Photo courtesy Adrian Kraus / Rochester Rhinos
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A deflected goal by Stefan Defregger in the 113th minute gave the No. 4-seed Rochester Rhinos a 2-1 victory against the No. 5-seed Charlotte Independence after extra time at Capelli Sport Stadium in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Saturday night. Neither side was able to create a clear chance in the opening period of extra time, but the Rhinos went close as Jordan Dover’s shot from the top of the penalty area was partially deflected, but claimed by Independence goalkeeper Cody Mizell. Rochester took the lead with seven minutes left in extra time, however, as Kenardo Forbes found space 25 yards from goal and fired a low shot that deflected off Defregger’s heel, wrong-footing Mizell, and found the right corner of the net. The Independence’s only good chance of the first half came six minutes in Enzo Martinez created space 25 yards out and flashed a shot just wide of the top-left corner. Rochester began to control the game from then on, and Wal Fall went close with a flicked near-post header in the 31st minute off a cross from the left by Ray Lee. Forbes’ tight-angle shot from the left late in the first half was smothered by Mizell as the game went to the break scoreless, but the Rhinos broke the deadlock in the 53rd minute as a quickly-taken free kick on the left released Lee into space, and his cross to the top of the six-yard area found Graf to head home into the right corner. After threatening little, the Independence leveled on a brilliant goal scored by Martinez, but set up by second-half substitute Jaime Siaj, whose outstanding flick to send Martinez into the penalty provided the magic Charlotte had been missing. That was enough to send the game to extra time, but after little action for either side as a penalty shootout loomed, Defregger’s deflection earned the hosts victory.
53’ – ROC – Jochen Graf (Ray Lee)
69’ – CLT – Enzo Martinez (Jaime Siaj)
113’ – ROC – Stefan Defregger (Kenardo Forbes)
Three Things That Matter:
1. In the playoffs, any piece of good fortune or good play is magnified, and even more so when it results in the decisive moment in the contest. Stefan Defregger’s goal in extra time will end up going down as a memorable moment in USL Cup Playoffs history for the Rhinos simply because of the bizarre nature of its arrival, and the fact that it took the Rhinos to another home victory in the postseason. Rochester hasn’t lost a home postseason contest since 2012, and despite a valiant effort by the Independence, Defregger’s freak goal kept it that way.
2. With goals in the final three games of the regular season, the Charlotte Independence knew it had to try and keep Rhinos attacker Jochen Graf under wraps. The visitors did an effective enough job of that in the first half, Alex Martinez effectively deterring a good opening the German subsequently fired wide of the right post, but when Graf found a yard of space early in the second half his finish was clinical. In seasons past it was the likes of Steevan Dos Santos and Christian Volesky providing the firepower for Rochester in their postseason push. The Rhinos front-man has a big challenge ahead against Louisville next Saturday, but will likely make life difficult at Slugger Field.
3. The Independence put up a strong account of themselves to fight their way back into the game after conceding in the first half, and got a moment of magic by Jaime Siaj that produced the most memorable moment of the game before the Rhinos’ eventual winner. Charlotte’s defeat in such a manner was somewhat indicative of the conclusion of the club’s season, though, one that initially showed much promise and in the end through poor performance and misfortune ended up ending sooner than could have been expected.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Ray Lee, Rochester Rhinos – Lee was consistent throughout down the flank for the Rhinos, providing a fine assist on Graf’s opening goal and creating other chances as Rochester moved on.
Eastern Conference Semifinals – Rochester Rhinos at Louisville City FC, Saturday, Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m. ET, Slugger Field
Charlotte Independence – End of Season