USL Playoff Semi-Final Recap: Rochester Continue on and LA Wins Local Playoff Rivalry

Rhino Stadium USL

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

And then there were four.

The 2015 USL playoff brackets have whittled down to four as the Rochester Rhinos, Louisville City FC, LA Galaxy II and Oklahoma City Energy remain. In the East, it continues to be all about Rochester as the team that has suffered only one loss all season dispatched a tough but over matched Red Bull II team at Sahlen’s Stadium. Louisville City also won their match against the Charleston Battery proving the new additions to the USL are certainly capable of making an impact.

In the chaotic Western Conference, an LA derby saw the Galaxy II advance past the Orange County Blues. The Blues were a team that many overlooked all season long but survived to the semi-final, falling to the last remaining MLS2 team in the competition. Their opponents in the Conference Final, Oklahoma City, advanced in the tightest game of the weekend by defeating a very game Colorado Springs Switchbacks team.

Rochester Dominates New York After an Early Red Card

A game filled with possibility was stricken dead very early on after NYRB II defender Konrad Plewa was given a red card for pulling down Steevan dos Santos in the twenty-second minute. From there it seemed like only a matter of time before Rochester put the ball in the net. That time came early in the second half when dos Santos scored unassisted. The final nail in the coffin came after his redirected goal in the sixty-ninth minute sending New York home winless in Rochester despite three attempts.

There was certainly no shame in New York’s inaugural season. Undoubtedly the Rhinos are the class of the USL and heavy favorites to win the championship. Coupled with being shorthanded and there wasn’t much New York could do to keep the Rhinos at bay. Rochester’s road to the final will now see Louisville City come to Sahlen Stadium, a team that two 2-0 losses to the Rhinos earlier this season.

Louisville Dominates the Old Guard

If there is a team that could be labeled as the gatekeepers of the USL it is the Charleston Battery. One of the oldest active teams in American soccer, they are almost always a tough task, especially in playoff competition. However, the young upstarts in Louisville, and record-goalscorer Matt Fondy, were too much for the Battery to handle.

The game was certainly much tighter than the scoreline reflected. Both teams battled to a scoreless draw, requiring overtime to be deciding factor. Neither team wanted to leave it up to chance penalty kicks but it was Louisville that was able to break through first. Fondy scored twice in extra time to push Louisville on to a meeting with Rochester. What is left is the best offensive team in the conference vs. the best defensive team in the entire league. Matt Fondy proved to be the deciding factor this week but will he be the instrumental piece next weekend?

Lassiter Dominates OC Blues

Like father like son as Ariel Lassiter proves in USL to be the same goal scoring threat as his dad was in MLS. His latest victim, Orange County Blues FC, were unable to stop the striker from scoring two goals and helping LA Galaxy II advance to their second Conference Final in as many years. The scoring started early as Lassiter was fed a fantastic ball by Raul Mendiola just behind the defense. From there Lassiter did the deed, putting OC behind in just the fourteenth minute. A second goal in the seventy-third minute sealed the deal.

Orange County goes out after a season where there wasn’t much expected of them. Their coaches and front office have expressed just how pleased they were with the team’s performance despite not achieving the ultimate prize. The victors, LA Galaxy II, now move on to play OKC in a very tough Conference Final.

OKC Advance on Penalties

We’ve had a few games that teased us with the potential of penalty kicks but Oklahoma City Energy vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks was the first game to deliver on that threat. A 1-1 draw heading into extra time was broken open when OKC took the lead thanks to Peabo Doue in the ninety-eighth minute. Colorado Springs wouldn’t surrendered and equalized on Aaron King’s goal with one minute remaining in extra time.

Penalties proved to be too much for Colorado Springs as OKC scored on all four attempts, putting the game out of reach. A pair of saves from keeper Evan Newton in penalties sees OKC through to the Conference Final.

Results:

New York Red Bull II: 0
Rochester Rhinos: 2

Charleston Battery: 0
Louisville City FC: 2

LA Galaxy II: 2
Orange County Blues FC: 0

Colorado Springs Switchbacks: 2(2)
Oklahoma City Energy FC: 2(4)


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