Jeff DiVeronica – Democrat and Chronicle
September 24, 2009 – 9:09pm
For the second year in a row, the Rhinos will take a lead to Puerto Rico in the playoffs.
Playing a man up for most of the match at Marina Auto Stadium, Rochester scored twice in the second half in tonight’s USL First Division opener and takes a 2-1 advantage into Sunday’s decisive Game 2 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
The third-seeded Islanders played No. 6 Rochester to a scoreless tie in Puerto Rico on April 2 and beat the Rhinos, 2-0, there on Sept. 6.
Last year, Rochester (12-9-10) took a 2-0 lead in the two-game, aggregate-goal series to Puerto Rico but lost in overtime, 3-2.
The Rhinos gained a man advantage just seven minutes in as Puerto Rico’s Cristian Arrieta was given a red card (ejection) for an apparent elbow that decked John Ball in front of the goal on a corner kick. As a result, Arrieta, the reigning USL Defender of the Year who also leads the Islanders with 10 goals, will miss Sunday’s Game 2 serving a one-match league suspension.
But Rochester failed to apply much pressure for much of the first half, recording just three shots on goalie Bill Gaudette, who came up limping and holding his quad after making a huge save in the 17th minute. Errol McFarlane nearly headed in Danny Earls’ cross, but Gaudette scrambled to make a diving save with one hand. But the all-league keeper came up holding his right thigh and limping.
The Rhinos went on the offensive to start the second half and the pressure paid off when Kenney Bertz ripped a 35-yard shot inside the left post and past a diving Gaudette for a 1-0 lead.
Ball, another defender who hadn’t scored in USL play, made it 2-0 in the 71st minute. Nano Short passed up a shot in front and fed Ball, who patiently spun on a defender and scored from about 12 yards inside the near post.
But the Islanders (15-8-8) grabbed a goal back just a minute later when Nicholas Addlery beat a defender and goalie Scott Vallow on a high shot inside the near post from about 10 yards.