USOC: Early Goals Carry Revs over Rhinos

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.com

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.com

By Greg Johnstone

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A pair of first half goals from Saer Sene and Kelyn Rowe were enough for the New England Revolution to top their USL Pro affiliate, the Rochester Rhinos, 2-1 on Wednesday at Stevenson Field.

Saer Sene opened the scoring in the 11th minute, while Kelyn Rowe grabbed a goal of his own in the 33rd minute. After starting the second half down 2-0, the Rhinos controlled possession and fought aggressively to tie, but fell short as they only were able to score on a Colin Rolfe header in the 55th minute.

With the victory, the New England Revolution move on to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup, where they will face the Philadelphia Union, who eliminated the New York Cosmos on Tuesday, 2-1 in extra time. The match is scheduled for July 8th at PPL Park.

The Rhinos, who came into Wednesday’s match having only conceded 14 goals in 19 total games between the US Open Cup and league matches, placed heavy pressure on the Revs, trying to force mistakes and not letting them advance down the field. However, with a strong wind at their back, the Revolution found ways to break the defense in the first half.

In the 11th minute, Lee Nguyen and Saer Sene exchange passes back and forth in the box, finding space and staying one step ahead of the defense until led Sene was into open space in the left side of the box. With only Rhinos keeper John McCarthy to beat, Sene fired low and back across the face of goal, perfectly into the inside of the side netting.

While the Revs never dominated, or even controlled, the match, they continued to keep getting chances. In the 25th minute, a counter-attack off a turnover led by Saer Sene led to a clear change for Scott Caldwell in front of goal. But unlike Sene, Caldwell could not convert as his shot was turned away from a great save by McCarthy. Off the following corner, Kelyn Rowe rocketed a shot from inside the box, but missed over the bar.

Throughout the first 30 minutes, the Rhinos were able to carry the ball into the Revolution defensive third of the field and place crosses in front of goal, but didn’t register their first chance until Rhinos’ striker Colin Rolfe crossed to Alex Dixon in the center of the box. However, Brad Knighton stood up to his first challenge of the night, charging off the line and stopping Dixon’s close range shot.

The Revs doubled their lead just a few minutes later in the 33rd minute. Lee Nguyen chipped a pass over the defense to Kelyn Rowe. Rowe’s initial shot was stopped by McCarthy, but Rowe gathered the rebound and fired into an empty net, giving the Revolution a 2-0 lead, which would hold until halftime.

The second half was a completely different game, with the Rhinos controlling the majority of possession and registering chance after chance. Lee Nguyen was substituted at halftime and the Revolution’s attack slowed down. The Revolution stopped producing chances or holding possession in the attacking half. Meanwhile, the strong winds now travelling in the Rhinos’ direction seemed to strengthen their ability to pressure the Revolution and cause numerous turnovers.

In the 55th minute, the Rhinos’ were finally rewarded with a goal, as Johnny Mendoza volleyed his own deflected cross into the box from the left flank, and Chris Rolfe scored on a header placed in the top corner of the goal.

In the 60th minute, the Revolution were given a bit of life as Charlie Davies entered the game for Kelyn Rowe and provided life on the left flank. However, despite Davies’ long runs which helped stretch the field, the Revolution failed to register a shot on goal in the second half.

In the 84th minute, the Rhinos’ had their best chance to tie the score when Minh Vu took a free kick just outside the box and put it wide of the right goal post. Minutes later, JC Banks was given a free kick from farther away, but the kick deflected off the wall and safely into Brad Knighton’s hands.

Both teams carried the ball across midfield until the 90th minute, when Rhinos’ defender Babacar Diallo kicked Revs’ Patrick Mullins after the whistle while Mullins was on the ground. Diallo was given a straight red card and the Rhinos played a man down for stoppage time.

After a foul by the Revs gave the Rhinos a free kick at midfield, keeper John McCarthy booted a long ball into the box as a last gasp effort for Rochester, but Knighton managed his way through the crowded box to catch the ball and seal the victory for New England.

It was by no means an easy game for the Revolution, who played the majority of the second half on their heels. The Revolution were outshot 5-0 in the final half and 9-7 overall. However, the Revolution defense held strong under pressure and were able to hold onto the victory.

The Revolution will host their next U.S. Open Cup opponent, the Philadelphia Union, this Saturday at Gillette Stadium at 7:30 pm. For the Rochester Rhinos, despite being eliminated from the competition, they can have pride in advancing further in the U.S. Open Cup than any of their USL PRO rivals. Rochester also has a short turn-around time as they host the Charlotte Eagles this Saturday at 7 pm.

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About Greg Johnstone