Rochester Rhinos will host Charlotte Independence in the first round of the 2016 USL Playoffs.
Notably, Charlotte was the only team to beat Rochester in its otherwise undefeated season in 2015. That 4-1 loss down in North Carolina was nearly a perfect storm of failures in Rochester's system of pressing opposition and retaining possession and Rhinos fans will hope it was a flash in the pan.
The teams met recently, a match that the visiting Rhinos won 1-0 on the road on September 17. That result was the first win against Charlotte on the fourth attempt against the second-year club. The Independence played to a 0-0 draw on the road in Rochester on May 14.
Charlotte was slightly better at home than on the road over the regular season, earning 28 points over 15 games at Ramblewood Soccer Complex (against 22 points on the road). The team averaged 1.667 points per game but only managed 1.353 points per game against teams that ended in the 8 playoff spots.
For whatever regular season records matter in a one-game playoff contest, Charlotte has only one win against playoff teams over the campaign. That early win at New York Red Bulls on May 1, highlighted the team's 8 point haul over 9 games against playoff-bound teams on the road (0.889 points per game).
On the other side of the coin, the Rhinos played 7 home games against the other 7 playoff bound teams. Rochester's underwhelming 2-2-3 record was good for 9 points and 1.286 points per game. Rochester lost at home to Louisville and Richmond but Charlotte has not yet won at Rhinos Stadium over the team's two seasons.
The Rhinos have not lost since that fantastic Yudai Imura free kick lifted Richmond in Rochester. The 9-game unbeaten run to end the regular season includes 5 wins, and 3 wins in the final 4 games (and a hard-fought draw against NYRB II at home).
Charlotte had three emphatic victories as the season was winding up, 3-2 vs FC Cincinnati, 5-1 at Toronto FC II, and 4-0 vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Since those positive results, however, the team had a scoreless draw at Richmond, lost at home to Rochester, and tied Louisville 1-1 with fourth place on the line.
Rochester has late-season momentum on their side and has the (perhaps chilly) home-field advantage. Rochester Rhinos Stadium (formerly Sahlen's Stadium) is undoubtedly a fortress; the team has lost just three times in all competitions since August 10, 2014.
Whether injured goalkeeper Adam Grinwis provides some positive vibes for the Rhinos with his rather bizarre stunt on Friday afternoon, Rochester should be slight favorites for Saturday night's playoff match.
As the Rochester Rhinos begin their USL Playoffs title defense on Saturday, the match kicks off at 6:00PM