Islanders stun Montreal to reach semis
In a thrilling quarterfinal series matchup between the third-seeded Montreal Impact and sixth-seed Puerto Rico, the Islanders provided the lone first round upset as they rallied from behind in the two-goal, aggregate score series to register their first-ever postseason series victory 5-3 on aggregate.
With Seattle, Portland and Atlanta also advancing, the Islanders are the lone team remaining in the USL-1 semifinals that were in the six-team postseason a year ago.
In a surprising twist Friday night in the first leg of the series, it was a back-and-forth offensive affair as the usually stout Montreal back line arguably provided more offense than defense as Mauricio Vincello posted two goals and an assist in the team's 3-2 victory in what would be the final game at Claude Robillard Stadium for the Impact, who will move into their brand new facility, Stade Saputo, next year.
The hosts would get on the board early when Vincello set up former MLS striker Roberto Brown eight minutes in, but the lead would only last eight minutes before Lars Lyssand connected with Petter Villegas to put the game on level terms.
In the 26th, Brown would return the favor with an assist on Vincello's third goal of the year to re-establish the lead. But two minutes later defender Alexis Rivera found Taiwo Atieno for another Puerto Rico equalizer.
The first-leg scoring would wrap up in the 36th with Vincello's second of the night on an assist from defender Luis Aguilar to give the Impact the lead heading to Puerto Rico.
The Islanders, eliminated in the First Round last year at home after a first-leg draw in Charleston, were determined to get their first playoff win and move onto the semifinals. To do so, they would need to defeat a team that they were 0-8-3 against in their four-year history.
Just before the half-hour mark Atieno registered his second goal of the series on an assist from Noah Delgado to pull Puerto Rico level and aggregate 3-3 and the two clubs played to a stalemate into the closing moments of the game.
Nine minutes from time Fabrice Noel connected with second half substitute Victor Herrera for what proved to be the series-winner and in stoppage time Willie Sims put the series away, giving the Islanders a historic victory.
Seattle Sounders 3 Carolina RailHawks 0
The regular season champion Sounders opened on the road Friday with a 2-0 victory in Carolina on goals from defender Zach Scott in the 48th minute and Andre Schmid in the 82nd. As the only home team leading heading into the second leg, the Sounders wrapped up the series with a 1-0 victory on a 90th minute Leighton O'Brien penalty kick as Chris Eylander posted his second clean sheet in the series to give Seattle a perfect sweep of Carolina on the year with four shutouts.
Portland Timbers 3 Vancouver Whitecaps 1
After playing to scoreless draws in the last two meetings, Whitecaps second half substitute Jason Jordan broke the stalemate with a strike in the 76th minute to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead as they headed south to Portland. It was not enough, however, as the Timbers eliminated the defending champions with a 3-0 win at home on a stellar all-around performance from the defense.
Defender Cameron Knowles set up his back-line partner Justin Thompson for the series equalizer in the 27th minute and the two continued to battle on level terms until the 70th when Shuan Higgins found Andrew Gregor, whose bouncing shot was mishandled by goalkeeper Matt Nelson for what-proved to be the series winner. Thompson would turn provider in eight minutes from time, setting up Jaime Ambriz to put the series away at 3-1.
Atlanta Silverbacks 3 Rochester Rhinos 2
The fourth-seed Silverbacks took the risky choice of playing at home in the first leg, but it proved successful as the 2006 finalist Rhinos were the lone team not to win at home in the second leg, playing to a 1-1 draw after a 2-1 loss in Atlanta Friday. The draw was good enough for Atlanta's first-ever playoff series victory.
Defender David Hayes set up Warren Ukah eight minutes into the series for an early Atlanta lead only to see Mike Ambersley pull the visitors level in the 17th. With the first leg heading toward a draw, Luis Liendo found Anthony Wolfe in the 87th minute to give the Silverbacks the lead heading to game two. Ukah again was involved in the opening score as he set up Machel Millwood five minutes before the break in Rochester for a 3-1 lead in the series. Matthew Delicate pulled the Rhinos back within one in the 79th, but it was not enough as the equalizer never materialized for the three-time champions.
The 2005 USL First Division champion Seattle Sounders will take on the Puerto Rico Islanders and the Portland Timbers will battle the Atlanta Silverbacks. Puerto Rico and Atlanta will play host to the first legs on Friday with the second leg games in Seattle and Portland Sunday.