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Aug 19, 2008

Timbers and RailHawks break winless streaks

Editor's note: There are three divisions in the United Soccer Leagues: USL-1, USL-2 and the Premier Development League (PDL). USL is not affiliated with Major League Soccer.

Both the Portland Timbers and Carolina RailHawks broke lengthy winless streaks this week, as they -- and the other USL-1 teams -- gear up for a big push to make the top seven playoff spots. The Puerto Rico Islanders and Vancouver Whitecaps remain in first and second place, respectively, with several exciting and difficult matches yet to be come. A few take homes from the weekend:

1. Trading places. One day after making the USL-1 team of the week, Atlanta Silverbacks midfielder Ansu Toure was shockingly traded to last-place Miami FC. Perhaps the Silverbacks felt they had enough scoring power with Macoumba Kandji and Aaron Paye up front, and could afford to let Toure go. Or perhaps Miami FC made them an offer they couldn't refuse. Considering the talent that Miami FC has been able to swipe from other teams this year, it would seem that the Blues' pockets must be rather deep indeed.

2. Quiet debut. Despite picking up Toure, Miami FC still could not find its way past the Carolina RailHawks, losing 3-2. In all fairness, Toure was brought on after the RailHawks had already scored three goals and had dropped back to guard their lead. Toure often found himself on the left, and although the left-footed midfielder might have fared better on the right side, he still managed to feed Alex Afonso for Miami's second goal. It will be interesting to see if Toure remains on the left for Miami, or moves right.

3. Fast start. It's a little hard to blame the RailHawks for not playing attacking soccer after they were two goals up at halftime. Friday's win for the Hawks was their first since they played Portland on June 27, and only the team's fifth win all season. Although several of the RailHawks' players (Hamed Diallo, Martin Nunez and Matthew Watson) put in fantastic efforts, scoring the first goal of the game may have been the key to their win. Marked as an own goal, but engineered by Martin Nunez, that goal was the first time in the past six games that the RailHawks scored first. More than anything else, that may have tipped the confidence scales, driving them to score two more by the half.

4. Impact player. The RailHawks were not the only team to break a long winless streak this weekend, as the Portland Timbers won their first game since June 28. After Scot Thompson launched a near perfect cross to the center of the box, forward Bryan Jordan connected with a perfect header to put the Timbers on the board. Jordan, on loan from the L.A. Galaxy, is not the sole solution to Portland's lack of scoring, but he's a good addition to the team, and at 22 still has a lot of potential. He's not afraid to take defenders on and attempt deft dribbling. His style is a little erratic, but he's got an impressive work rate.

5. Rising star. Although he has been on the bench for the Puerto Rico Islanders several times this year and a substitute a handful of times, Edson Elcock had started only one other game this year before Friday. After scoring two impressive goals in the second half of Puerto Rico's 3-0 win over the Seattle Sounders, Elcock's starting prospects should have improved significantly. The Seattle defenders, not familiar with his game, gave Elcock way too much space and he punished them accordingly.

Anne Ramzy is a freelance sportswriter based near San Francisco. She also is a frequent guest on the weekly soccer podcast on www.theoffside.com and can be reached at anneramzy@gmail.com.

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