Photo courtesy Adrian Kraus / Rochester Rhinos
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The No. 4-seed Rochester Rhinos took a 3-1 victory against the No. 5-seed Charlotte Independence in the Eastern Confernce Quarterfinals of the 2016 USL Cup Playoffs on Saturday night at Rhinos Stadium as a pair of early goals set up the defending champions for victory. The Rhinos struck in just the seventh minute when they were awarded a free kick centrally 30 yards from goal. Wal Fall curled his shot around the Independence wall, and into the bottom-left corner of the net. 16 minutes later, they made it two as Steevan Dos Santos stole possession and squeezed a shot underneath John Berner to give the hosts a strong grip on the contest. Rochester’s Kenardo Forbes went close again before the half-hour mark as Charlotte struggled to find a foothold. Charlotte opened the second half much more brightly, but was unable to find a breakthrough, and the Rhinos wrapped up victory with 20 minutes to go as Kenardo Forbes’ cross was poorly cleared by the Independence defense, and Sofiane Tergou knocked home the finish. The Independence pulled back a consolation with 15 minutes to go through Aly Hassan, but then saw their frustrations get the better of the game as they finished the game with eight men as first Jack Metcalf, then Jun Marques Davidson, then Enzo Martinez were sent off before the final whistle, allowing the Rhinos to close out the win comfortably.
Three Things That Matter:
1. Rochester Rhinos defender Wal Fall didn’t make his first start for the Rhinos until the club’s sixth game of the season, but he has since become one of the more consistent two-way players for the side, stepping into the role that Onua Obasi played so well a season ago for the side. The 24-year-old also chipped in a pair of goals in the regular season, but neither was as spectacular as the free kick that sent the Rhinos on their way to victory, a beautiful free kick that continued what has been a fine first season in Rochester.
2. The Charlotte Independence couldn’t have asked for a worse time to put in a below-par performance, as they quickly found themselves in a two-goal hole thanks to both the Rhinos’ opportunism, but also some highly uncharacteristic defensive mistakes. Charlotte gave up only 14 goals in the first half in 30 regular season contests, and gave up two goals in a game only once in its prior eight games, but that meant very little on a bad day at the office for the side’s defensive unit.
3. The Rhinos will now await the winner of tomorrow’s quarterfinal between the No. 1-seed New York Red Bulls II and No. 8-seed Orlando City B, with the potential for a rematch in the conference semifinals with the Red Bulls II for a second consecutive season. Games between the Red Bulls II and Rhinos this season have been tense affairs, with the teams playing to a draw in all three meetings, which could make for an intriguing contest between the two regional rivals.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Wall Fall, Rochester Rhinos – Fall scored the opening goal off a great free kick, and was strong throughout the game as the Rhinos took a strong home win to open the defense of their title.
Rochester Rhinos – Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. No. 1 New York Red Bulls II or No. 8 Orlando City B, TBD
Charlotte Independence – End of Season
7’– ROC – Wal Fall
23’ – ROC – Steevan Dos Santos
70’ – ROC – Sofiane Tergou
75’ – CLT – Aly Hassan (Brian Brown)
ROC: 18-Tomas Gomez; 3-Bradley Kamdem, 5-Vasilis Apostolopoulos, 15-Joe Farrell, 17- Wal Fall; 7-Ryan James (21-Dominic Samuel, 71’), 11-Kenardo Forbes (20-Gaoussou Bakayoko, 88’), 29-Sofiane Tergou, 22-Brandon Beresford (4-Sean Totsch, 85’); 10-Steevan Dos Santos (44-Georgios Kyriazis, 74’), 9-Christian Volesky (12-Asani Samuels, 85’)
CLT: 12-John Berner; 4-Patrick Slogic, 3-Bilal Duckett, 25-Henry Kalungi (17-Joe Greenspan, 78’), 22-Joel Johnson (2-Jack Metcalf, 46’); 6-Jun Marques Davidson, 14-Lewis Hilton (7-Yann Ekra, 59’), 19-Enzo Martinez; 9-Brian Brown, 11-David Estrada (10-Jorge Herrera, 46’), 23-Alex Martinez (20-Aly Hassan, 46’)
Venue: Rhinos Stadium