The Portland Timbers traveled to Seattle for perhaps the last time in USL First Division soccer history to face their rival Sounders Saturday night and were looking to maintain their unbeaten status on the year. The battle of the top two teams from the 2007 regular season saw the Timbers finish in a scoreless stalemate with the defending regular season and league champion Sounders.
The Sounders controlled the run of play through much of the match, and created half a dozen dangerous chances to put one into the net. None of them did go in, however. The Sounders came out and took the game to Portland through the first 30 minutes.
They came within about a foot of getting a penalty kick in the seventh when Andre Schmid, taking a pass from Sebastien LeToux on a breakaway, was tripped up just outside the box to the right of the restraining arc. The ensuing free kick by Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar bounced off the Portland wall.
Just two minutes later, Seattle came down on another breakaway. Alcaraz-Cuellar got the ball to LeToux flying down the right wing side. LeToux took it into the box, sent it across the goalmouth to Schmid, who had a wide-open on the front porch of Portland goalkeeper Ray Burse, but drilled it over the top.
Ray Burse took the ball away from LeToux on a run into the box in the 16th minute. Then just before the end of the 20th, Josh Gardner took a shot from 25 yards straight in front that Burse leaped to tip over the crossbar.
Gardner had two more bang-bang tries in the 33rd minute. A corner kick from the right wing side came out to him at the top of the box, but his shot was blocked. The rebound came right back to Gardner, who wound up and fired again, only to have it saved by Burse. The best try by Portland, which was kept in its own end of the field through most of the first 45 minutes, came right at the start of the 37th when Chris Brown caught up with a bouncing ball in the left side of the box. But Sounders goalkeeper Chris Eylander dove to grab it an instant before Brown could get a foot to it.
Seattle had two more near misses during the second half. A half-volley shot from the penalty spot by LeToux midway through the 65th minute was pulled down by Burse. Second-half substitute Jason Cascio ripped one from the top of the arc at the 87:32 mark, but Burse dove to his left to make the save.
USL First Division
Thursday, May 8
Rochester Rhinos 0 at Portland Timbers 0
In their third game of the campaign, the Rhinos finally earned their first point but remain scoreless. Rochester had the better of the play in the first half only to see the hosts reclaim the advantage in the second half and outshoot the Rhinos 7-0, forcing Scott Vallow to make five saves to preserve the draw.
Friday, May 9
Miami FC Blues 1 at Charleston Battery 3
After finishing level in the season opener 2-2, the pair saw a similar start to the match as Miami's Alex Afonso again scored the opener. His 11th minute strike was answered by Randi Patterson in the 27th for a 1-1 draw at the break. Mike Richardson found Osvaldo Alonso in the 53rd to give the Battery the lead and set up Patterson's second of the night in the 86th.
Saturday, May 10
Rochester Rhinos 0 at Vancouver Whitecaps 1
Rochester appeared to be headed toward a second consecutive scoreless draw with Vallow posting eight saves, but it was not enough as Eduardo Sebrango struck in the 77th to give the Whitecaps the victory on the night.
Atlanta Silverbacks 2 at Carolina RailHawks 2
In a battle of southern rivals who played to a 1-1 draw in Atlanta earlier in the season, the Silverbacks got on the board first with a tally from Jason McLaughlin in the 17th. Former Silverback Dan Antoniuk stung his old side with an equalizer in the 29th and Jamil Walker gave Carolina the lead in the 83rd, sending the crowd into a frenzy. The excitement was short-lived, however, as David Hayes silenced the celebration less than a minute later to give Atlanta a share of the points.
On a rainy and cool evening, it appeared the result would match the conditions, but in just as stoppage time approached Melvin Tarley found the back of the net for the Thunder to give Minnesota another surprising victory over Montreal. The Impact, who despite having one of the best records the past few years in the league, are now winless in their last five (0-3-2) against Minnesota, who have finished near the bottom of the table.
USL Second Division
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds played to a 1-1 draw in Western Mass Thursday night which ensured the Pioneers a spot in the US Open Cup. Also qualifying for the tournament on the week were the Cleveland City Stars and Crystal Palace Baltimore Saturday. Cleveland blanked Real Maryland 4-0 on a pair of goals from Adam Ruud and Baltimore downed Wilmington 2-0. They join Charlotte and automatic qualifiers Richmond and Harrisburg. Two berths remain for the three eligible teams.
Visiting Charlotte edged the defending champion Harrisburg 1-0 on a goal from Dustin Swinehart in the 65th minute and Pittsburgh fell 2-1 in Bermuda with Damon Ming tallying a goal and assist for the Hogges.
Premier Development League
The defending champion Laredo Heat found opening weekend a tough trip as Mississippi held them in a scoreless draw. They rebounded for a 1-0 win in Baton Rouge, who had knocked off El Paso 2-0 a night before. Meanwhile, southern rivals Cary and Atlanta played to a 3-3 thriller and 2007 regular season champion Hampton Roads will not have another stellar opening streak, falling 1-0 to Northern Virginia in their opener. Last season, the Piranhas went 10 games before allowing a goal and finished unbeaten at 14-0-2 on the season.
Opening weekend saw no real surprises as the 2007 playoff teams in action posted victories. defending champion Washington topped Long Island 3-1, finalist Atlanta downed Hampton Roads 3-1 and Jersey won a narrow 1-0 decision in Boston. Expansion sides saw mixed results as Connecticut tied New York 2-2 and Tampa Bay fell 1-0 to Bradenton. Pali took the LA expansion derby against the Fusion 5-0 and West Virginia fell 3-0 to Charlotte.