Saturday, September 1
LD Update: Champion Orlando City out; Charleston & Wilmington reach USL Pro Final
The Wilmington Hammerheads, who accounted for Orlando City's lone loss this season, repeated the feat in stunning fashion. The Charleston Battery, meanwhile, battled the Rochester Rhinos to a 1-1 draw before prevailing in penalties.
Orlando City 3:4 Wilmington Hammerheads - Things went Wilmington's way from the start, grabbing the lead four minutes in from the spot via Corey Hertzog after goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo had taken Hagop Chirishian down in the box. Five minutes later the hole got even bigger for the defending champions when Hertzog connected with Luke Holmes to double the lead. Chirishian would make it three off a counter created by an Ian Fuller turnover.
Orlando City made changes before the break and were able to cut into the deficit before intermission when Matt Luzunaris struck in the 44th. The post kept Orlando City from closing in further early in the second half before the momentum again shifted to the visitors with Hertzog intercepting a poor pass and scoring what would prove to be the game-winner in a thrilling finish.
Hertzog was the same man that was a nightmare for Orlando City in their lone defeat, 3-1, on June 2. In both games he tallied two goals and an assist.
Wilmington loss Dylan Riley to a red card in the 64th minute, but the reigning two-time regular season champions were unable to find the back of the net until stoppage time. Jamie Watson converted on a penalty and moments later George Davis sent a deflected shot past the keeper. - MORE
Rochester Rhinos (3) 1 :: PK :: 1 (4) Charleston Battery - The longtime foes each picked up a shutout win against the other in their two-game series during the season. The third match proved to be a deadlock with the hosts striking for the first goal 10 minutes into the second half on a close-range tally from Kendall McFayden.
The Rhinos thought they were headed back to another championship match when former Rhino Tony Donatelli, who struck for two goals three weeks ago against his previous team in a 4-0 win, proved Rhinos' nemisis yet again, scoring the Battery's first-ever playoff goal in Rochester dating back to 1998 on a header with a minute left in regulation.
Instead of celebrating, the home fans watched another 30 minutes of a stalemate, which also continued into the tiebreaker, which needed two additional rounds. Rochester's Kristian Nicht and Charleston's Andrew Dykstra each made a save and saw one miss in the initial five, going into sudden-victory shots level 3-3 in the tiebreaker. Nicht took the sixth shot for Rochester, but saw his effort saved by his counterpart. He made up for it, though, by stopping veteran John Wilson on the next shot. Dykstra, however, made a third save in the seventh round and JC Mack put his into the roof of the goal to put Charleston through to the Final. - MORE
USL PRO CHAMPIONSHIP - Battle of the Carolinas
Wilmington Hammerheads @ Charleston Battery
Saturday, September 8, 7:30 pm ET - Blackbaud Stadium
USL Pro News: In his third consecutive start and fourth appearance since returning to the club from being on loan to the LA Blues, Bright Dike scored his second goal in three games for the Portland Timbers in a 1-0 victory over Colorado.