Thursday evening’s Second Round encounter between Rochester New York FC and Lansdowne Yonkers FC was a physical affair. The first minute of the match saw RNY captain Lamar Batista go to ground holding his face following an aerial challenge with an opponent. This contentious nature continued through to the final whistle.
Rochester head coach Bruno Baltazar told theCup.us, “We found a tough opponent, really physical, a lot of tackles and a lot of physical game, and we struggled a bit with how they play.”
Though both sides have since changed their names, the game was a rematch of a 2016 Third Round match won by the Rochester Rhinos 2-0. In its first Open Cup contest since coming off hiatus, Rochester put a stellar 16-0-0 record against amateur teams on the line against the reigning National Amateur Cup champions.
Rochester added to their perfect record against amateur teams (19-0-0) with a narrow 1-0 win over Lansdowne on the strength of a first half goal by Gibran Rayo.
Rochester made a name for themselves under the name “Rochester Raging Rhinos” in 1999 when they became the first lower division club in the Modern Era (1995-present) to win the US Open Cup. More than two decades later, they remain the only non-MLS team to lift the trophy.
Baltazar discussed the club’s history after the match and how he used it as a motivation rather than a burden.
“I wouldn’t call it pressure, I would call it a positive energy and a positive feeling that we have to represent this club, to honor the big history that this club has,” said Baltazar.
Rochester’s Portuguese coach went on to allude to his preparations to avoid being upset despite only having two friendlies and two club games with his squad so far.
“It’s a tough game, always. Cup games are always tough, in American soccer, all other the world,” Baltazar addeed. “There’s a lot of surprises happening in every round and we were aware of that.”
To that end, the home side started on the front foot. Rochester’s Pedro Dolabella saw his 22 yard free kick tipped over the bar in the fifth minute before Ojai Bedford made a last-ditch tackle for the visitors a few minutes later.
Just after the half-hour mark, the hosts pressured again with a through ball on the edge of the area but Lansdowne’s Kyle Parish slid in with a timely intervention for a corner. On the ensuing corner kick, goalkeeper Abdou Karim Danso made a diving save to his left to preserve the deadlock. Danso flapped at the next ball into the box but his defense was able to complete the clearance in the 33rd minute.
As the match looked destined to head into the break scoreless, Rochester hit on the counter attack and Gibran Rayo played a wallpass before neatly finishing past Danso deep in stoppage time.
Lansdowne Yonkers FC head coach Sean Kelly commended his team’s work rate in the first half but stressed that they improved after the intermission.
“We wanted to go and make it as hard as possible for them and I think we did,” said Kelly. “I think we worked hard. We defended really well in the first half. We were nearly there, we nearly made it into the dressing room 0-0. We defended really well even though we didn’t play well – they played really well, credit to them.”
“It was just an absolute knife to the heart, just a knife to the heart!” Kelly, who played in the 2016 match against the Rhinos, elaborated on the emotional toll of conceding just before halftime. “We had just had a free kick … and they cleared it and within a minute the ball was in the back of the net. And when you play against teams of this standard, that’s what will happen. They’ll punish you. If you don’t aim to punish them first, they will punish you on counters.”
Lansdowne came out for the second half looking to switch their style of play. A key addition in the underdog’s quest for an equalizer was former Shamrock Rovers attacker Dean Dillon, who entered the contest in the 51st minute. A sloppy midfield characterized much of the second half, with multiple substitutions for both teams and the referee handing out yellow cards rather haphazardly.
The visiting team grew as the match wore on and developed a number of chances in the dying minutes of the games. In the 89th minute, Lansdowne had a deep free kick that drew Rochester’s Philip Chijioke Ejimadu off his line but the goalkeeper did not punch cleanly before his defense cleaned up the mess.
In second half stoppage time, Dillon saw a headed chance fly just over the frame of the net and forward Shamir Mullings, who scored the equalizer in the club’s penalty kick win over the Ocean City Nor’easters in Round 1, directed a header from an in-swinging corner kick just wide of the far post. After six minutes of time added on, the referee blew an end to the match and Rochester NY FC will advance to the Third Round where they will face another amateur team, FC Motown of New Jersey in the NPSL.
Kelly was almost beaming after the match despite the result.
“The gameplan didn’t really go to plan in the first half but in the second half we were much better,” said Kelly. “And I’m really proud of the boys for that. This group has come a long way. It’s just more experience for us as a club and as a team. Hopefully we can grow and get better from this.”
“We had two half-chances towards the end. But if you start the game slow in the first half, you can’t just come out and turn it around in the second half and expect rewards. Saying that, I would have loved it if we had gotten an equalizer but it just wasn’t meant to be today. Rochester needed a win at the same time and they got it.”
Thursday’s result means that Rochester has advanced in a Modern Era record 17 straight opening round cup matches dating back to 2002.
— Rochester New York FC (@rnyfcofficial) April 8, 2022