The Rochester Raging Rhinos fought off a late comeback effort to keep the Milwaukee Rampage winless at home in this year's playoffs with a 3-2 victory Thursday.
Playing a day after learning of the untimely death of teammate Mickey Trotman, the Rhinos came out on fire, scoring twice in the first 15 minutes. The first-leg victory means the Rampage must gain a victory in Rochester Saturday to have hopes of advancing to the A-League National Championship match. Saturday's game can be heard live on AM-1250, WEMP beginning at 6:35 p.m. CT.
Lenin Steenkamp opened the scoring just two minutes into the contest when he received a nice one-touch pass from midfielder Nate Daligcon at the right corner of the box. Steenkamp turned and fired a rocket off the far post and past Rampage goalkeeper Dan Popik for a 1-0 lead.
Just 13 minutes later, Daligcon scored to double the Rhinos lead at 2-0. The play started when defender Bill Sedgewick slid a through-ball into the penalty area. Daligcon outraced Popik to the ball and calmly slotted his shot into the lower right corner with the inside of his right foot.
But the Rampage showed they weren't ready for a repeat of last year's 9-3 aggregate loss to Minnesota in the Semi-Final round. In the 24th minute, Philippe Godoy pulled Milwaukee a goal back with a wicked shot that left Rochester 'keeper Scott Vallow helpless. From the outside of the penalty box on the left side, Rampage midfielder Igor Soso touched the ball to Godoy, who moved in and let a shot go from 25 yards for his second goal of the playoffs.
Another Soso free kick set up the tying goal in the 61st minute when he found the head of substitute Matt Bobo. With his first touch of the game, Bobo nodded in Soso's 25-yard free kick from close range to level the score at 2-2.
The Rhinos regained the lead in the 76th minute, capitalizing on a series of corner kicks when Martin Nash flicked Stoian Mladenov's corner to the back post where Neathan Gibson was standing alone and had little trouble burying the game-winner.
Milwaukee can advance to the title match by winning by two or more goals Saturday and can force an overtime tiebreaker with a one-goal win. The Rampage have won both of their away games in this season's playoffs, including a 2-1 overtime win Sunday against top-ranked Richmond.
The Rhinos finished 11-0-3 at Frontier Field during the regular season and added a 3-0 victory at home in the Quarterfinals to oust the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
ROCHESTER RAGING RHINOS 3
MILWAUKEE RAMPAGE 2
Rochester Steenkamp (Daligcon) 2
Rochester Daligcon (Sedgewick) 15
Rampage Godoy (I.Soso) 24
Rampage Bobo (I.Soso) 61
Rochester Gibson (Nash) 76
Rochester - Scott Vallow; Scott Schweitzer, Bill Sedgewick, Kalin Bankov, Carlos Zavala (Fuseini Dauda 52); Nate Daligcon (Tommy Tanner 59), Stoian Mladenov, Martin Nash, Lenin Steenkamp; Kirk Wilson (Jamel Mitchell 79), Neathan Gibson (Jimmy Tanner 84).
Rampage -Dan Popik; Destin Makumbu (Dennis Fadeski 89), Alen Soso, Jim Curtin; Steve Bernal (Matt Bobo 60), Mike Slivinski (Brian Doherty 23, Judah Cooks 54), Igor Soso, Jason Russell, Philippe Godoy; Steve Butcher, Digital Takawira.
Statistics: Shots Saves Fouls Offsides CKs
Rochester 15 2 23 2 11
Rampage 10 4 15 0 5
Rochester - Dauda 61, Wilson 72, Vallow 78, T.Tanner 83.
Rampage - Curtin 88.