Samuels Brace Leads Rhinos to USL Championship Glory

by ANTHONY MERCED

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The Rochester Rhinos have been the best USL club all season long. On Friday night, they proved that position with a dramatic Championship victory.

Jamaican international Asani Samuels scored twice for the Rhinos, tying the game in stoppage time and then giving Rochester the lead that would eventually take them to championship glory in extra time.

The second half substitute became an unlikely hero for a club that seemed destined to suffer their first home loss of the season and a devastating end to a fantastic run of form. The LA Galaxy II challenged Rochester like few have, taking the lead against the Eastern Conference champions in the sixty-fifth minute and holding it into stoppage time. Unfortunately for the MLS2 side, they couldn’t fully weather the storm and succumbed to the league regular season champions in stoppage time.

The first half was almost a stereotypical Rochester Rhinos game. They absorbed pressure from LA early, not giving up many meaningful chances. Nearing the end of the half, the Rhinos retained a majority of the pressure despite not putting LA goalkeeper Clement Diop under any threat. After the first half, LA seemed happy with their play, very confident that they could win in the second half.

That confidence eventually produced a goal as LA’s danger man Ariel Lassiter scored in the sixty-fifth minute, stunning the cold and wet crowd at Sahlen’s Stadium. A free kick, earned by Lassiter, led to a chance by Bradley Diallo that rang off of the crossbar. Lassiter was there to pick up the pieces and put home the game’s first goal.

That lone goal would stand until the ninety-first minute when Asani Samuels leapt high into the air to head Jonny Mendoza’s corner kick into the back of the net.

From there, the game took many twists and turns, specifically a need for LA to substitute their goalkeeper Diop after a mismatch collision. The fear was that he had a concussion and despite Diop’s protests, the team was forced to pull him.

That was when Samuels became the team hero yet again. Well into extra time, a Kenardo Forbes free kick found the head of Samuels and he once again buried the opportunity in the back of the net. The Rhinos held off the advances of LA from there to win their fifth USL Championship and become the first team since Orlando City SC in 2013 to win both the regular season crown and the USL Playoffs title as well.

For LA, it is back to the drawing board and their two first seasons ended with two heartbreaking championship losses. Last season, the run ended in the Conference Final against eventual champions Sacramento Republic FC. This year Curt Onalfo’s men went into extra time in the Championship game before falling to this year’s champions.

  • Anonymous

    Best team playing in New York State.

  • Kevin

    Are they tied to any team like most USL teams or are they independent? They have some storied history and this just adds to it

  • Anonymous

    I notice no NYCFC fans responded to the post above. That is because you know Rochester could give you a run for your money and most likely beat you. How pathetic that would make NYCFC look. You already lost to one pro team in NY State. Yes that is right I am calling all of you NYCFC supporters out.

    • Larry’s A Simpleton

      lol. f.cosmos fanboys are walking on eggshells just waiting for the team to go belly up. what is it in the nassau county water that makes those fanboys so angry?

      that right. they’re pissed because the world famous cosmos arent even a pimple on the ass of nycfc. how can an expansion team draw thousans upon thousands more than the f.cosmos? how can an expansion team have thousands upon thousnads more season ticket holders and get all that media attention while the f.cosmos die a slow death in the minor leagues?

      dark days in nassau county.

    • slowleftarm

      “Anonymous” – you know you’ve done a poor job at trolling when you have to make a second post to solicit responses. Please try harder. Thank you.