By JOHN BOSCHINI
The quarterfinals of the USL Pro playoffs passed with only a marginal upset over the course of the weekend.
The Wilmington Hammerheads' late-season hot streak did them little good in the end as they succumbed on penalty kicks to early-season favorite Richmond. The game was scoreless through 120 minutes, and Richmond goalkeeper Ronnie Paschal came up with a single save in a 5-4 penalty shootout win.
Richmond controlled much of the game, forcing Brock Duckworth into five saves during the run of play. However, Duckworth couldn't keep out any of the five Richmond penalty kicks while Kickers' keeper Paschal turned away Chris Bagley's shot in the fifth round to seal the victory.
The Kickers move on to the American Division finals to face top-seeded Orlando City, which had a difficult time in a 3-1 overtime victory against the Charleston Battery.
Orlando nabbed the lead just before halftime with a goal from Max Griffin's shot that found its way to the top corner. Charleston made some wholesale changes in the second half and was rewarded with a goal in the 64th minute.
Orlando couldn't find a breakthrough in regulation nor could City find a goal in the first half of extra time. The breakthrough finally came with Colin Falvey's expertly taken goal in the 110th minute, and Lewis Neal assured the victory two minutes before the final whistle.
The Rochester Rhinos stormed their way into the National Division finals with a 4-0 thrashing of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
Tyler Rosenlud and Tony Donatelli scored before the halftime to put the Rhinos out of site before the intermission. Issac Kissi and Andrew Cost scored in the second half to turn a comfortable victory for Rochester into a rout. Pittsburgh's offensive was inept on the evening, registering only two shots on goal during the 90 minutes.
The Rhinos will meet the Harrisburg City Islanders, who squeaked by the Los Angeles Blues with a 3-2 victory in a testy game that saw eight yellow cards.
Joshua Tudela gave Los Angeles the lead within the first 15 minutes with a low shot into the bottom corner. Harrisburg equalized and took th lead within a span of five minutes with a pair of goals from Andrew Welker. Los Angeles managed to knot the score in first-half stoppage time thanks to Eriys Garcia.
Biran Ombiji gave Harrisburg the lead for good in the 52nd minute but the Islanders had to hold out for 24 minutes after Jason Pelletier was sent off.
What did you think of the weekend's results? Surprised Wilmington is out so early? Is Rochester a threat for the title? Who do you see advancing to the championship?
Share your thoughts below.