The Western Mass Pioneers pushed the Rochester Rhinos to extra time, but a pair of late goals doomed the PDL side in a 2-1 loss at Sahlen’s Stadium in the Second Round of the US Open Cup.
A scoreless match gave way to a three-goal bonanza in the second period of extra time when Levi Houapeu (110’) and Thomas Obasi (114’) both scored for the Rhinos, while Will Daniels (117’) brought one back for the Pioneers.
With the win, the Rhinos advance to the Third Round, where they’ll host Reading United AC at Sahlen’s Stadium on May 21.
The Pioneers faced the Rhinos without goalscoring maestro Alencar Junior, who was unable to travel to Rochester on Wednesday. Nevertheless, the guests found a way to absorb the pressure, and collect a couple of chances.
After Jossimar Sanchez of the Rhinos pressed Warren Gross into action with a low shot in the 5th minute, the Pioneers began settle in and put the Rhinos on their heels.
While the Rhinos struggled to connect passes, and the Pioneers were unable to find strong chances in the final third, play turned chippy. Both sides traded hard challenges, with Onua Thomas Obasi of the Rhinos seeing yellow in the 31st minute.
At halftime, the Rhinos held the edge on shots (2-1), but were unable to put the Pioneers away. The scoreboard was unblemished going into the second half, but Rochester would improve its form and test the Western Mass back line.
In the 69th minute, Obasi found Samuel Petrone for a Rhinos chance, but Petrone’s shot veered wide. Ten minutes later, Petrone was cut down near the outer edge of the final third, setting up a dangerous free kick. Levi Houapeu sent it on frame, but Gross denied the shot to keep the game scoreless.
With 90 minutes not enough to separate the sides, overtime was called. And in the second period of overtime, the Rhinos finally grabbed the goal that eluded them all evening when Houapeu easily tapped through the remnants of a JC Banks header in the 110th minute.
Rochester widened the gap four minutes later when Obasi scored to put the Rhinos in command. But the Pioneers wouldn’t go quietly, as Daniels grabbed a pass from Kyle Tomos and tallied in the 117th minute.
With the victory, the Rhinos will host Reading United of the PDL in a 3rd round matchup on May 28th.