ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Stefan Defregger’s deflection in the 113th minute turned out to be the difference as the fourth-seeded Rochester Rhinos recorded a 2-1 extratime win over No. 5 Charlotte Independence in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the United Soccer League playoffs at Capelli Stadium Saturday night.
Defregger, a substitute, scored less than a minute after he stepped onto the pitch, ironically deflecting off the heel that’s plagued him for much of the season.
The Rhinos will head to Kentucky to face top-seeded Louisville City FC in the conference semifinals. Rochester lost in Louisville 2-1 on a last-second penalty kick, and drew 0-0 at home in a match that featured only one combined shot on goal.
On the game winning goal, Kenardo Forbes found himself open about 25 yards out and drilled a shot towards the left side of the goal. Defregger was making a crossing run and saw the shot bounce off his heel and roll into the other side of the net, much to the bemusement of Charlotte’s goalkeeper Cody Mizell. The goal was Defregger’s second of the season, coming only 50 seconds after entering the game.
The Rhinos grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 53rd minute. Forbes’ quickly taken free kick found Ray Lee streaking down the left wing. Lee sent a far-post cross to Jochen Graf, whose header hit the top corner. Graf’s 11th goal of the season was his fourth goal in as many games.
The lead lasted 16 minutes, as Charlotte’s Enzo Martinez scored against the run of play, finishing off a well-executed backheel by substitute Jaime Siaj to level the match at 1-1.