Jeff DiVeronica • Staff writer • September 30, 2008
Top-seeded Puerto Rico may have had a first-round bye last week, but the Rhinos’ next playoff opponent might actually have a tougher postseason road.
Or at least a longer one.
The Islanders play on Wednesday night in Guatemala City in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League competition, then travel to Rochester for Friday’s Game 1 of the USL First Division semifinals, before heading back down to Puerto Rico for the final 90 minutes of the two-game, total-goal series on Sunday.
«Hopefully that’ll work to our benefit,» Rhinos coach Darren Tilley said of the fatigue factor.
Based on regular-season results, No. 4 Rochester (12-11-9) could use any advantage it can get against a talented Puerto Rico club that hasn’t lost since Aug. 1. The Islanders (15-6-9) are on a 6-0-6 run that includes a 4-0 shellacking of the Rhinos on Aug. 8 in Bayamon, a 1-1 tie two days later in Rochester and 2-0 win Sept. 12 at PAETEC Park.
Kickoff for the opener is 7:35 p.m. All tickets are specially priced at $5 until Friday at 5 p.m. Game 2 starts at 6 p.m. Sunday.
The other semifinal pits No. 2 Vancouver (15-8-8) vs. No. 3 Montreal (13-13-6). Game 1 is 8 p.m. Friday in Montreal and Game 2 on Sunday at 6:30 in Vancouver, which is 2-0-1 against its Canadian rival.
Like Puerto Rico, Montreal is also playing in the Champions League. The Impact face CD Olimipia in Honduras on Wednesday, while the Islanders play Municipal, which has five Guatemala national teamers.
Combined, Montreal and Puerto Rico are an impressive 5-0-3 and opening eyes in the international competition about the caliber of the USL.
«This is good for the league,» veteran Montreal midfielder and ex-Rhino Mauro Biello said.
The Rhinos, who are trying to win their first championship since the last of four straight in 2001, advanced by edging No. 5 Charleston, 2-1, on aggregate goals. They’ve been outscored 7-1 this season by Puerto Rico, which includes ex-Rhinos Jonny Steele and Noah Delgado.
Tilley thinks travel could affect the Islanders by Sunday.
«They’ve got a big squad and rotate (players) well,» he said. «If anything, I think they’ll be tired in the third game in five days.»