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Rochester Rhinos Host Southie FC in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday

The Rhinos look to maintain its unbeaten run against lower division teams in the Open Cup when they take on the amateur team from Boston.

The Rhinos kick off their Open Cup campaign on Wednesday night
The Rhinos kick off their Open Cup campaign on Wednesday night

The Rochester Rhinos have never lost to an amateur team in the U.S. Open Cup. Further to the point, the Rhinos have never lost to a lower division opponent in the tournament.

Rochester has only lost once in their opening round match in the cup, to the A-League side Hershey Wildcats, coached by none other than reigning USL Coach of the Year, Bob Lilley. In that 2001 Second Round match at Frontier Field, the visiting Wildcats won 1-0 thanks to a goal by former New England Revolution midfielder Steve Klein.

The team holds a special place in American soccer folklore due to being the first and still the only non-MLS side to win the U.S. Open Cup since MLS' inaugural season in 1996. Rochester's 1999 cup run began with a Second Round overtime result against the New York Freedom (now Pancyprian Freedom), but also included wins over Chicago Fire, Dallas Burn, Columbus Crew, and ultimately Colorado Rapids.

Though successful, the Rhinos have often been held to tight contests against lower division sides in the early rounds of the cup. In the previous three years, the Rochester Rhinos have only beaten their amateur opponents by a single goal, once in extra time. Depending on perspective, the Rhinos are either consistently dominant against their lesser foes in the Second Round or lucky to squeak by a hungry opponent each year.

In 2015, the Rhinos defeated Greater Binghamton FC Thunder of the NPSL 1-0 at home. The year before, PDL side Western Mass Pioneers pushed the one-time champions to extra time before Rochester sealed victory. In 2013, Rochester hosted GPS Portland Phoenix and beat the PDL club 1-0. 2012 was the last time the Rhinos defeated their initial cup opponent by a comfortable margin, when the Brooklyn Italians traveled upstate to face a Rochester side that had not yet conceded a goal in league play; Rochester won 3-0.

In the 20 years that the Rhinos have participated in the U.S. Open Cup, the team faced an amateur opponent in the first match 13 times. Of those 13 initial cup matches against amateur teams, Rochester won 10 of them by a one-goal margin.

On Wednesday night the Rhinos will host Southie FC, a team that competes in the Massachusetts amateur Bay State Soccer League. That Open Cup contest will mark the second time that former Rochester Rhinos defender Nathaniel "Nano" Short returns to face his former side. Short featured for GPS Portland Phoenix in 2013 alongside former Revolution trialist and Rhinos forward Pierre Omanga.

Southie FC defeated Seacoast United Phantoms in the First Round of the cup on May 11. The Boston-based USASA team won 2-0 thanks to a double from forward Roy Sandeman, who will be the dangerman on Wednesday.

Rookie central defender Joe Farrell, who will play against Southie FC before departing for his college graduation, said after Rochester's scoreless draw with Charlotte that the players are aware of the history. "I wouldn't say there's any pressure on it," Farrell said about the team's undefeated record against amateur sides. "We just want to come out and play our game."

That game is unlikely to feature heavy rotation as the cup allows the standard three substitutions compared to the five in the USL. Vasilis Apostolopoulos has missed the last two USL matches while nursing a tender hamstring and Rochester head coach Bob Lilley told media on Saturday night that he's uncomfortable playing the Greek defender for a full match on Wednesday and then again over the weekend for the team's road game against Orlando City B.

The New England Revolution are also unlikely to loan any fringe players down to the Rhinos for Wednesday's match. Any player who makes an appearance for Rochester in the U.S. Open Cup would be unable to suit up for the Revs in the next round of the tournament.

The Rochester Rhinos host Southie FC in the Second Round on the U.S. Open Cup at 7:00PM from Rhinos Stadium.