Jeff DiVeronica • Staff writer • Democrat and Chronicle

September 24, 2009

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The sixth-seeded Rhinos play No. 3 Puerto Rico in the playoffs for the second straight year and if last season taught Rochester anything it’s this:

The series can’t be won in tonight’s opener at Marina Auto Stadium.

Rochester learned that the hard way last October. It took a 2-0 lead in the aggregate-goal series after Game 1 at home, then saw the Islanders storm back a few days later in Puerto Rico, outscore them 3-0, and advance to the USL First Division title match.

The lesson?

No lead is safe at Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium, where the Islanders are 19-4-7 the past two years.

«You always draw from experience,» Rhinos goalie Scott Vallow said when asked about last year. «I think we have a unique opportunity to set the tone (tonight) at our place by putting a little pressure on them going back to Puerto Rico (for Game 2 on Sunday).

«It didn’t work out for us last year, but we’re a different team. So are they.»

Rochester is more confident on the road. Its 8-5-2 record this year away from home was tops in the USL. The Rhinos tied 0-0 on April 24 and lost 2-0 on Sept. 6 at Puerto Rico. They still felt positive about the most recent matchup because they generated three good scoring chances during a 0-0 first half, including a failed penalty kick.

In six halves vs. Puerto Rico, they’ve held the Islanders scoreless in five. That includes playing a man short for the final 39 minutes of a 0-0 draw on July 10 in Rochester after defender Brent Sancho was given a questionable red card for a hard tackle.

«In the playoffs it’s all about taking your chances and getting a bit of fortune in referee’s decisions,» said Rhinos coach Darren Tilley, whose club was 3-8-7 against the six other playoff teams. «That’s no different than when I played.»

The Rhinos were unhappy with two key calls in Game 2 last year in Puerto Rico. They didn’t think officials were sure Fabrice Noel’s 11th-minute shot, which Vallow got a piece of and defender Danny Earls tried to clear, crossed the goal line. That cut the deficit in half.

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Edwin Jusino
Director Ejecutivo de FutbolBoricua.net. Actualmente estudiante de Historia de las Américas en programa combinado Maestría/PhD de la Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, Recinto Metropolitano. Lleva más de una década cubriendo el fútbol de Puerto Rico. Actualmente está trabajando su disertación doctoral sobre el pasado presidente de la FPF, el Dr. Roberto Monroig. Hincha del Club Atlético de Madrid y de la Selección Nacional de Fútbol de Puerto Rico. Puede contactarle via twitter o Instagram en @erjusinoa