ROCHESTER, N.Y. – They arrived hoping to make a statement and even in defeat, the Portland Phoenix did just that Tuesday night.
The Phoenix, a team made up of collegians and other amateurs, threw a scare into the Rochester Rhinos, a team of professionals, before dropping their second-round U.S. Open Cup match 1-0 before a sparse crowd at Sahlen’s Stadium.
Bilal Duckett scored in the 64th minute, dashing whatever hopes the plucky Phoenix had of facing the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer, the nation’s top soccer league, in the third round.
“Of course we’re disappointed,” said Jonathan Lupinelli, the Phoenix captain, “because all the team had a great game. We played on our best level. We can be proud of what we did today.”
Although outshot 4-1, the Phoenix held their own in a scoreless first half.
Portland keeper Adam Perron made a pair of saves, the biggest in the 18th minute, when he lunged to stop a drive by Blake Brettschneider from close in.
Portland’s best chance in the half came in the 40th minute, when Caue Da Silva was set up 10 yards in front of Rhino keeper Kristian Nicht.
But Da Silva never got the shot away when defender Troy Roberts slid in to make the tackle.
Portland Coach Ally Bain said his was the looser team, with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
“We threw caution to the wind,” said Bain. “We threw numbers forward and really went for it. It’s Cup football with a winner at the end. With a little more luck, we could have gotten the equalizer.”
Portland almost took the lead in the 56th minute when Lupinelli curled in a left-side corner kick that was headed off the goal line by defender Danny Earls.
“Our coaches noticed they had given up corner-kick goals at the first post in their last two games,” said Lupinelli. “I tried to put it in. Unfortunately that’s soccer.”
Perron came up with another strong save in the 64th minute on a low liner by Mike Reidy. But one minute later, Duckett, a defender, broke the scoreless tie.
Duckett cut to the left post as a right- side corner kick by Earls whistled through, and lifted his knee to pop the ball past Perron.
Portland nearly tied it in the 89th minute, but Gilbert Manier’s cross was a little too long for Nathaniel Short to get a head on it.
“We thought we (would score),” said Bain. “We were desperate but unlucky not to get one.”
NOTES: Sean Rosa and Clement Bompart picked up yellow cards late in the first half. Each team picked up a card in the second half. The game was held up for about 1:15 at halftime when electrical storms swept through the area. Bain used one substitute, Will Diebold for Bompart in the 78th minute.