|USL Playoffs Review: Energy FC Earns Shootout Victory|
|Rochester, Louisville advance in East; Galaxy II continue run in West|
| OKC Energy FC claimed a victory in the first contest of the 2015 USL Playoffs to go to a penalty shootout, and as a result will host the Western Conference Final next Sunday. Sunday night’s contest capped a thrilling second weekend of action in the USL postseason, with four teams now in contention for the 2015 USL Championship.
Energy FC defeated Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Taft Stadium, and will host the LA Galaxy II for a place in the championship game after the fifth-seeded Los Dos’ run continued with a victory against Orange County Blues FC. In the Eastern Conference, the top two seeds will face off in the conference final as the Rochester Rhinos and Louisville City FC both took victories on home turf.
OKC Energy FC 2 (4), Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC 2 (3)
Evan Newton was the hero for Energy FC as he made a pair of saves in the shootout to send his side to a victory in front of a crowd of 6,370 fans at a packed Taft Stadium. Energy FC scored on each of its four shots, while Newton denied Martin Maybin and Miguel Gonzalez for Colorado Springs. The Switchbacks had taken an early lead through Luke Vercollone, but OKC got on level terms in first-half stoppage time as Chuy Sanchez headed home a finish. A tense game highlighted by strong defensive play broke open in the first half of overtime, as Energy FC took the lead through Peabo Doue in the 98th minute, only for Aaron King to level things for the Switchbacks in the final minute of the period. A scoreless second period then sent the game to a shootout, where Newton came up big to send his side through.
Louisville City FC 2, Charleston Battery 0 (OT)
Matt Fondy scored twice in overtime as Louisville took a victory in front of a club-record USL attendance of 8,517 fans at Slugger Field in its first playoff contest. Both teams had chances in regulation, but as the game went on the hosts began to take control at Slugger Field, and were only denied a regulation win because of six saves by Charleston goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper. A minute into the second period of overtime, though, Fondy powered home a header from Juan Guzman’s corner from the right to give City the lead. The USL’s Golden Boot-winner struck again with three minutes to go as he tucked away a rebound from a shot by Magnus Rasmussen to send City into the conference final.
Rochester Rhinos 2, New York Red Bulls II 0
Steevan dos Santos had both goals as the Rhinos defeated a 10-man Red Bulls II at Sahlen’s Stadium. The Cape Verdean forward proved a handful for New York’s defense all night, and caused the Red Bulls II’s red card when he tried to latch onto Konrad Plewa’s mishit back-pass and was brought down by the center back, which resulted in Plewa being sent off. Two minutes into the second half, dos Santos scored a spectacular goal as he created space outside the top-left corner of the penalty area, and then fired a curling, low shot into the opposite corner of the net. New York tried to get back into the game, but dos Santos wrapped up the win for the regular-season champions as he put away a close-range finish with just over 20 minutes to go to give the Rhinos the victory.
LA Galaxy II 2, Orange County Blues FC 0
Ariel Lassiter scored a pair of goals as the Galaxy II continued their strong playoff run with a victory against the No. 1-seed Blues at StubHub Center. Los Dos came out brightly, and took the lead in the 14th minute when Homegrown standout Raul Mendiola’s pass slipped Lassiter in behind the Blues’ defense, and the Galaxy II’s leading scorer tucked his finish into the right corner past an advancing Pepe Miranda. Lassiter’s second goal had a similar look, again assisted by Mendiola early in the second half, and the Galaxy II held their two-goal advantage as Clement Diop saved a penalty kick from the Blues’ Didier Crettenand in the 73rd minute to earn his second consecutive shutout.
“He pulled out two great saves. He’s feeling amazing right now. He was calm in the goal. We talked a little bit about what to do in those situations, and I think he was absolutely brilliant.” – OKC Energy FC Coach Jimmy Nielsen on goalkeeper Evan Newton, whose two saves earned a victory in a penalty shootout against Colorado Springs
“To be at this stage of the season is pleasing, and the players deserve so much credit for what they’ve been through this season – each and every one of them. They’ve been absolutely incredible. The team spirit they have, the group dynamic, is really, really pleasing.” – Louisville Coach James O’Connor following his side’s overtime victory against Charleston
“These are the games that I get up for, and these are the games that count. We’ve got to step up and play, and that’s what I like, the games that are on the line. We’ve got to show up.” – LA Galaxy II forward Ariel Lassiter after his two goals led Los Dos past Orange County
“When I passed my defender I tried to put the ball far from the ‘keeper and luckily the ball went in. When I cut in, I put the ball on the second post because the ball would go to the side netting and it would be difficult for the ‘keeper.” – Rochester Rhinos forwardSteeven dos Santos on the first of his two goals against the New York Red Bulls II
“No one can deny the heart and dedication that this group showed this season. It was an absolute honor writing history this season. Hats off to the front office staff, coaching staff, and fans for making it such an awesome year. This is only the beginning. Great things are to come.” – Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC forward Aaron King following his side’s elimination in a penalty shootout against OKC Energy FC
2015 USL PLAYOFFS
Saturday, September 26
No. 4 New York Red Bulls II 4, No. 5 Pittsburgh Riverhounds 2 OT
No. 3 Charleston Battery 2, No. 6 Richmond Kickers 1 OT
Friday, September 25
No. 3 Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC 2, No. 6 Seattle Sounders FC 2 0
Saturday, September 26
No. 5 LA Galaxy II 1, No. 4 Sacramento Republic FC 0
Saturday, October 3
No. 1 Rochester Rhinos 2, No. 4 New York Red Bulls II 0
No. 2 Louisville City FC 2, No. 3 Charleston Battery 0 OT
Saturday, October 3
No. 5 LA Galaxy II 2, No. 1 Orange County Blues FC 0
Sunday, October 4
No. 2 OKC Energy FC 2, No. 3 Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC 2,
Energy FC wins 4-3 in a penalty shootout
Saturday, October 10
No. 1 Rochester Rhinos vs. No. 2 Louisville City FC, 7:05 p.m. ET, Sahlen’s Stadium
Sunday, October 11
No. 2 OKC Energy FC vs. No. 5 LA Galaxy II, 7 p.m. ET, Taft Stadium
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