USL Wrap: Islanders climb to second
Just three weeks ago, Puerto Rico was in a fight with Rochester to stay out of last place. On Saturday, the Islanders capped an impressive three-game road stretch over the course of seven days that went coast to coast and north of the border. After earning their first-ever regular season victory over Montreal last Sunday, the Islanders traveled to Portland Thursday and handed the Timbers a 2-0 defeat on their home turf before turning their sights on first-place Charleston and a third successive win Saturday.
The U.S. Open Cup semifinal-bound Battery took the initial lead in the 24th minute when Darren Spicer brought the ball down the right flank and fired a cross to Lazo Alavanja, who turned and poked home his third goal in three-straight Battery games.
In the 70th minute, from a free-kick situation, Noah Delgado broke down the left before driving a low cross to Kendall Jagdeosingh, who found space to finish from close range.
Then just nine minutes later the Islanders got ahead after the referee controversially judged that Battery defender Marco Reda had pulled down Islanders forward Fabrice Noel in the penalty area. Defender Cristian Arrieta stepped up and sent his spot kick home.
The Islanders then finished the game off three minutes from time when Noel pulled in the front of the Battery defense and fed Jonathon Steele, who curled in a first-time driven effort to Dusty Hudock's left and into the net to give Puerto Rico its fourth win in five games.
USL First Division
Thursday, July 10
Puerto Rico Islanders 2 at Portland Timbers 0
A pair of first half strikes from Fabrice Noel in the 38th minute and Josh Hansen in the 45th gave the visitors a commanding advantage over a struggling Portland side that has been winless at home since the beginning of May and saw the streak hit six games (0-3-3) with the defeat as Bill Gaudette held on for the shutout. Friday, July 11
Carolina RailHawks 2 at Minnesota Thunder 2
The Thunder opened their renovated National Sports Center home, ironically, to a thunderstorm that stole the attention on the night with a two-hour delay at halftime. The hosts, however, provided the first strike of the night with Dale Weiler scoring seven minutes in. Carolina's Martin Nunez would convert a penalty in the 26th and five minutes later Santiago Fusilier would give the visitors the lead. The long-awaited second half saw Nunez sent off in the 64th for a second caution, allowing Minnesota to equalize in the 80th via Melvin Tarley.
Seattle Sounders 0 at Rochester Rhinos 1
The Rhinos seem to finally be finding a mystique in their three-year-old stadium, edging the defending league champion and US Open Cup Semifinal-bound Sounders on a nice header from Luke Kreamalmeyer that got over Chris Eylander in the seventh minute. The win extended the Rhinos unbeaten run to six games (4-0-2) at PAETEC Park.
Sunday, July 13
Seattle Sounders 1 at Montreal Impact 0
It did not matter that the Sounders were outshot 15-4 and that reigning MVP Sebastien Le Toux was smothered the entire game as the star striker was able to take advantage of a rare opportunity on the day in the 73rd minute to hand Montreal their second straight loss at home. As Seattle struggled to find offensive opportunities, Chris Eylander made 10 saves at the other end for the shutout. Miami FC Blues 0 at Rochester Rhinos 0
The Rhinos home unbeaten streak hit seven, but Miami's impressive defensive numbers continue to be the storyline as they extended their unbeaten run to nine games, six on the road, with their eighth shutout during the stretch. Josh Saunders posted five saves for Miami as Scott Vallow made six on the other end.
Carolina RailHawks 1 at Vancouver Whitecaps 1
A scoreless stalemate was broken and quickly re-instated late in the second half when 2007 Scoring Champion Dan Antoniuk struck for Carolina in the 74th minute immediately followed by a breakaway from Eduardo Sebrango to put the match back on level terms a minute later for the hosts.
USL Second Division
Before stepping on the field Saturday in Wilmington, Charlotte had already clinched the first playoff berth in USL-2 play with Harrisburg playing to a 1-1 draw at Western Mass and Real Maryland playing to a scoreless draw in Bermuda. The Eagles celebrated with a thrilling back-and-forth affair in which they rallied past the Hammerheads to a 3-1 lead with two goals from Jorge Herrera. Wilmington cut the deficit just before the break, but Jonah Long's second half talley proved to much of a climb for the hosts to climb as they managed only a late 90th minute strike to pull within one and a 4-3 final. The other Saturday action saw Richmond roll at home 3-1 over Pittsburgh while Cleveland edged Crystal Palace Baltimore 1-0 and a strike from Sallieu Bundu eight minutes from time.
Premier Development League
Within the final two weeks of the campaign, the pace of teams qualifying for the postseason hastened with six more teams joining the field. The Reading Rage posted a 3-2 road victory at Fredericksburg Friday to qualify and clinch the Mid Atlantic Division title. Other results around the Southeast put in Central Florida, who had to wait an extra night to clinch the division title with a 4-2 win over Panama City, who stunned them the night before 3-0.
On Saturday, the Thunder Bay Chill clinched a playoff spot with a 4-1 victory over Kansas City and the Brooklyn Knights secured the Northeast Division title and postseason berth with a 3-2 victory at rival Westchester. The Midwest's entrants were decided Sunday with the Chicago Fire and expansion Kalamazoo Outrage joining the fray courtesy of Indiana's draw at Cleveland. The pair had posted ties themselves the night before with Kalamazoo going scoreless at home against Fort Wayne and Chicago playing conference and league leader Michigan to a wild 3-3 draw in Pontiac. Eleven of the 13 playoff berths remain available, including all four in the Western Conference.
The playoff field grew significantly in the W-League from three to eight over the weekend in the W-League. On Saturday, Toronto got past a surprisingly tough Western Mass 4-3 and qualified along with Ottawa, whose 2-0 victory over Rochester secured a berth for both sides in the Northern Division. The Boston Renegades edged surging Connecticut 2-1 to secure a spot out of the Northeast and previously qualified Atlanta downed second-place and playoff bound Charlotte 4-2 to capture the Atlantic Division title.
On Sunday, the defending champion Washington Freedom cruised past Fredericksburg 6-1 to secure a Northeast playoff berth and FC Indiana posted a 2-0 victory over Kalamazoo to win the Midwest Division title and secure and spot in the postseason. Five of the 13 postseason berths are still open going into the final week of the season.