The rivalry between the Rochester Rhinos and Montreal Impact over the years has ranked as the most heated among USL First Division clubs. The two sides met in a home-and-home series in Montreal's return to league play after claiming the Canadian Championship via a 1-1 draw against Major League Soccer's Toronto FC in the final and deciding fixture. The Rhinos would end the weekend with an impressive four-point showing.
The weekend opened in Rochester Friday with the two sides playing to a stalemate until Rochester defender Danny Earls took advantage of a loose ball in the box to give the Rhinos the lead in the 58th minute.
Nine minutes later, Montreal midfielder Leonardo DiLorenzo tied the score at the final scoreline when he surprised keeper Scott Vallow with a rifled 25-yard free kick to the far post.
Two days later in Montreal, the Impact were stunned on their home turf, where they surprisingly dropped their fourth of the year in league play, including three of the last four. The Impact have dominated Rochester at home, leading the season series 17-1-2 going into the match and having not allowed a goal to their rivals since 2000.
Luke Kreamalmeyer broke the scoreless streak in the 32nd minute when he latched onto a deflected cross by Johnny Menyongar to beat Matt Jordan. Eight minutes later, Matthew Delicate headed an Andrew Gregor cross past a charging Jordan.
The Impact would lose star striker Roberto Brown to a red card two minutes into the second half, further stifling their opportunities to level the score, which the Rhinos would hold at 2-0 for only their second win ever at Montreal.
USL First Division
Wednesday, July 23
Charleston Battery 1 at Vancouver Whitecaps 1
The Battery got on the board first courtesy of Randi Patterson in the 19th minute and appeared headed to the win when new Whitecap addition Charles Gbeke struck nine minutes from time to split the points.
Thursday, July 24
Carolina RailHawks 0 at Portland Timbers 0
The woes of the Portland Timbers and Carolina RailHawks continued for both sides as they battled to a scoreless stalemate and each saw a key player sent off in the match.
Seattle Sounders 1 at Minnesota Thunder 2
The defending league champions took the lead on a strike from Youssouf Kanted two minutes before the break. But the hosts fought back in the second half with the equalizer coming from defender Brian Kallman in the 78th and the winner three minutes later from Melvin Tarley to end a 10-game winless run.
Saturday, July 26
Carolina RailHawks 0 at Vancouver Whitecaps 1
Eduardo Sebrango scored another critical goal for the Whitecaps to lead Vancouver to the 1-0 victory to remain among the league leaders in the standings. Jay Nolly made four stops for the shutout.
Charleston Battery 0 at Seattle Sounders 1
In a showdown of upcoming US Open Cup Semifinal combatants, it was the defending league champions coming out on top. Sebastien Le Toux netted the lone strike in the 58th minute to split the season series at 1-1-1 after a 1-1 draw and 1-0 loss in Charleston earlier in the campaign. Sunday, July 27
Puerto Rico Islanders 3 at Minnesota Thunder 2
After opening their six-game road stand with a 1-0 loss to local rival Miami, the Islanders have been arguably the most impressive team in the league by rolling off five straight victories on the road, including a remarkable comeback win in Minnesota. Ricardo Sanchez scored 13 minutes in and set up Dale Weiler in the 32nd to give the hosts a commanding two-goal advantage. But back-to-back strikes in the second half erased the deficit in the blink of an eye as Josh Hansen began the rally in the 52nd and Fabrice Noel leveled terms in the 53rd. Edwin Miranda would complete the comeback with the winner in the 71st.
Atlanta Silverbacks 0 at Miami FC Blues 3
Miami's run of nine games with just one goal allowed came to an abrupt halt with a 3-1 defeat in Rochester last week. Atlanta took the brunt of Miami's vengeance as they returned to form in dominating fashion. Alex Afonso scored just six minutes in and set up Leo Inacio in the 28th for a 2-0 lead at the break. Sean Fraser would put the game well out of reach in the 63rd.
USL Second Division
Crystal Palace became the fourth side to clinch a playoff spot Thursday with a 2-1 victory on the road against the defending champion Harrisburg, but were unable to muster a goal in a 3-0 loss Saturday in Charlotte to the league leaders. Harrisburg would drop more points Saturday in a 3-3 draw against Pittsburgh, who has climbed out of last place with a run of 3-1-1 over their last five.
It was a mixed week for Bermuda, who downed Real Maryland 2-1 Wednesday before falling 5-1 in Cleveland. Real Maryland would drop their second of the week, 6-0, to Richmond Saturday. Wilmington kept its playoff hopes alive with a 2-0 win at Western Mass, who were playing their season finale and now must wait to see if they hold their spot in the table for a playoff berth.
Premier Development League Playoffs
The curse of holding the top seed in the playoffs continued in the Conference Playoffs over the weekend as the Michigan Bucks became the fourth regular season champion to be knocked out in the conference semifinals in the last seven years, falling 3-1 to the expansion Kalamazoo Outrage, who knocked off perennial power and division champion Chicago in the divisional round earlier in the week. The first-year side was unable to build off the win, however, falling 4-0 to Thunder Bay, who were 2-0 semifinal winners over Cleveland, in the conference final.
The defending champions, staying true to the success of lower seeds in the postseason, showed they were much better than their status of number 16 with a 2-1 victory over Southeast champion Central Florida on a stormy night in Orlando Friday and a 3-1 win over division foe Austin, who topped Bradenton 2-1 in the semifinals, for their third straight conference title.
In the Eastern Conference, the Brooklyn Knights won their opening game via penalties for the straight year, eliminating Cape Cod 5-3 from the mark after a scoreless draw. It also marked the second consecutive year they knocked out the Crusaders, whom they defeated in the conference final last year. Reading went the distance as well in a 4-2 overtime victory over expansion Newark. The Rage would edge Brooklyn 1-0 in the conference final, ironically, on a penalty kick.
In the Western Conference, the Northwest duo of Tacoma and Vancouver shifted the balance of power back to the north completely for the first time since 2001. Vancouver downed the Southwest champion San Fernando Valley 3-1 in overtime and Tacoma blanked Fresno 3-0. The Whitecaps Residency side would advance to the PDL Semifinals with a dominant 4-1 performance in the conference final.
The FC Indiana Lionesses were the lone top seed to advance from their respective conference playoffs on the weekend. FC Indiana took advantage of a Laval squad missing its captain and top defender to a red card suspension with a 5-1 win in the conference semifinal as Ottawa outlasted Chicago 3-2 in the other. Ottawa would take the number two overall seed to overtime in the conference final before succumbing 4-3 Sunday.
In the Central Conference, the Charlotte Lady Eagles and defending champion Washington Freedom played a nearly-historical thriller. The Freedom finished the victors in an amazing 6-5 overtime match that went down as a tie for the second-highest combined score for a W-League playoff game.
The second semifinal was just as dramatic as the host Atlanta squeaked out a -0 victory over a tough defensive squad from Long Island. In a rematch of the 2007 league final that finished 3-1 in favor of the Freedom, the defending champions again prevailed, this time rallying for a 2-1 win on a goal and assist from Christie Welsh.
In the Western Conference playoff, the Seattle Sounders again proved to be Vancouver's nemesis. Chalise Baysa stunned everyone with a bicycle kick goal in the 67th minute that proved to be the winner. It marks only the third time in the Whitecaps eight-year history they have failed to reach the league semifinals. Seattle has kept them out all three times, eliminating the Whitecaps in Vancouver in 2003 via penalties 3-1 after a 2-2 draw and finishing one point ahead of them for the second playoff berth in the conference standings last season.
At the W-League Championship tournament this week, the regular season champion Pali Blues will face the defending champion Washington Freedom and the Seattle Sounders will take on the FC Indiana Lionesses in the semifinals Thursday, July 31. The winners will meet Saturday, August 2 in the championship, which will air on Fox Soccer Channel at 11:00 pm ET.