There was only one way that LA Galaxy II head coach Curt Onalfo could sum up Los Dos’ 2-1 extra time defeat to the Rochester Rhinos in the 2015 USL Championship.
Galaxy II were mere minutes away from clinching the title after Ariel Lassiter put Los Angeles 1-0 up in the 65th minute of play. A minute into stoppage time, however, Asani Samuels sent the match into extra time with a smashing header off a corner kick. Samuels struck again in the second period of extra time on a near-identical goal to give Rochester the title.
“It was a psychological uphill battle for a young group to lick your wounds after having the championship taken from you,” Galaxy II head coach Curt Onalfo told reporters after the defeat. “Our guys kept fighting and all I was thinking in over time was that we had to get to PKs because I knew it would be a difficult task.
“In the end, we’re devastated but I’m so proud of this group to be able to go on the road to do what we did in Sacramento and OKC, and being minutes away from a championship here in Rochester shows our character and how much these guys are growing.”
The entire extra time period was a learning experience for Onalfo’s group as they were forced to play without the services of leading scorer Lassiter, who was substituted late and star goalkeeper Clement Diop, who left the match in the 112th minute with a head injury.
Diop’s exit forced 18-year-old Galaxy Academy product Bennett Sneddon into his first match as a professional. Despite a clutch save late to keep the score level at one, the academy goalkeeper was powerless to stop Samuels’ second of the evening as the Rochester forward leapt over Tommy Meyer for the game winner. Los Dos’ threw numbers forward in search of a late equalizer, but could not find a goal.
“They came out with a lot of fight, we tried to outplay it and got a goal, but we couldn’t hang on there at the end, and overtime seemed to go their way,” said Galaxy II captain Daniel Steres. “Being that close, you have to remember how close you were and remember what it is going to take to win it next time.”
Just as his side used their 2014 playoff exit to Sacramento as motivation heading into this year, Onalfo says that his squad must learn from their late lapse in Rochester ahead of the 2016 season.
“The game is sometimes cruel, and we have to use this as lessons for these guys to get better,” said Onalfo. “We’ll use this as motivation for our third season next year.”