Both USL Second Division Semifinals needed overtime to decide the participants for next Saturday's championship match as the Harrisburg City Islanders registered a 1-0 upset in Cleveland and the defending champion Richmond Kickers outlasted the Charlotte Eagles 3-2 to return to the final.
In a rematch of last year's final, the Kickers got on the board early on a 14th minute strike from Matt Watson after an initial shot from Mike Burke was stopped by goalkeeper Terry Boss.
The regular season champion Kickers held the advantage for the remainder of the match and looked to be headed toward a second straight final when veteran Jacob Coggins found the back of the net three minutes from time for the Eagles, forcing extra time.
The stalemate continued for much of the overtime until a corner kick play in the 110th minute netted the deciding goal for Richmond. Sascha Görres took a short corner to the near post for Ricky Schramm ,who played it back to Görres. Beating two defenders, he hammered the ball across the crowded goalmouth. Nowaf Jaman was able to get a piece of the ball, flicking it over the Eagles goalkeeper and breaking the plane, despite the efforts of defenders positioned inside the goal.
In the other semifinal, the third-seeded City Islanders handed the expansion Cleveland City Stars just their second loss of the year after finishing the regular season 10-1-9.
It was a defensive battle throughout the 120 minutes for two of the top three teams in the league in defense. Cleveland finished first with 14 goals allowed on the year while Harrisburg tied for second with Richmond at 15.
It would not be until the 106th minute of play that Steve Fisher would find a way past the league's top netminder in goals against average, beating Hunter Gilstrap on a glancing header off a Brian Devlin free kick.
USL First Division
Four teams clinched playoff berths on the week. The Portland Timbers, who tied for last in the league last season, were the first to guarantee a postseason spot with a 2-2 draw at Minnesota on Thursday. Carolina's 0-0 draw against Atlanta and Miami's 1-0 loss in Puerto Rico Friday put their northwest rival Seattle in the playoffs.
On Saturday, Rochester's 1-0 victory at Minnesota put the Rhinos back in championship contention again and also clinched a playoff spot for their rival Montreal, who would go on later that night to post a 2-0 win in Vancouver.
Also on Saturday night, Seattle edged California 1-0 to move into first. In a pair of other games on the week involving teams chasing for playoff spots, Carolina blasted Charleston 3-0 on three goals from Connally Edozien Tuesday and Puerto Rico, on three strikes from Willie Sims, downed Miami 3-2 on Sunday.