The Western Mass Pioneers pushed the Rochester Rhinos to extra time, but a pair of late goals doomed the PDL side in a 2-1 loss at Sahlen’s Stadium in the Second Round of the U.S. Open Cup.
A scoreless match gave way to a three-goal bonanza in the second period of extra time when Levi Houapeu (110’) and Thomas Obasi (114’) scored for the Rhinos, while Will Daniels (117’) brought one back for the Pioneers.
With the win, the Rhinos advance to the Third Round, where they’ll host Reading United A.C. at Sahlen’s Stadium on May 21.
The Pioneers were tasked with facing the Rhinos without goalscoring maestro Alencar Junior, who was unable to travel to Rochester on Wednesday. Nevertheless, the guests found a way to absorb the pressure, and collect a couple of chances.
After a Jossimar Sanchez low shot pressed Warren Gross into action in the 5th minute, the Pioneers began settle in and put the Rhinos on their heels.
While the Rhinos struggled to connect passes, and the Pioneers were unable to find strong chances in the final third, play turned chippy. Both sides traded hard challenges, with Obasi seeing yellow in the 31st minute.
At halftime, the Rhinos held the edge on shots (2-1), but were unable to put the Pioneers away. With the scoreboard unblemished going into the second half, Rochester would improve its form and test the Western Mass back line.
In the 69th minute, Obasi found Samuel Petrone, but Petrone’s shot veered wide. Ten minutes later, Petrone was cut down near the outer edge of the final third, setting up a dangerous free kick. Houapeu sent it on frame, but Gross denied it to keep it scoreless.
With 90 minutes not enough to separate the sides, extra time was employed. And in the second period of extra time, the Rhinos finally grabbed the goal that eluded them all evening when Houapeu easily tapped through the remnants of a JC Banks header in the 110th minute.
Rochester widened the gap four minutes later when Obasi scored in the 114th to put the Rhinos in command. But the Pioneers wouldn’t go quietly, as Daniels grabbed a pass from Kyle Tomos and tallied in the 117th minute.