Posted by Sal Maiorana , September 13, 2013 •
This wasn’t exactly Miracle on Ice stuff, but when the Rochester Rhinos won the 1999 U.S. Open Cup tournament, it was certainly a surprising result given the level of advanced competition they had to defeat.
In effect, their 2-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids on Sept. 13, 1999, was the equivalent of a Triple-A baseball team defeating its Major League parent team in a championship game. The Rhinos were then members of men’s soccer’s A-League, while the Rapids played in America’s top league, Major League Soccer.
“Congratulations to Rochester,” said Rapids coach Glenn Myernick after the game, which was played in Columbus, Ohio. “I think they’re a team of destiny. To beat four teams from (MLS), they deserve to be the champions.”
Rochester became the first non-MLS team to win the Open Cup since 1995 when the Richmond Kickers (USISL Premier) did it, and general manager Chris Economides called it the biggest victory in franchise history, though at that time the franchise was only four years old.
“We’ve gained respect all year, but if we would have lost you know (critics) would have said, ‘Maybe they got lucky against three teams’” Rhinos defender Scott Schweitzer said. “I don’t think any of us wanted that. We proved our point and now when teams come to play us they can say they’re coming to play the best team in America.”
Doug Miller broke a scoreless tie in the 66th minute, just four minutes after he entered the game in place of Darren Tilley. Coach Pat Ercoli said the Rhinos wanted to go with their “ground game” because the Rapids’ height advantage was proving to be a difficult challenge on balls in the air. “It was important for us to get somebody in there who could get in behind them,” said Ercoli.
The 5-foot-8 Miller’s game was all about speed and quick dribbling, and that’s how he scored the only goal Rochester would need. He dribbled past one defender above the left side of the penalty area, but a Colorado player knocked it into the left corner, where Rhinos midfielder Bill Sedgewick chased it down.
“(The Rapids) went to cover Billy and I kind of snuck into the near post,” Miller said. He was unmarked, trapped the ball about eight yards out, then pushed a left-footed shot through the legs of goalkeeper Ian Feuer. In the 90th minute, Yari Allnutt put the game away with a goal that started the Rhinos celebration in earnest even though there was still the mysterious penalty time still to be played.
“For all of us, this is one of those moments in time you just want to cherish,” said Miller, the 1997 A-League MVP who was then, and remains today, the most popular player to have ever played for the Rhinos.