Thursday, July 9, 2009
TAMPA, FL – The Rochester Rhinos play host to the Puerto Rico Islanders for the first time since their stunning exit from the 2008 postseason as the two sides square off for the second time this season Friday night on Fox Soccer Channel. The broadcast begins at 8:00 pm ET.
Going into the semifinal series last year, the Islanders were coming off a bye as the regular season league champions and the Rhinos were looking for their first victory of the year after suffering two losses (2-0, 4-0) and a 1-1 draw during the season series. With home field advantage in the first leg, the Rhinos got that first win and appeared to be in good command of the series with a 2-0 advantage heading to Puerto Rico.
Then the wheels came off. As they had done during the season and in dramatic fashion in the CONCACAF Champions League, the Islanders found a way to come back. Fabrice Noel scored 10 minutes into the second game and Taiwo Atieno, who scored one of the Rhinos two goals Tuesday in their US Open Cup Quarterfinal win, struck the series equalizer in the 33rd. Both strikes came on corner kicks.
A stalemate ensued for the remaining hour of action, sending the series into overtime. And, just as it appeared the decision would be made via a penalty kick tiebreaker, Cristian Arrieta, as he had done on set pieces all season en route to the Defender of the Year honor, finished off a third corner kick goal on the night to send the Islanders through to the championship match. Veteran Petter Villegas delivered the dagger on the play.
The Rhinos returned to the scene two games into the current campaign, but the two sides dueled to a scoreless draw in Bayamon.