The Western Mass Pioneers (PDL) are plotting an upset with Wednesday’s second round Open Cup clash against the Rochester Rhinos (USL-PRO) on tap. Kickoff at Sahlen’s Stadium is set for 7:35pm.
Western Mass enters the match a week removed from a 4-1 comeback win against GPS Massachusetts at Lusitano Stadium in first round action. After conceding an early Santiago Bedoya strike, the hosts came alive in the second half, as Alencar Junior and Will Daniels each bagged a brace to send their side through to the second round.
The Pioneers will once again rely on lively performances from Junior and Daniels to steer the offense forward, while goalkeeper Warren Gross will be called upon to keep the rear organized and, when necessary, make a big save.
While the Pioneers got their first taste of the 2014 tournament last week, the Rhinos make their Open Cup entrance on Wednesday, and in front of their own fans, no less. During USL-PRO play this season, the Rhinos have gone 2-1-4, and are coming off a 1-1 draw to Orlando City last weekend.
Through its first seven league games, the Rhinos have leaned heavily on forward Jimmy Banks (3 goals, 2 assists) to keep the offense flowing. Between the sticks, John McCarthy has beat out Revolution loanee Luis Soffner as the Rhinos’ #1, and has shut out the opposition in three of his four games so far this season.
Historically, neither side is a stranger to the historic tournament. In fact, the Rhinos, who’ve become an Open Cup regular in the modern era, were the last squad outside of MLS to lift the Lamar Hunt trophy after they staked a 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids in the 1999 final. The Pioneers have entered Open Cup action no fewer than four times, with their last tournament tilt prior to this year’s edition coming in 2010.
Incidentally, the Rhinos and Pioneers have met in Open Cup play before. During the 2007 tournament, Rochester grabbed a 2-1 second round win over Western Mass before falling to its future MLS affiliate, the New England Revolution.
Of course, the Pioneers are hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself, while the Rhinos would love nothing more than to dispatch their neighbors to the east once more.