I was so ready for the headline to be "Survive and Advance" as the Rhinos and the Revolution played 120 minutes of scoreless soccer and it headed to PKs. Especially after Scott Vallow saved the first two Revolution PKs attempts. But, it was not to be............
The gameplan by Coach Calloway was to match New England's 3-5-2 formation with the same 3-5-2 lineup that the Rhinos used versus Seattle last week. Connally Edozien and Matthew Delicate was the strike tandem up top, Nate Craft was out wide left, John Ball was out wide right, and Johnny Menyongar, Aaran Lines, and Greg Howes were in the central part of the midfield, Scott Palguta played at left back, Kenney Bertz was in central defense, and Frankie Sanfilippo was at right back, and captain Scott Vallow was once again starting in goal.
The Revolution came in with Pat Noonan and Taylor Twellman up top, Steve Ralston, Jeff Larentowicz, Shalrie Joseph, Joe Franchino, and Andy Dorman were in the midfield, Avery John, Michael Parkhurst, and James Riley started in defense, and Matt Reis in goal.
Early on, it seemed like both teams were feeling each other out. It didn't help that in the 2nd minute Kenney Bertz got hit with a yellow card for a hard challenge from behind on Twellman.
The rest of the first half was relatively calm as most of the match seemed to be played in the midfield. Scott Vallow was called upon to make a couple huge saves in the first half and Matt Reis had to make one really good save in the first half.
Late in the first half, Nate Craft picked up a knock and was unable to go coming out of the locker room and Jonny Steele entered the game at the start of the second half as the wide midfielder out left.
As the heat took a toll on the legs, more and more chances opened up for each team. But, both goalkeepers stood tall. Scott Vallow made a huge save on Taylor Twellman from point blank range, along with about 3 or 4 other huge saves. New England also had a few glorious chances that they couldn't put on frame.
Jonny Steele also had a great chance with the outside of his left foot that looked to be headed into to the lower right corner of the net before it was saved by Matt Reis.
In the 69th minute, the Rhinos brought on Mike Ambersley for Greg Howes and New England brought on Willie Sims for Taylor Twellman and Jose Cancela for Joe Franchino. The fresh legs certainly aided in the attack for both teams as Sims' speed started to cause issues for the Rhinos back line. Especially with Scott Palguta picking up a knock and having his mobility cut down.
To counteract the issue in back, Coach Calloway brought Tenywa Bonseu on for Johnny Menyongar in the 87th minute and moved from a 3-5-2 to a 4-4-2 with Bonseu playing in central defense next to Kenney Bertz.
Bonseu's fresh legs were apparent early on as he took off and ran through the entire New England midfield, but the run was for naught as the Rhinos couldn't connect on a passing play in the final third.
At the end of reulation, you got the feeling that this game was destined to end in PKs. And I caught myself mentally trying to figure out what the Rhinos PK lineup would look like.
In the first overtime period, the Rhinos dodged a couple of bullets. The biggest one came when Willie Sims got in behind the the left side of the Rhinos' defense and came in alone on Vallow. But, the New England sub was unable to finish as his shot sailed way high over the crossbar.
The Rhinos' best chance of the first OT period came when Connally Edozien whipped a cross to the far post from out on the right side of the field. Jonny Steele got on the end of it and headed a shot on frame that Matt Reis made a great save on to keep the game scoreless. But, that play didn't end there as New England had to scramble a little bit to clear the rebound over the endline for a Rhinos corner kick.
In the second overtime, John Ball had a glorious chance to put the Rhinos ahead. In a nice little combination play, Matthew Delicate slipped Ball a pass in the box and with the New England defense stepping up a split second too late, Ball was all alone in the box. Unfortunately, Ball rushed the shot a bit feeling like he might have been offside and it rolled just wide of the far left post.
Late in the second overtime, it looked like New England was ahead for good. Sims got in behind the Rhinos defense again and this time he was able to put the ball in the back of the net. But, the referee's assistant had his flag in the air and the goal was wiped out by an offside call by the referee.
After that, it was off to the PKs.
Personally, I was surprised to see rookie Mike Ambersley step up as the first shooter for the Rhinos. But, the former captain of the Indiana Hoosiers calmly put his spot kick away giving the Rhinos a 1-0 lead.
Then Scott Vallow started his Superman impression. Shalrie Joseph stepped up and hit a ball hard to Vallow's right. Scott dove and made a huge stop to keep the Rhinos ahead 1-0.
Up next for the Rhinos was John Ball who finished his shot and went nuts in celebration as the Rhinos were up 2-0.
Then, Scott Vallow worked a little magic. Andy Dorman stepped up for the Revs and got Vallow guessing left while the shot was to the right. But, Vallow was able to drag his right foot just enough to get a toe on the ball and it rolled wide of the post to keep the Rhinos lead at 2-0.
Vallow and the crowd exploded as it appeared the Rhinos were a lock to advance after being up 2-0 after 2 round pf PKs.
But, the buzz quickly halted when Matthew Delicate stepped up and put his PK well over the crossbar and Jose Cancela stepped up and finally got a PK past Vallow to make it 2-1 Rhinos after the 3rd round.
Then things really got tight when T-Bone Bonseu faked and then cranked his PK off the crossbar and Steve Ralston stepped up and put his away to level things at 2 after 4 rounds.
Aaran "Kiwi" Lines and Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis both converted in the 5th round to send it to sthe single kick round tied at 3-3.
Kenney Bertz and James Riley both converted their PKs to send it to another round of PKs.
Then it all ended as Frankie Sanfilippo's PK was well over the crossbar and Jeff Larentowicz converted as the Revs advanced 5-4 on PKs.
It was just a gut wrenching ending to a great match. You could tell that both Delicate and Sanfilippo were heartbroken over their misses. But, they will live to fight another day.
- Scott Vallow has to be the man of the match. He came up huge all night long and certainly did enough in the penalty kick shootout to put his team in a position to advance in the tournament. It's really too bad that they couldn't put away one more PK as Vallow certainly didn't deserve to lose last night.
- Steve Ralston was the one New England Revolution starter that looked dangerous to me all night long. Shalrie Joseph was a rock in the midfield, but Ralston was the guy that was making things go for the Revs.
- The Stampede were rocking and rolling. But the best part of the night for me was when they stuck around to thank the players after what was obviously a tough loss. Extra special credit goes to the one member who shouted out orders to sign for the boys as they came up because we don't just support them when they win. That's what being a supporter is all about.
- Maybe he was still a little nicked up, but Taylor Twellman didn't look like he wanted to be playing last night. He had the one chance that Vallow had to come up huge on, but that was the only time he did anything noticable.
- I'd love to know why Rey Martinez's eligibility was a question mark last night. Who knows if his speed would have made a difference late in that match, but I would have loved to have seen him play last night. If the Rhinos could have avoided that situation, then something needs to be done about that.
- Where were the fans last night? I know the crowd was announced to be 9503, but it didn't look like there were that many fans at the stadium last night. And I don't want to hear the midweek game or hot weather excuses. This was a US Open Cup match versus an MLS team with plenty of name guys on it. There is no reason that there shouldn't have been a legit ten to eleven thousand at PAETEC Park last night.
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.