As I noted in the preview of the U.S. Open Cup match, the Rochester Rhinos have a tendency to struggle against amateur teams. The Rhinos raised eyebrows with their decisive victory over Southie FC on Wednesday night in Second Round of the tournament.
The team's previous best result in the cup was a 5-1 win over New Hampshire Phantoms (then of the USL-2) in 2006. Rochester's 7-0 romp against the Boston-based amateur side edges out an 8-2 A-League result against Atlanta Ruckus from 1996 as the biggest margin of victory in club history.
Talking to media on Wednesday night, Bob Lilley was markedly enthusiastic after leading the team to its most emphatic win in 21 seasons.
Southie FC started brightly with a clear gameplan and precise execution in Rochester. The three returning Rhinos, Marcos Ugarte, Christian Volesky, and Asani Samuels quickly established the hosts' supremacy, though.
Asani Samuels, who now has five goals in two career U.S. Open Cup games for Rochester, said the team did not take their opponent lightly and that squad rotation was due to the upcoming league game at Orlando. "We treat every game the same. We went through the same match preparation, we did everything the same. The team that we put out there tonight was a different team because we have another game this weekend."
"We just went out there to play out game," Samuels said. "Every game is a chance to go out there to play the best you can."
Recent signing Sofiane Tergou played for Seacoast United Phantoms in 2015, the team that Southie FC defeated in the First Round of the cup. The French-born midfielder was very excited to make his full debut after coming off the bench against Charlotte on Saturday night.
"It was my first game, we won 7-0. I could not expect a better start," he told media after the game. "We took this game very seriously, even if it was against an amateur team. When you're in the cup you never know what can happen."
"Today I played in my preferred position so it was easier for me to understand the game," Tergou said referring to a two-way role in his substitute appearance on the weekend. He reveled playing an attacking role close to goal but quickly added, "at the end, I'm going to play where the coach wants and we know I can play in different positions."
"We came out strong and we put them away early," Marcos Ugarte said. The winger drew a penalty in the fifth minute, scored a goal in the twenty-seventh minute, and set up Samuels twice. "When we got the second one, we kinda knew we were in a good spot. We were comfortable by then and then when we got the third, we had it wrapped up."
"Me, Asani, and Volesky were the only returners in the starting lineup and it was out job to carry these guys," Ugarte told media after the game. In addition to the second-year Rhinos, Tergou also universally impressed.
"It was Sofiane's first start and you can see he's got tons of quality. It was really good to connect with him. He's always looking to play to feet," Ugarte said.
Head coach Bob Lilley also praised the performance of recent signing Tergou. "I thought Sofiane was very, very good. He sees all the options. He's a good passer. He's a good play-maker. He can play in the middle or out wide and I think we had a good performance from him."
Lilley pointed to Tergou's effectiveness in the final third. "He had 60 touches on the ball and maybe turned it over 3 or 4 times, which is an extremely high percentage. He must have put guys through on goal 10 to 12 times, so it was a strong performance."
Lilley also revealed that international restrictions affected his squad for the tournament. "We could only have five foreigners on the roster. That's why Wal Fall didn't feature because I wanted Michel and Sofiane. Wal Fall, Bradley Kamdem, and Steevan were out." Canadians Dominic Samuel and Ryan James and Jamaican Asani Samuels occupied the rest of the international spots for the Rhinos.
The convincing win sets up a Third Round match on June 1 against another amateur team, Lansdowne Bhoys FC. The team from New York City's Cosmopolitan Soccer League defeated Pittsburgh Riverounds on Wednesday 2-0 to earn the trip to Rochester. US Soccer announced on Thursday that a match against New York Red Bulls awaits the winner of the June 1 showdown.
Rochester travels to Florida to face Orlando City B on Sunday night at 7:30PM.