U.S. Open Cup: Rochester and Colorado advance to final

SEMIFINALS: Sept. 1 in Virginia Beach, Va. -- Colorado Rapids (MLS) 3 Charleston Battery (A-League) 0; Rochester Rhinos (A-League) 3 Columbus Crew (MLS) 2. FINAL: Sept. 14 in Columbus, Ohio -- Colorado Rapids (MLS) vs. Rochester Rhinos (A-League). TV: The final will be televised live Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN for the first time in the tournament's history. TICKETS: For ticket information, contact the Columbus Crew at 614/447-CREW (2739). With the recently downgraded Tropical Storm Dennis punishing the brave crowd of 2,109 fans at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex with high winds and sheets of rain, t The Colorado Rapids and Rochester Raging Rhinos both wisely used the weather to their advantage to advance to the U.S. Open Cup Final, which will be played Tuesday, Sept. 14, at Columbus Crew Stadium. The Rhinos twice roared back to tie the score in the second half with the wind at their backs and went on to complete the dramatic upset with a surprising 25-yard bomb with just seconds left in stoppage time to beat the Crew, 3-2. After finding themselves down 2-1 with five minutes left, the Rhinos got the equalizer from Scott Schweitzer on a free kick that deflected off teammate Tommy Tanner and past a wrong-footed Mark Dougherty in the 86th minute. The game winner came in the third minute of stoppage time when left-footed defender Tim Hardy dribbled left, cut the ball back to his right foot and buried a rocket in the far corner of the goal past a stunned Dougherty. The improbable, but well-deserved victory was the Rhinos' third against an MLS team in this year's competition, having knocked off the defending Open Cup champion Chicago Fire and Dallas Burn in the third round and quarterfinals, respectively. The win gives Rochester a solid 5-3 all-time record versus their Division I counterparts in Open Cup play, with wins over Tampa Bay and Colorado in 1996 accounting for the other two. More impressive,, the Rhinos improve to 9-3 in overall Open Cup play, giving them the best Open Cup record of any team from any level over the past four years. The loss was doubly devastating for Columbus, which lost in sudden death overtime in last year's final and would have had the chance to play in front of a home crowd had it advanced to the Open Cup final. In the night's first match, Colorado also saved its best for the second half, knocking in three goals during the night's biggest downpour and going on to earn a soggy 3-0 shutout over Charleston. High-scoring forward Jorge Dely Valdes opened the scoring in the 55th minute on a nice touch from Ross Paule and finished the Battery off in the 87th minute on a back-heeled pass from midfielder Paul Bravo. Bravo also had the team's second goal and helped the Rapids turn the tide in the second stanza after an even first half that saw them outshot 8-6. The win sets up the first A-League vs. MLS final since 1996, when the first-year Rhinos fell to D.C. United team, 3-0, in Washington. MLS teams also won the '97 and '98 titles, but the A-League has more than held its own this year, winning five of the nine match-ups going into the final.

QUOTES

Glenn "Mooch" Myernick (Colorado coach) "This was one of the most important games we will play all season and we played like it, especially in the second half. We said at the beginning of the season that one of our four major goals was to win the Open Cup, and now we are ninety minutes away from doing it." Jorge Dely Valdes (Colorado striker) "We knew this would be a tough game, especially after Charleston knocked D.C. United out two rounds ago. And then with the wind and the rain, that made it even tougher. But we waited until it was the right time and then we created goals. Now we are in the final." Pat Ercoli (Rochester coach): On winning the coin toss: "Predominantly we take the wind first, but we took a gamble. I felt a team like Columbus, if they had the wind at their back in the second half, they'd definitely be tough to handle." Tim Hardy (Rochester defender): "This team has a 'never say die' attitude. We've seen it all year, and to come through now, everybody has a great feeling." On the game-winning goal: "I wanted to go left, but I couldn't because it would have taken me at a bad angle. So I faked outside and cut inside. I was just looking to use the wind and bend it far bar." Scott Schweitzer (Rochester defender): "I think they pulled what we do sometimes against A-League competition. They stopped playing. Sometimes we need to get scored on to start pushing. Once he (Robert Warzycha) scored, we took control." Tom Fitzgerald (Columbus coach): On his feelings after the loss: "Embarrassing, frustrating and disappointing." On the Open Cup, in general: "This is what soccer is all about. I'm disappointed we lost, but we're happy we were here."

SUMMARIES

Semifinals Sept. 1 in Virginia Beach, Va. Colorado (MLS) 3 Charleston (A-League) 0. Goals: Dely Valdes (Paule, Harris) 55, Bravo (Wolde Harris) 82, Dely Valdes (Paul Bravo, Marquis White) 87. Colorado -- Feuer, Vermes, Balboa, Martin, Vaudreuil, McKeon (Jakins, 89), Paule, Anderson (Sawatzky, 86), Bravo, Harris (White, 87), Dely Valdes. Charleston -- Hudock, Sewell, Spooner, Jean-Baptiste, Wilson, Miller (Brownell, 86), Limniatis, Rodriguez (Miller, 74), Ilarionov (Thelan, 86), Burke, Conway. Att.: 2,109. Sept. 1 in Virginia Beach, Va. Rochester (A-League) 3 Columbus (MLS) 2. Goals: Tilley (Tanner) 68, Schweitzer 86, Hardy 90; Warzycha 56, West (Elcock) 77. Rochester -- Onstad, Hardy, Schweitzer, Restrepo, Walton (Kirmse, 80), Sedgewick, Tanner, Biello, Allnutt, Daligcon (Miller, 76), Tilley. Columbus -- Dougherty, Lapper, Clark, Dooley, Yeagley, Cunningham (Williams, 75), Elcock, West (Abukusumo, 81), Warzycha, John, McBride. Att.: 2,109.
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