victory. The previous record was set in 2006 when the Rhinos defeated USL Second Division side New Hampshire Phantoms 5-1. In the Rhinos’ previous 56 Open Cup games, the game against the Phantoms was the only game that they won by more than three goals.
Rochester advances to the Third Round of the U.S. Open Cup where they will host another amateur side, New York City’s Landsdowne Bhoys on Wednesday June 1 at 7 p.m.