Tuesday’s third-round U.S. Open Cup match in Columbus means a lot to the Rhinos.
It’s another shot at toppling a Major League Soccer franchise and would mean hosting a quarterfinal match on July 6 against the Charleston Battery (USL-2) or the Chicago Fire (MLS).
«Our mindset is let’s go and win this game and we’ll deal with Tuesday when we get to Tuesday,» said Lilley, whose club is 4-0-2 since May 22 in league and Cup action.
In an effort to keep fielding a fresh lineup, Lilley started 19 different players and used 23 of the 24 on his roster in the past two matches, a 1-1 tie Sunday at Montreal and 3-0 Cup win Tuesday over Pittsburgh.
While he wants his players to focus only on the present task, the veteran coach has created and juggled depth on his roster.
«It’s encouraging to see a lot of guys taking advantage of their opportunities,» said Lilley, who expects to go with veteran Scott Vallow in goal after second-year pro Neal Kitson got the start on Tuesday night.
This is the same Puerto Rico franchise that has bounced Rochester (5-3-4) from the playoffs each of the past two years. While the Islanders still have plenty of familiar names, such as former USL Goalkeeper of the Year Bill Gaudette, forwards Nicolas Addlery and Kendall Jagdeosingh and defender Marco Velez, they lost two key playmakers.
Ex-Rhino Jonny Steele, the former league MVP, left for Vancouver and former USL Defender of the Year Cristian Arrieta was scooped up by the new Philadelphia franchise in MLS.
«They still have a lot of personnel,» Lilley said of the Islanders, who’ve bounced back from a bad, 1-0 home loss on AC St. Louis on June 12 with a draw against Vancouver and win over Tampa Bay.
«They’re an attacking team and tend to open games up and we’re at home. We can’t be afraid to go at them.»