Preview: Rochester and Los Dos Battle for USL Championship

Rochester Rhinos 2

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

There are so many plot lines to the 2015 USL Championship game that it is hard to find a place to start.

Perhaps the easiest is the narrative of the old establishment vs. the league’s future is the easiest to tackle. The Rochester Rhinos, now celebrating their 20th season in existence, has survived it all. First it was the A-League, which eventually became USL First Division. After that it was a potential move to the NASL before deciding on staying with the newer USL Pro, which eventually morphed into just USL.

While that chaotic history lesson may be confusing, the Rhinos’ 2015 season results are very easy to understand. In USL competition, the team only lost one game all season long, just one point shy of the highest point total in league history. On top of that, they have thoroughly dominated their playoff opponents thus far not allowing a goal in two games. Along the way they shut down a Louisville City team that had one of the more high-powered offenses in the league.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt the Rhinos currently stand as the old guard of USL and a shining beacon of just how far the league has come.

On the opposite end of the field will stand the LA Galaxy II, or Los Dos as they are commonly referred. This team represents the future. Not only a future for the USL as more and more MLS reserve teams make their way into the league, but they also represent MLS’ potential future. Players like Ariel Lassiter stand alongside the likes of Jack McBean, given new life with meaningful games to play. Superdraft picks playing along with academy development talent and with a purpose that sits far beyond USL glory. It is a hunger and a drive for first division minutes.

All of this stands as the backdrop for the 2015 USL Championship game. On Friday night, the Rochester Rhinos will host the LA Galaxy II for the first time this season. Historically, both teams have only met once, resulting in a 2-1 loss for LA last season. A year makes all the difference as Rochester has solidified their defense and LA is now the team hungry for championship glory.


Starting XI:

Rochester Rhinos: Miller; Dixon, Apostolopolous, Obasi, dos Santos, Mendoza, Garzi, McMahon, Van de Casteele, Walls, Forbes

LA Galaxy II: Diop; McBean, Walker, Sorto, Mendiola, Steres, Lassiter, Olivera, Diallo, Auras, Franco

Player to Watch: Ariel Lassiter is easily the most recognizable name on the field for this game. Son of legendary MLS striker Roy Lassiter, the pressure of being second generation American soccer royalty is certainly something to keep in mind. Despite the pressure, Lassiter has been effective, scoring the first goal against Oklahoma City in the Conference Final. Nine goals in the regular season and one in the playoffs makes him one of the more dangerous offensive players on the field. To this point Rochester has shut down the league’s best strikers and Lassiter will not have an easy time penetrating their stout backline.

X Factor: One game playoffs are a game of chance. Rochester has made a season of playing very close, one goal, games. However playoff scenarios tend to play against those who ride the line so close. Still, Murphy’s Law can work both ways. The Rhinos have had fortune bounce their way with goals coming from unlikely places all season long.


The Rochester Rhinos are without a doubt the favorites heading into the USL Championship game. Whether or not LA can overcome the unstoppable defense than has led to one of the stingiest goals against in recent memory remains to be seen. However, it is worth noting that Los Dos has found ways to win in unlikely circumstances. They have played their entire playoff run on the road and tallied two more wins on the road than in the confines of their home field.

Expect an exciting game that will more than likely be a very close contest. Both sides have only conceded a combined total of one goal through the entire playoffs, making every play a potentially major event.

 

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