USL Playoffs Round 2 Roundup
It was an electrifying and intense second round of the USL playoffs that set the stage for the Conference finals. A couple of games went into extra time; one was decided with an 89th minute winner. Louisville City was the only team who posted a clean sheet in this round and was the only team that looked remotely decisive in victory. Louisville City FC was the only one of the remaining 5 independent clubs to advance to the Conference Finals, the rest being MLS reserve sides.
(6) Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 3, (7) OKC Energy FC 2
It looked like Vancouver was in the driver’s seat after they took a 2-0 lead in the 48th minute thanks to a well composed goal from Captain Kyle Grieg. OKC had a tally of point blank chances throughout the game that they had failed to capitalize on, whether by the Whitecaps stacking the box or by a couple of stellar saves by Spencer Rickey in goal. The Energy’s first goal came at the hour mark as striker Danni Konig turned a corner onto goal, finding the back of the net via the head of a defender. The goal energized OKC (pun very much intended) and gave them the confidence they needed that they could actually put it in the net. They drew level in the 80th minute when a supremely curled shot by Timo Pitter found the upper left corner of the goal.
Vancouver scored their winner right at the death in the 89th minute when Daniel Haber made a clever move in the box to give him the yard he needed to slot a shot just beyond OKC keeper and man bun enthusiast Cody Laurendi.
Vancouver moves on to play at another MLS 2 team, Swope Park Rangers (Sporting Kansas City) next Saturday in the Western Conference Final.
(1) New York Red Bulls II 3, (4) Rochester Rhinos 3 (NYRBII advance 5:4 on penalties)
Derrick Etienne put the hosts up first when a ball from Vince Bezecourt found him in the box, where he put a simple move on the defender and slotted it by keeper Tomas Gomez, near post no less. Rochester pulled one back when a NYRB defender fouled Christian Volesky outside Ryan Meara’s box, and Volesky took advantage of New York’s lapse in arranging their defense and played a perfect ball to an alert dos Santos who slotted it home at the end of his far-post run. The Red Bulls II recaptured the lead in the 44th minute when Brandon Allen banged a rebound in after Gomez parried a Florian Valot shot.
Steevan dos Santos bagged his brace in the 55th minute when he headed a Ryan James cross beyond the flat-footed Ryan Meara, for the equalizing score and the last tally in regulation.
The remainder of regulation was very hectic and up and down. It settled down a bit around the 75th minute, although each side had little more than a handful of half-chances.
As extra time started, the 1,200 people in attendance (most of which I suspect came dressed as empty seats) went mild. New York came out and grabbed control of the game. As the first half of extra time wore on, Rochester got into it, getting a good chance in the 8th minute off of a free kick that was headed wide.
Rochester took the lead in the 110th minute when Wal Fall headed a corner onto frame, where Meara got a hand on it, but couldn’t keep it out of the net. Rochester looked set to make a second consecutive appearance in the Eastern Finals, but the Red Bulls had another idea. They were throwing all their numbers up the field, and Rochester were looking like they would hold them off. All that came crashing down when Dominic Samuel *allegedly* brought down Daniel Metzger in the box, with what was way too soft of a pen to give in the 28th of 30 minutes of added time.
New York converted all 5 of their penalties, with regulation hero Steevan dos Santos missing his spot kick for the Rhinos.
(4) Swope Park Rangers 2, (8) Orange County Blues FC 1
The Swope Park Rangers were reduced to nine men toward the end of regulation and the entirety of overtime during their conference semifinal match Sunday. Despite that massive hurdle, USL all-time goal-scoring leader Dane Kelly tallied a colossal 105th-minute goal as the fourth-seeded Rangers’ defense held strong the rest of the way for a thrilling 2-1 victory against eighth-seeded Orange County Blues FC during the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2016 USL Cup Playoffs at Children’s Mercy Victory Field at Swope Soccer Village.
Swope’s Mark Anthony Gonzalez gave his side the early lead, but things took a big turn when Swope’s outside backs eventually hit the showers early. In the 69th minute, Swope was reduced to 10 men when Ever Alvarado was sent off. Orange County needed one minute after the sending off to find the equalizer through second-half sub Max Rauhofer. Then in the closing stages in the 88th minute, Tommy Meyer was sent off with a studs-to-the-groin to Orange County’s Akwafei Ajeakwa, putting Swope in a bind with just nine men. The Blues had the clear-cut advantage with two extra players, but they were unable to make strong use of the situation as Kelly catapulted the Rangers into the Western Conference Final.
Swope will now host sixth-seeded Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 on Saturday.