Whitecaps and Rhinos to battle for historic title in USL First Division Championship Saturday
USL News Release
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
ROCHESTER, NY – Saturday’s USL First Division Championship live on Fox Soccer Channel at 7:00 pm ET matches up two of the most successful franchises in the history of the league.
The Championship Game is the lone separator between the three-time champion Rochester Raging Rhinos and first-time finalist Vancouver Whitecaps.
Although they have missed the playoffs twice between them, both by Vancouver, in 25 combined years, the Whitecaps have knocked on the door numerous times before being eliminated in the semifinals on four occasions.
Rochester, meanwhile, is in the championship game for the sixth time in its 11-year history, looking to capture a league-record fourth championship for the franchise a year after the Seattle Sounders tied their previous record of three. The city of Seattle currently has the most championships, four, with the Seattle Storm having won a championship in 1988.
By the Numbers… All-Time Club Records
And despite all the playoff appearances between the two clubs, Saturday’s meeting will be the first postseason showdown between the pair. The head-to-head history is limited with only nine previous matches over the last 11 years due to the previously regionalized schedules of the league season. Vancouver and Rochester will come into Saturday’s affair with an even 4-4-1 record over those nine encounters with the Rhinos holding a 2-1-1 advantage over the past two seasons.
By the Numbers… Previous Head-to-Head Matches
||Scorers / Shutouts|
||R: Steele, Delicate (Vallow SO)|
||R: (Vallow SO) V: (Caig SO)|
||R: Rivas (Vallow SO)|
||V: Corazzin (M Franks SO)|
||V: C Franks (Sandhu SO)|
||R: Steenkamp (Andrack SO)|
||V: Kusch, Oliviero R: Debrah |
||V: Mobilio, Oliviero, Ross R: Steenkamp, Miller |
||R: Debrah, McKay, Marinaro V: Sibiya, Mobilio|
While the series history between the two clubs is level, Bob Lilley’s record against the Rhinos is decidedly not. Having previously coached two rival clubs of the Rhinos, Lilley saw limited success against the powerhouse Rhinos during his tenure with the Hershey Wildcats from 1997-2001 and while with the Montreal Impact the following two years.
Lilley’s overall record versus the Rhinos with his three USL First Division clubs currently stands at 11-18-4 having gone 1-2-1 while with the Whitecaps. He has just one win against the Rhinos in the last eight and has a 4-14-0 record in Rochester, losing the last four. The hill he will need to climb to raise the championship cup Saturday looks like a mountain based on the postseason record against his nemesis of 1-8-2 overall, 0-7-0 in Rochester. The Rhinos defeated Lilley in the playoffs five consecutive seasons from 1998-2003. In 2004, he watched Montreal go on to the title after leaving the Impact.
Lilley’s history does hold a couple bright spots, however, with a US Open Cup victory in Rochester in 2001 and an overall record of 3-1-2 against Rhinos Head Coach Laurie Calloway. Despite falling 0-1-1 in the season series this year, Lilley nearly swept Calloway when he was with Syracuse in 2003, going 3-0-1.
By the Numbers… Lilley vs. Rochester
||US Open Cup|
One strange twist for Lilley is that one of his former players and former Hershey general manager Matt Ford is now the Executive Vice President of the Rhinos side that stands in his way. Ford retired as a player in 2000 before the Wildcats advanced to the 2001 final, which featured five players with the two clubs meeting on Saturday.
Eduardo Sebrango is the biggest tie between the two clubs, having played for both teams en route to the final. In his first season in the league, he helped guide the Rhinos to the 2000 championship playing in 24 games on the season and coming off the bench for the final six minutes in the final. A year later with Hershey Sebrango missed the final due to injury as his Wildcats fell. Staying by Lilley’s side, Sebrango moved to Montreal and helped lead the Impact to the championship in 2004, playing the full 90 in the final for the first time.
Sebrango will miss the final for the second time in four trips however, this time to suspension. The striker, who missed all but the final nine games of the season to injury was a key part of the club’s success down the stretch with goals in two of their last three games of the season, a goal in the First Round and the semifinal series overtime winner last weekend against his former Impact side. Sebrango’s strike against the team that had traded him in the offseason prompted a celebration that saw him remove his shirt, resulting in his second yellow of the night for a red card and automatic one-game suspension – both mandates of FIFA.
But Sebrango is not the only player with the two clubs with championship match appearances. Nine players account for 19 championship appearances and 11 titles. Sebrango is joined by Steve Klein and another former Rhino Martin Nash. The list of five Rhinos from previous finalists is led by goalkeepers Scott Vallow and Bill Andracki, the only two of the eight currently with the same team they were previously finalists with. Rochester’s Matthew Delicate, Chris Bagley, John Ball and Johnny Menyongar round out the list.
Billy Andracki (Rochester)
An original Rhino, Andracki will likely not suit up Saturday having been signed as an emergency third goalkeeper for the club this season. He played every game for the club in its first two seasons and has been there for all five previous finals, but has only 11 minutes of championship soccer on his resume. A broken nose and several facial lacerations suffered early in their 1996 final at Seattle forced him out of the title game in their inaugural year.
Chris Bagley (Rochester)
A standout in the USL Second Division over the years in Wilmington, Bagley will be making a second championship appearance in USL’s top flight. Bagley came on with seven minutes remaining of the Charleston Battery’s championship campaign in 2003. On loan with the Rhinos, Bagley played six games on the season and started both semifinal playoff games against the Battery.
John Ball (Rochester)
As a member of the Carolina Dynamo in 1997, Ball came up just shy of capturing a USL First Division championship, falling to Milwaukee in a shootout 2-1.
Matthew Delicate (Rochester)
In his second professional season last year, Delicate helped lead the Richmond Kickers to the championship game, playing all 120 minutes as his side fell in penalties after a 1-1 draw.
Steve Klein (Vancouver)
Another loyal Lilley player, Klein was a member of the 2001 Wildcats squad that reached the final, playing the full 90 in the loss. He returned to the final two years later as a member of the Charleston Battery and claimed the championship, scoring a goal and earning the championship game Most Valuable Player honors. He re-joined Lilley in Vancouver in 2005. Klein was an All-League Second Team selection this season.
Johnny Menyongar (Rochester)
Menyongar squared off against the Rhinos in the final meeting of a series of three-straight finals between the Minnesota Thunder and Rochester from 1998-2000, registering an assist in a 3-1 loss. He returned to the championship game with the Thunder in 2003 looking for his first championship, falling to Charleston. He is in his first season with Rochester after six in Minnesota.
Martin Nash (Vancouver)
A former Rhino like Sebrango, Nash helped guide the Rhinos to the 2001 championship against Sebrango and the Wildcats, registering an assist in 88 minutes of play in the 2-0 victory over Hershey. It was the second straight after providing two assists in the 2000 title game against Minnesota. In his third year of his third stint with Vancouver, the brother of NBA MVP Steve Nash left the Rhinos for a single season with Montreal in 2003, where he played under Lilley.
Eduardo Sebrango (Vancouver)
Although he won’t play due to suspension, Sebrango has helped lead four different teams to the final, playing in two and winning one, the 2000 championship with Rochester. Sebrango began his USL First Division career in 1999 with Vancouver before moving onto Rochester and Hershey for one season each before spending four in Montreal.
Scott Vallow (Rochester)
Last, but not least, the Rhinos netminder has helped lead the Rhinos to two of the three titles playing the full 90 in 2000 and posting a shutout in the 2001 championship the following year. He joined Dallas of MLS midway through 2002 and returned to the club full-time in 2005. Vallow was an All-League Second Team selection this season.
The final element of the equation for the final is the PAETEC Park itself. While the Rhinos have enjoyed a more dominant record at home with a 7-1-6 mark (lone loss to Charleston), the side allowed twice as many goals at home than on the road (14 to 7) on the year. Lilley’s Whitecaps, however, were shutout 2-0 in their first trip to the new 17,500-seat stadium, where the Rhinos have averaged 10,064 this season.
Home field has been a decided advantage over the years in single-game USL First Division finals with the home side winning the championship on all 13 previous occasions regardless of the seeding. The advantage may be slipping however, with overtime being played in two of the last four and last year’s final going down on the books as the first draw with Seattle winning in the penalty kick tiebreaker.
By the Numbers… Championship Attendance in Rochester
2005 & 2006 VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
Rochester v Vancouver regular season
2006 USL First Division Playoffs
USL First Division Championship