LOUISVILLE, Ken. – The fourth-seeded Rochester Rhinos were eliminated from the United Soccer League playoffs, falling to top-seeded Louisville City FC at Slugger Field in the Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday night.
Louisville City FC will host the seventh-seeded and defending USL Cup champions Red Bulls II in the Eastern Conference Finals. Rochester finishes their season 15-8-11.
Second-half substitute Brian Ownby tallied the game-winning goal in the 77th-minute, beating goalkeeper Tomas Gomez for his sixth goal of the season and second of the playoffs.
Despite giving up the lion’s share of possession, Rochester dominated the opening half, outshooting the hosts, 9-2.
The best chance the Rhinos had all night came from Jordan Dover in the 23rd minute. The rookie defender won the ball at midfield and faced down the middle through the entire defense. His 60-yard run put him in alone in front of goal with keeper Gregory Ranjitsingh, but his solo effort was put wide of the target.
Louisville head coach James O’Connor was quite unhappy and made an unusual move at halftime, making two substitutions including Ownby. The strategy paid dividends immediately as LCFC came out strong with four shots within the opeing 10 minutes.
Gomez played very well, making five saves, including a spectacular stop on LCFC’s leading scorer Luke Spencer at the near post in the 71st minute.
In the 78th minute, some strong passing caught Gomez out of his net. Ownby capitalized by beating the goalkeeper to the ball and chipping it over him and into the net.
Gomez bounced back and made another fine save as Ownby tried for his second goal. He hit a half-volley from 25 yards that forced Gomez to dive to his left to make the save.
On the last kick of the night, the Rhinos won a free kick around 30 yards out. With set-piece specialist Wal Fall on the bench, Julian Buscher; acquired on loan from D.C. United, stepped up. His curling effort forced Ranjitsingh to make a save to his left, and covered up his spilled rebound.
The Rhinos will celebrate the season at The Exchange in Rochester, N.Y. Monday, Oct. 30 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The Rhinos will present five Awards, which include offensive player of the year, defensive player of the year, best in the community, rookie of the year and team MVP.