Timbers climb into first
USL First Division
For most of the season, the Timbers have trailed the pack at the top of the USL First Division table having played a handful fewer games, but recent results have slowed the pace of the leaders down, allowing the Portland side to finally catch up and move into the top spot Sunday with a convincing 4-1 victory over California.
The Timbers opened the weekend double dip with the expansion Victory Friday night with a 1-0 win over the visitors on a goal from Bryan Jordan in the 52nd minute and Sunday's fixture appeared to be headed toward another close result as the pair were deadlocked 1-1 at the break on goals from California's Federico Bianchi and Portland's Cameron Knowles.
A red card to Ricardo Sanchez in the 54th and a second half substitution made all the difference, however, as Portland opened the floodgates in the final 22 minutes.
Two minutes after entering the match, striker David Hague scored the first of three goals on a 10-yard effort for what proved to be the match-winner. Goalkeeper Josh Wicks sent a long ball forward that Hague latched onto and converted into a two-goal margin in the 74th, giving the netminder his second assist of the year.
Hague, who came into the match with one goal in nine appearances, capped the night off two minutes from time by completing the first hat-trick in the league this season with a chip over Eric Reed.
Thursday, July 12
Vancouver Whitecaps 0 at Seattle Sounders 1
The defending champions finished a lengthy road-trip necessitated by the FIFA U-20 World Cup at their home ground with a second consecutive loss for a 1-2-3 record over that stretch. Seattle's Sebastian Le Toux provided the lone strike in the 24th minute and goalkeeper Chris Eylander registered the shutout with six saves.
Friday, July 13
Montreal Impact 1 at Carolina RailHawks 0
After a heated game the week before in which Montreal rallied from two down at home for a 2-2 draw, the Impact kept the run going in North Carolina on an 84th minute goal from Antonio Ribeiro to register the win.
Charleston Battery 1 at Puerto Rico Islanders 3
In the first of two meetings on the weekend that saw a total of 11 goals, the Islanders got on the board first courtesy of Fabrice Noel in the 32nd minute only to see Gordon Chin level five minutes later. Noel would add a second in the 54th to restore the lead and defender Marco Velez would add another three minutes later to lock up the victory.
Saturday, July 14
Rochester Rhinos 1 at Atlanta Silverbacks 4
Decimated by injuries, the Rhinos hobbled into Atlanta and after a game first half that ended 1-0 in favor of the hosts on a 24th minute Warren Ukah goal, the Rhinos fell apart. David Hayes converted a penalty three minutes into the second stanza before Chad Severs put the Rhinos on the board in the 52nd. The comeback was short-lived as Dan Antoniuk found Rodrigo Rios in the 59th and vice versa in stoppage time as the Silverbacks earned the win.
Miami FC 2 at Vancouver Whitecaps 1
Perhaps feeling a little like strangers at home after a month away, the Whitecaps appeared to be ready, scoring just three minutes into the match when 2005 league MVP Jason Jordan sent a beautiful volley inside the post. Miami would clamp down, however, and rally for the win in the second half on a free kick from Zinho in the 53rd minute and a strike from Sean Fraser in the 65th.
Sunday, July 15
Charleston Battery 3 at Puerto Rico Islanders 4
In the second half of the two-game goal-fest, the Battery got on the board first 20 minutes in courtesy of Byron Alvarez. Puerto Rico newcomer Taiwo Atieno, however, provided a lot of excitement for the home fans with two goals and an assists starting with the equalizer in the 39th. Just a minute later, though, Brandon Curran restored Charleston's lead in the back-and-forth affair that saw two more before the break as Atieno scored his second in the 42nd and Alejando Gonzalez converted a penalty in the 45th to make it 3-2 at halftime. Lazo Alavanja leveled the score yet again in the 57th only to see Friday's star Fabrice Noel hit what held as the winner two minutes later.
Montreal Impact 0 at Minnesota Thunder 3
Feeling the hurt of injuries and a league that has, perhaps, closed the gap on the defending two-time regular season champions, the Impact suffered another setback as Minnesota's Aaron Paye played a part in all three goals. Paye set up Darren Spicer in the 31st and defender Kevin Taylor in the 45th for the lead at the break. He converted a penalty in the 80th to cap the night for Minnesota, which had scored two goals in a game just once previously on the year.
USL Second Division
After shocking the Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0 in the US Open Cup earlier in the week, the defending champion Richmond Kickers didn't let up in a pair of top of the table clashes with second-place Charlotte. Richmond blasted the Eagles 7-2 on aggregate with a 4-1 win in Richmond Friday and a 3-1 victory in Charlotte Saturday with Matt Watson leading the way with three goals and two assists.
Fourth-place Harrisburg, fresh off a 1-0 win over DC United in the Cup, did see a slight drop off as they played Crystal Palace Baltimore to a scoreless draw. Also playing the tie-game was third-place Cleveland, who finished in 1-1 stalemates twice in New England against Western Mass and New Hampshire. Bermuda picked up their second win as the Hogges held on for a 3-2 win at Cincinnati despite a two-goal rally from the hosts.
Premier Development League
The Hampton Roads Piranhas clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 3-1 win at West Virginia. The BYU Cougars clinched the division title with a 2-1 win in Ogden. The Michigan Bucks advanced to the playoffs for the 11th time with the demolition of West Michigan while division rival Chicago Fire Premier advanced to the playoffs for the 7th straight year with a 1-0 win over Cleveland. The 2006 finalist Laredo Heat returned to the postseason with a 3-1 win over Austin. The second-year Tacoma Tide clinched a berth with a 5-0 win over Yakima.
Among teams still chasing playoff berths, Ocean City picked up a 2-1 win over the Gunners while the Legacy posted a 2-0 win over Northern Virginia. Atlanta picked up a pair of wins against Nashville and the Menace grabbed two wins against Springfield. The Seahorses put a dent in the Fusion's playoff chase with a late 3-3 draw in Ventura. El Paso slipped up with a pair of losses in Louisiana against Baton Rouge and New Orleans. One week remains in league play.
After seeing a 2-0 lead vanish to a 2-2 draw in Vancouver earlier, the Sunwaves kept history from repeating with a surprising 4-1 win over the Whitecaps in San Diego Wednesday. The Seattle Sounders followed it up with a stunning 2-1 victory north of the border to end Vancouver's amazing 33-game home unbeaten streak and leave the defending champions out of control of their own playoff destiny as they trail Seattle and San Diego.
The Minnesota Lightning won 2-1 in Chicago and edged West Michigan 1-0 to clinch a playoff berth and will host the Central Conference Playoffs in two weeks. Jersey Sky Blue clinched a playoff berth with a 7-0 drubbing of New York Tuesday and division Washington Freedom locked up a berth with a 2-0 win over New Jersey. The Ottawa Fury clinched the division title with a 3-1 win in Rochester, then slipped past Hamilton 1-0 to remain unbeaten along with Minnesota. The playoff bound Laval Comets downed Toronto Thursday night 2-0, but the Lady Lynx rebounded for a 2-1 in Vermont Saturday as they prepare for the postseason with only one week left to play.