The Charleston Battery held the Puerto Rico Islanders to a scoreless tie Friday night in front of 5,067 fans at Blackbaud Stadium, which put the Islanders back level with Vancouver for first. Coupled with Miami's loss at home, the Islanders, as well as the Whitecaps, secured postseason playoff berths.
The game was the Battery's second-to-last home game this season. It was also Charleston's last matchup before the club travels to Washington, D.C., to take on MLS side D.C United in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Wednesday.
The Islanders had elected to rest most their first team for the match and started just three players featured in last Friday's win over the Battery in Puerto Rico. And with a top-of-the-table clash against the Vancouver Whitecaps and a CONCACAF Champions league fixture with Costa Rica's LD Alajuelense in the coming days, the unfamiliar lineup was perhaps not surprising.
However, the Battery was at near-full strength despite its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final on Wednesday, welcoming defender Kevin Nylen and goalkeeper Dusty Hudock back into the starting 11.
And it would be the Battery that threatened first when Mike Richardson beat his defender before burying his effort into the Puerto Rico goalkeeper, and minutes later Darren Spicer fired off a warning shot that took a deflection just outside the box.
Spicer then had one of the half's best goalscoring chances when he delivered a curling strike, but Islanders' goalkeeper Mike Behonick did well to paw the effort around the post. Defender Nylen, back on duty following an absence due to a concussion, also flashed a good attempt wide.
Back at the other end Hudock was forced to mop up some slow defending that allowed Kendall Jagdeosingh a scrappy look on goal, and the Battery stopper had to punch clear a few dangerous crosses that dropped his way.
Jagdeosingh then ran onto a clever through-ball from the midfield but fired wide, and in the last chance of the period Johnny Steele fired a long-range shot that Hudock parried away for a corner.
But though the Battery would go into the break having out-shot their visitors 6-5, the Islanders looked most menacing early in the second half as they sought to break the tie.
Edson Elcock found space on the right flank and fired a pass across the face of the goal. Sandy Gbandi was able to make contact, but his effort bounced off the post and out.
The Battery responded by bringing on club leading scorer Randi Patterson for Spicer, and the switch almost paid off when Patterson's shot was deflected barely a foot wide. Osvaldo Alsonso also tossed in a couple of dangerous set-pieces, yet the Islanders coped well and absorbed the pressure.
And the hosts looked like they might have stole the win in the final minutes when Marco Reda rose in traffic to meet Alonso's free-kick, but Behonick was placed well to grasp the header, while David Kenga shot just high of the frame from 25 yards.
USL First Division
Wednesday, Aug. 27
Atlanta Silverbacks 0 at Vancouver Whitecaps 2
Eduardo Sebrango was yet again the pivotal player for Vancouver, finding Lyle Martin in the 35th minute for the opening goal and finding the back of the net himself in the 69th minute to secure the victory. Jay Nolly made four saves to preserve the clean sheet.
Friday, Aug. 29
Minnesota Thunder 2 at Miami FC Blues 1
Eric Vasquez set up defender Bruno Menezes two minutes into the second half for Miami, but it was all downhill from there. A penalty converted by Ricardo Sanchez tied the game for Minnesota in the 65th. A series of three send-offs then left Miami exposed in the final minutes. Leo Inacio Nunes was shown a red in the 84th and three minutes later John Pulido was also ejected. Walter Ramirez saw his second yellow in the 89th. Minnesota completed their rally in the 90th with a strike from Nathan Knox.
Saturday, Aug. 30
Rochester Rhinos 1 at Atlanta Silverbacks 0
The Rhinos moved into a tie for third with Charleston on a goal from Johnny Menyongar in the 29th minute. Scott Vallow made three stops for the shutout.
Montreal Impact 2 at Carolina RailHawks 0
The Impact overcame a two-hour pregame weather delay and a 14th minute red card to post a road victory despite having several starters out of the lineup in preparation of the club's trip to Honduras to play Real Esteli of Nicaragua in the CONCACAF Champions League Wednesday. Veteran defender Nevio Pizzolitto saw the red early on and coach John Limniatis was sent off several minutes later, leaving the visitors in a scramble in the first half, but a strike from recent addition Peter Byers in the 45th minute gave the Impact the surprising lead. The numbers would be equalized with the 76th minute send off of Santiago Fusilier, allowing Montreal to put the match away with a second Byers srike in the 83rd minute.
Sunday, Aug. 31
Minnesota Thunder 1 at Miami FC Blues 1
Sean Fraser put the Blues on the board two minutes before the break on an assist from Alex Afonso and Miami appeared to be headed for a tie with Minnesota in the table for eighth as they chase one of the final playoff berths. Nathan Knox, who recently returned to the Thunder from Atlanta, maintained Minnesota's three point advantage two minutes from time with the equalizer.
Vancouver Whitecaps 1 at Puerto Rico Islanders 1
The two league leaders remained level in the table after exchanging goals in the second half. A failed clearance allowed Nigel Henry to connect with Kendall Jagdeosingh to give the hosts the initial lead. Vancouver spoiled the victory in the late stages, however, with defender Takashi Hirano hitting a perfect free kick from just outside the box in the 86th minute.