Samuels brace leads Rhinos to USL title over Galaxy II


Welcome to the spotlight, Asani Samuels.

The 6-foot-5 Jamaican with the back-flip goal celebration lifted the Rochester Rhinos over L.A. Galaxy II for the USL title with a pair of dramatic goals off the bench in a nutty 2-1 championship game in Rochester.

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After Ariel Lassiter’s 65th minute goal gave Galaxy II a lead at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, the remainder of the game saw a stoppage time equalizer, a punch-drunk keeper knocked out of the game, and an 18-year-old MLS Academy keeper to replace him.

First, Samuels’ stoppage time equalizer forced extra time in most-dramatic fashion, as he buried a header in the second of three added minutes. The Canisius College product rose to power in a header and sent the game into extra time, where Bob Lilley’s side would come out on top.


Then came extra time, and goalkeeper Clement Diop bungled a potential save under pressure on the line, and took a knee to the head that left him wobbly. Despite his many protestations, Diop was forced off the field for ice-cold goalkeeper Bennett Sneddon (who faced a corner right away).

With penalty kicks looming, Samuels struck again. The 6-foot-5 forward leapt to head the ball back past Sneddon, and the Rhinos held on for the USL crown.

The Rhinos entered Friday’s USL Championship game giving up barely more than a half-goal per game.

But they hadn’t played Ariel Lassiter and L.A. Galaxy II.

The kid they call “The Goal Puppy” headed home a rebound off the crossbar in the second half to give “Los Dos” their first USL title, and hand Rochester just its second loss of the season (and first at home).

Galaxy II finished in fifth-place out West, while the Rhinos won the East with a 17W-1L-10T record. At home it was 12 wins and two draws in 14 games.

And yes, Lassiter is the son of USMNT, DC United and Tampa Bay Mutiny star Roy Lassiter, though he had changed allegiances from U.S. U-23 to Costa Rica U-23.