By NICHOLAS MURRAY – email@example.com
Friday, December 4, 2015
After missing the playoffs in 2013, the Rochester Rhinos capped a remarkable two-year resurgence to claim their first league championship since 2001 to mark the club’s 20th anniversary season with a title. Backed by a historically stingy defense, the Rhinos became only the second team to claim both the USL regular season title and league championship as they had a season for the ages.
The key to the club’s success lay in its organization, provided by great attention to detail from Coach Bob Lilley, and a willing cast that worked tirelessly to overpower opponents. While an outstanding season almost came to an end on a sour note, Asani Samuels’ heroics wrote a new chapter in the Rhinos’ history book in a thrilling overtime victory to lift the championship.
- RELATED: Rhinos Sign Lilley To Long-Term Extension
2015 USL Season in Review:
Place: 1st in the Eastern Conference
Goals For: 40
Goals Against: 15
2015 leaders: Christian Volesky, Steevan Dos Santos (8 goals), Kenardo Forbes (5 assists), Brandon Miller (46 saves, 13 shutouts)
Greatest moment of 2015: For a moment in the USL Championship, it appeared the Rhinos’ outstanding season was going to come to a crashing end. The LA Galaxy II held the lead after Ariel Lassiter’s goal midway through the second half at Sahlen’s Stadium, and the Rhinos had yet to manage a shot after the halftime break as the game entered stoppage time. Enter Asani Samuels. The rookie forward’s dramatic equalizer with a close range header gave the Rhinos hope, and his second of the night in overtime proved the game-winner as Rochester’s fans and players celebrated the club’s fourth league championship well into the night.
- RELATED: Samuels Thrilled To Have 'Climbed the Mountain'
Lowest moment of 2015: In a season that saw the Rhinos lose only one game, there’s really only one candidate, as the Charlotte Independence broke Rochester’s undefeated streak to start the USL regular season at 19 games with a 4-2 victory at Ramblewood Soccer Complex. Things started well as Grant Van De Casteele scored from a corner for Rochester, but then the Independence’s attack clicked into gear. Goals by Alex Martinez and Tomasz Zahorski four minutes apart put Charlotte ahead at the break, and Enzo Martinez added a third six minutes into the second half. While Christian Volesky pulled a goal back just before the hour-mark, a penalty kick by Carlos Alvarez quickly restored the Independence’s two-goal lead, and sent the Rhinos to their only defeat of 2015.
What went right? The Rhinos defense was historic, as it set a new USL regular-season record for goals conceded with just 15, and if not for the Independence’s four-goal outburst it could have been even lower. Only two teams, the New York Red Bulls II being the other, scored multiple goals against the Rhinos in the regular season as they recorded shutouts in 17 of their 28 regular season contests.
What went wrong? Let’s face it, not much. The Rhinos saw an uptick in scoring from previous seasons as Steevan Dos Santos and Christian Volesky both led the line well, and for his efforts Coach Bob Lilley was rewarded with a new three-year contract. After a number of seasons that saw the side struggle to return to the glory days of its early history, the Rhinos appear to be entering a new era of success in Upstate New York.He said it: “We’re competitive and we want to succeed as an organization. Personally, every week I go out and I want to show that the week of work was successful. You play the game, you get graded on the result, and then you move on to your next game. Every week you have an exam, and if you prepare and if the players put the work in, along with having a strong roster, you should have a chance to win.”– Bob Lilley, Rochester Rhinos Coach