Darren Tilley was among the heroes of the 1999 US Open Cup final, the last major trophy won by a current USL side. Pat Onstad and Yuri Alnatt were also key figures that night at Crew Stadium for the Rochester Rhinos. Now nine years later after a near financial collapse Tilley has his team in the semifinal round of the USL playoffs after dispatching 2008 Open Cup finalist Charleston 2-1 on aggregate. The Rhinos now advance to face Regular Season champ, Puerto Rico in the semifinals. Will the fixture congestion of the CONCACAF Champions League finally catch up with the Islanders next weekend? Don’t count on it. Right now for my money Colin Clarke’s side would be the third best team in MLS (After Houston and Columbus) if they were in that league instead of USL. The Islanders are deep and talented besides being extremely well coached. The semifinals will feature two teams with British coaches playing a very British style of football, so those Anglosnobs who refuse to watch MLS because it seems unfamiliar to them ought to check out the Islanders versus the Rhinos.
Elsewhere Minnesota shelled Jay Nolly all evening long but fell a goal short of advancing past the Whitecaps who came into the second leg up two goals. The final tally was Vancouver 5 Minnesota 4 after two legs. Stephen deRoux had a great game in midfield for the Thunder. Vancouver now will face Montreal in a Canadian derby semifinal. The Impact came from a goal down in the first leg to beat Seattle in the second leg 3-1. The final goal scored in stoppage time was set up Joey Gjerstan and tallied by Antonio Ribeiro. The Impact now focus on the Champions League midweek before facing Vancouver in a two leg series this weekend.
( DeRoux’s heroics were not enough for the Minnesota Thunder/photo at top of page by Paul Phillips)