Start planning your trips to Rochester.
Pittsburgh went up 1-0 around 15 minutes into the match, when Willie Hunt scored his first goal of the year off a set piece.
Manolo Sanchez got NYRB II on the board with a 63rd-minute goal. He broke the ankles of a Pittsburgh Riverhounds defender to get position for a placed shot to the far post. If this were a game at Rucker Park, Sterling Flunder - the unfortunate Riverhound in question - would not be allowed back on the court for a long time.
Both teams tried to break the tie, hoping to avoid sending the game to extra time.
Colin Heffron had a chance to give NYRB II the win in the 87th minute, but a great save from Calle Brown pushed the ball off the post and out of bounds.
Extra time proved unavoidable. In the 5th minute of the extra half-hour, Santiago Castano - challenged for the first time in a long time - saved the match. But his effort appeared to be in vain as, a minute later, Willie Hunt scored a goal that bounced off everyone before finding its way to the back of the net.
It appeared the losing team would be the one that couldn't keep a pesky center back under wraps at set pieces. This was indeed the case, but Hunt - two goals notwithstanding - was not the center back who would turn the game.
As the game drifted toward the mid-point of extra time, Pittsburgh's strategy - pack in deep and look for chances to break on the counter - was clear. Every minute was a minute closer to the next round for the Riverhounds. Until NYRB II found its brief savior: Karl Ouimette.
The Canadian scored off a corner kick in the 11th minute of extra time. That sentence doesn't do him justice. Karl Ouimette collected an under-hit corner at the near post, took a touch, and pivoted to send a blind-shot through traffic and into the netting of the far side of goal. It was as unexpected and exceptional a strike as it was important. NYRB II was back in it.
Karl may leave us again in the future, but he will always remain in our hearts for that goal.
Next, Karl, that crafty devil did it again, late in the second half of extra time. In the 114th minute, Ouimette buried another ball off a corner kick. This time, he got loose to meet a deflected ball with a scrappy header (it looked like he hit it with his temple) that snuck in at the near post. It was the first time NYRB II had the lead all game. It was the second time Ouimette had scored in USL this year - the first being his equalizer in the first half of extra time. And it put NYRB II on course for its first-ever playoff win in its first-ever season.
Pittsburgh had one more chance in the 116th minute, but Kevin Kerr could not bury a ball over the outstretched Santiago Castano. After another save late in the game, Castano found Daniel Bedoya on the counter, and the super-sub put the result beyond doubt - striding into penalty area, making room for himself with a deft feint, and planting the ball past the 'keeper with confidence.
1. The system is not down
This team pressed until the last second. One hundred and twenty minutes of soccer, and rarely did it feel like Pittsburgh controlled the play. Credit to the fitness to the guys out there, and the timely subs from Coach Wolyniec. It seemed like NYRB II was gassed, but Woly brought on plenty of fresh legs for the extra time. That relentlessness was the key for NYRB II, who won this war of attrition.
2. Calle Brown played a great game
The 6'5'' keeper from the Pittsburgh Riverhounds won the starting job in the middle of the year, and showed why he deserved it at Red Bull Arena. Brown constantly put himself in the right position to stop NYRB II's attacks. That attack was potent, by the way. The fearsome foursome upfront of Marius Obekop, Leo Stolz. Manolo Sanchez, and Stefano Bonomo was hungry for a goal, and had their chances. That group could have had 2 or 3 goals in the first half, and they kept it going into the second. Even when Manolo Sanchez scored 63 minutes into the game, Brown did not give up the fight. Even well into extra time, Brown made key saves against NYRB II attacks to keep Pittsburgh in the game as long as he could, despite the loss.
3. Extra time, extra fine
NYRB II dominated extra time, despite a Riverhounds goal early. The fitness in this team was the difference, and captain Karl Ouimette's brace in overtime gave the team all it needed to win. NYRB II benefited from having MLS players join the squad, as an overwhelming majority of this team is made up of first-time professionals. Ouimette and Sean Davis joined the team for today, and the better team is moving on to the conference semifinals. Three goals in extra time propelled NYRB II to the next challenge in the USL playoffs. I like to think Once a Metro writer Huan Nguyen showing up at halftime, was also a difference maker. When Pittsburgh faltered late, NYRB II was ready, and in the playoffs sometimes that is all that it takes.