The Rhinos left it late in extra time again as Rochester narrowly defeated Reading United AC 2-1
Putting to the test a 12-0-0 record against amateur sides, and a 15-0-1 record against sides from lower leagues, Rochester squeaked out a result against Reading United AC with the game-winning goal coming in the 119th minute by Colin Rolfe.
With the win, the Rhinos advance to the Fourth Round where they will host defending US Open Cup champion DC United from Major League Soccer. The game is scheduled to take place at Sahlen’s Stadium on June 17 at 7 p.m. The Rhinos, who won the 1999 US Open Cup title, will be seeking their first MLS upset since 2009.
Coming into Tuesday night’s match, all eyes were on Reading United AC forward Darius Madison. Madison scored four goals in his last two PDL matches, and had a goal and three assists in the club’s tournament opener before facing the Rhinos. His speed was a threat throughout regulation and made his first impact in the 8th minute when the speedy forward was able to muscle Tony Walls, Rochester’s most imposing player, off the ball but he was closed down before he could get his shot away.
Reading’s best chance of the first half came from the foot of Nick Surkamp. The forward beat Rochester’s offside trap on a pass from midfield and took a couple touches before firing a heavy shot on frame. Goalkeeper John McCarthy dove to his left to make an improvised save on Surkamp’s shot in the 12th minute.
Inside the first half hour the game settled into a rhythm that appeared to suit both teams. Rochester had the majority of possession but Reading remained dangerous as the visitors were not afraid to run directly at the heart of the Rhinos’ defense with the ball at their feet. By the halftime whistle, the visitors were leading in shots with 4 to Rochester’s 2. Both teams picked up their efforts in the second half.
Attacking midfielder Minh Vu entered the game in the 55th minute and didn’t take long to get involved in the action for the Rhinos. Running away from goal inside the area, Vu flicked a pass wide left for Johnny Mendoza who cut a low cross back towards the penalty spot. Club captain Tyler Rosenlund eyed up a shot but Quincy Thomas did enough to push him off-balance in his run-up.
The amateur side found the game’s first goal in the 66 minute. Ignacio Maganto played an incisive ball for Surkamp that split Rochester’s central defenders. As Surkamp drove into the area, McCarthy came off his line to close down the angle but the forward smartly looped his shot over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead.
Reading’s celebrations were short-lived, however, as Rochester responded immediately from the kickoff. Alex Dixon received the ball in the right-hand channel and cut inside before delivering a tempting low ball across the face of goal. Mendoza did well to slide through the center of the area after a lung-busting run to poke the ball home past a helpless goalkeeper Alex Bono. Rochester’s equalizer came within a matter of seconds after the restart in the 66th minute.
Rochester had a chance to win the match in regulation in the 83rd minute. Pushing up from central defense to the left wing, Tony Walls sent a cross into a packed 18-yard box and the ball fell to JC Banks. Banks initially shimmied to his right to shake a defender but then stumbled and laid the ball off to Vu, whose shot was saved well by Bono.
Referee Chris Trottier showed a yellow card to Darius Madison in the 76th minute for persistent fouling. The forward’s tussles with Babacar Diallo at the end of regulation could have earned either player a second booking from a different referee. Madison was not as lucky with a physical challenge on Walls in the 97th minute, for which he received his second booking and, subsequently, his marching orders.
While it would be easy to say that the red card to Reading’s most dangerous player changed the complexion of the game, Rochester was already in the ascendancy before Madison’s dismissal. Reading didn’t manage a single shot in 30 minutes of extra time as Rochester surged forward with wave after wave of attacks.
Substitutes Minh Vu and JC Banks were particularly active for Rochester but Levi Houapeu, who entered the game in the 103rd minute, set up the crucial play for the home side. Houapeu drove down the right wing and his quick feet drew a free kick in a promising position. Though Mendoza had been suffering from a cramp in his right hamstring minutes before and forward Colin Rolfe had been gassed for all of extra time, the two players connected on that free kick to seal victory for the Rhinos.
Mendoza said after the game that he caught a signal from Rolfe as he was placing the ball for his free kick and decided to send the ball in quickly to the near post. “We looked at each other and there was no one in the space there, so I played it to him then.” Rolfe ending up getting contact with the his left thigh as he flicked the ball into the bottom corner on the far side of the net in the 119th minute.
There wasn’t much time left in the match after Rochester’s celebrations ended and the relief among Rhinos’ players and coaching staff was palpable. On the other hand, several of Reading United AC’s players received treatment for cramps on the field after the final whistle, having played at a high level for 120 minutes.
Facing amateur clubs in the cup this year hasn’t provided any relief from the rigors of USL PRO for Rochester as the team has gone late in extra time on both occasions. “Every time you play a PDL team or any team in the Open Cup, it’s gonna be a dogfight,” Mendoza said. “We were fortunate to win this game.”
Rochester head coach Bob Lilley admitted that while he was pleased with the immediate response from his team after going behind in the 66th minute, the Rhinos shouldn’t have gone to extra time. “For me, we should have created more throughout the rest of the game,” Lilley said. Tuesday night’s victory extends the Rhinos’ undefeated record against amateur sides in the US Open Cup to 13-0-0.
US Open Cup notes: With the win, the Rhinos improve to 13-0-0 against amateur teams in Open Cup play. Of those 13 games, 10 of them have been decided by a single goal. Of their 17 games that have gone to extra time, the Rhinos improve to 10-2 all-time in games decided in extra time, and remain 3-2 in matches decided in penalty kicks.