New England is sending players to other USL teams and disastrous flooding in Missouri interrupted their USL schedule, but the Rochester Rhinos just want to get back on the field. Rochester’s last game was the 4-0 home win over Charlotte Independence on April 29. When the dust settled at the conclusion of Wednesday’s 120 minute long battle for New Jersey, the Rhinos discovered their next opponent for May 17th’s cup tie.
A 32-yard direct free kick in the first period of extra time earned FC Motown the 2-1 First Round victory over New Jersey Copa FC in the U.S. Open Cup on May 10. Motown and NJ Copa shared players for the latter’s NPSL regular season and playoff run in 2016 but the sides were foes on Wednesday night.
Currently ensconced at the head of the Garden State Soccer League table with a perfect 12-0-0 record, FC Motown is dotted with former professionals and players with similar pedigrees who have not gotten their shot. Former Red Bulls homegrown defender Sacir Hot, who is the head coach of Motown, recently told Once A Metro that his players are relishing the opportunity to showcase their talents on the big stage for potential suitors.
“Forget playing in a 15,000 seat stadium and on local TV, our guys believe that if the proper eyes get on them they can make their professional dreams happen.”
Motown were the visitors against NJ Copa but will now face the much longer journey up to Western New York to face the Rhinos at Capelli Sport Stadium. The sparkplug in Rochester’s resounding victory over Charlotte, Haitian winger Christiano Francois, has history with FC Motown. Francois played for and trained with the club inbetween his professional stints in the United States and Portugal as he attended preparatory school in New Jersey.
In case the David vs Goliath narrative appears thin, consider the following statistics:
- The Rhinos have never lost an Open Cup match to a team from a lower division
- The Rhinos have a 20W-1L-1D record in opening matches of the cup
- The Rhinos had a 7W-2L-0D record for all Open Cup games in the month of May
- The Rhinos are 15W-0L-0D against amateur sides all-time in the Open Cup
FC Motown have their work cut out for them but for large stretches of Wednesday night’s match against NJ Copa FC, Sacir Hot’s men showed flashes of brilliance. The first half hour was touchy for the visitors, as they appeared uneasy defending a surge from the home side. After Motown weathered the storm, however, they played a very attractive style of play.
If the team can sort of a defensive plan and hope that a few more of their flicks in the final third come off, Hot and FC Motown could draft a blueprint to defeat the mighty Rhinos.
While the 4-0 scoreline against a poor Charlotte side eased many of the concerns from Rochester’s previous flogging on the road at Charleston. That 5-0 loss to the Battery was the worst result the Rhinos suffered since 1997 and illustrated severe issues with squad rotation and athleticism in the backline.
The team had a bye week already scheduled for this coming weekend and saw its contest in Saint Louis last weekend postponed, which reduces the need to shake up lineup due to fixture congestion. Defensive midfield stalwart and surprising free kick maestro Wal Fall is suspended from Rochester’s next USL game because Enzo Martinez ran into Fall’s arm and fell over (Fall was judged to have struck Enzo with an elbow, saw a yellow card during the game, and was later suspended by the USL). With Fall forced to sit for the team’s upcoming league game, he may find time in the cup against FC Motown.
Whatever the lineup Bob Lilley chooses for next Wednesday’s Second Round matchup in the U.S. Open Cup, Rochester’s players should be able to see out the result. If the team sees its early season overconfidence return or if the changes to the squad wipe out any team chemistry, FC Motown has players both clever and experienced enough to capitalize.