Rhinos celebrate 20th season with first USL championship

Trailing in the last minute of regulation, the Rochester Rhinos rallied to send the USL final against the LA Galaxy II into overtime, where they won, 2-1, on Jamaican Asani Roberts' second goal of the game. The title was the first for the Rhinos in the new USL but their fifth league title since their founding in 1996.

USL Finals:
2011: Orlando City 2 Harrisburg 2
(Orlando City wins 3-2 one penalties.)
2012: Charleston 1 Wilmington 0
2013: Orlando City 7 Charlotte 4
2014: Sac Republic FC 2, Harrisburg 0
2015: Rochester Rhinos 2, LA Galaxy II 1 (OT)

Los Dos looked to be on their way to the USL title in their second year thanks to Ariel Lassiter's second-half goal, but Samuels equalized in stoppage time on a header off Jonny Mendoza’s corner kick.

Another corner kick, this one from Kenardo Forbes, found Samuels, a rookie out of Canisius, for the winner in the 112th minute.

Samuels, who came on late in regulation, played just 183 minutes off the bench in regulation, and might not have played on Friday night but for the suspension to Steevan dos Santos (red card in the Eastern Conference final) and injury to Christian Volesky (concussion).

"With Volesky and dos Santos out," said Rochester coach Bob Lilley, "we had to go deeper, but Asani causes problems every day in the practice, and he’s a handful athletically. He’s still growing as a player, but he’s a great kid, and he works hard. He’s unselfish. He’s always got a smile on his face. Sometimes I want him to be a little bit angrier, but he was battling and he wanted to make a difference."

Lilley, who is in his second stint with the Rhinos, having coached them to the 2010 USSF Second Division title. He also coached the Vancouver Whitecaps to the 2006 USL First Division title.

"This team has the heart of champions," he said, "and it’s so impressive how they changed the game late, created the chances we needed to get the goal, and to go out in the overtime and not be cautious. I felt like we were playing to win, and not just to get to PKs, and I’m proud of them for doing that. It took a lot of guts. It’s the best win that I’ve been a part of in my career."

The irony of the Rhinos' comeback was that LA Galaxy coach Curt Onalfo said he had brought on Galaxy first-team defender Tommy Meyer to mark Samuels, who had entered the game in the 80th minute. Samuels came on for Nate Bourdeau, who replaced Mike Garzi, who had to leave with an ankle injury.

"Our guys kept fighting," said Onalfo, "and all I could think was we’ve got to get to PKs, because I knew it was going to be a difficult task. At the end, we’re devastated, but I’m so proud of this group. To be able to go on the road and do what we did in Sacramento, OKC and being minutes away from having a championship here in Rochester just shows how much these guys are growing, but it’s a nasty taste in the mouth. Credit to Rochester for, quite frankly, their will to win, or not to lose came through, and they got a timely goal at the end of the game, and then obviously winning in overtime."

Besides the Rhinos' 2010 league championship, they also won the A-League three times in five years (1998, 1999 and 2002). They are also the lone lower-division team to win the U.S. Open Cup in the MLS era, winning a double in 1999.

Oct. 17 in Rochester, New York
Rochester 2 LA Galaxy II 1 (OT). Goals: Samuels 90, 113; Lassiter 65.
LA Galaxy II -- Diop (Sneddon 106); Sorto (Meyer, 81), Steres, Diallo, Franco; Walker, Auras, Mendiola (Maganto, 50); Lassiter (Bowen, 89), McBean, Olivera (Covarrubias, 76).
Rochester -- Miller; McMahon, Apostolopoulos, Van DeCasteele, Obasi; Totsch (Rolfe, 66), Mendoza (Ugarte, 90), Garzi (Bordeau, 35; Samuels, 80), Forbes, Walls; Dixon.
Att.: 5,421.
1 comment about "Rhinos celebrate 20th season with first USL championship".
  1. aaron dutch, October 19, 2015 at 2:23 p.m.

    I wish the USL had more coverage, MLS should do much more to promote USL & Academy players who are local etc.

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