The Charleston Battery earned their first win over the Puerto Rico Islanders last night with a 1-0 win in Puerto Rico to take their first round playoff series 3-2 on aggregate.
Charleston is the only road team to win in PAETEC Park and will likely have some confidence heading into Friday night's game in Rochester. Although, pretty much every Rhino fan left that match more upset with the officiating than with the Rhinos lack of finishing on a night where they outshot the Battery 26 to 11 and yet were only able to get a late goal by John Ball for their efforts.
The only other match up of the season between these two teams was the last game of the regular season at Blackbaud that ended in a scoreless draw as the Battery played for the point knowing that it would guarantee them third place regardless of what Vancouver did later that evening versus Atlanta.
The Rhinos need only look back to the 2004 season for an example of the Battery rising up to spoil things for Rochester. In the quarterfinals of the 2004 US Open Cup, the Rhinos hosted the Battery knowing that they would host their semifinal, most likely against the Chicago Fire. But, the Battery came in to Frontier Field and were able to escape with a 1-0 win on a 6th minute goal by Gabe Valencia. Chris Carrieri hit one off the crossbar, but that was as close as the Rhinos would come that evening as Charleston moved on to face Chicago in the semis.
This series will once again come down to who makes the critical mistakes and who is able to capitilize on the mistakes that their opponents make. And as we've seen at times this season, the referees can make a big difference in tight matches as well.
I want to pick the Rhinos to win this series. And the team that has hosted the first leg in the playoffs this season are 2-0. I also know that some of the Rhinos gained some confidence during their scrimmage in Harrisburg yesterday.
So, let's go with Rhinos 2 Charleston 1 on aggregate and say that the final will be at PAETEC Park on the 30th.
Check out Soccer Sam on Inside Soccer
Check out segment 10 on this week's Inside Soccer internet radio show as Soccer Sam expands his soccer empire beyond Rochester.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and
not necessarily those of the Rochester Rhinos or SoccerSam.com. Feel free to
send any comments or complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org. James promises to read
(but not to respond) to all of them.