In 2008, the Rochester Rhinos opened the season with their first five games on the road and didn't find a victory until their eighth game of the campaign, their second at home. But this season, after dropping a 1-0 decision at Carolina on April 18, the Rhinos hit the road for the tropics and found a little success.
Missing key defenders Danny Earls and John Ball due to red card suspensions, Rochester on Friday visited Puerto Rico, where it had lost to the Islanders 4-0 during the 2008 regular season and surrendered a 2-0 first-leg playoff lead, exiting in the semifinals in overtime.
The two clubs battled to a scoreless stalemate this time around, despite chances that included shots off the post for each club. Former Islander Tai Atieno beat Bill Gaudette only to find woodwork, and Nicholas Addlery saw his attempt cleared off the line after going off the post for the hosts.
Two nights later in Miami, the Rhinos became the first road team in 15 matches on the season to snare three points as they downed the Blues, who were without Diego Serna due to a red card for two cautions Friday.
Veteran striker Johnny Menyongar opened the scoring early in the match courtesy of Andrew Gregor as they worked a two-on-one to end the Rhinos' scoreless status for the season eight minutes into their third contest.
The lead was short-lived, however, as former Rhino Connally Edozien was able to find the back of the net in the 20th minute on a cross from Zourab Tsiskaridze. Menyongar struck again just a minute before the break when Tai Atieno drove the ball across the box, setting up what held up as the winner in the 2-1 match.
USL First Division
Tuesday, April 21
Vancouver Whitecaps 1 at Austin Aztex 1
The defending champions continued their search for a win with defender Marco Reda scoring on a nice header from 8 yards out in the 18th minute only to see a mirror-image tally from Gifton Noel-Williams in the 67th to level the match for the expansion Aztex.
Friday, April 24
Montreal Impact 1 at Miami FC Blues 2
Diego Serna opened the scoring with a penalty five minutes into the second half of the match. Serna also set up the play to double the lead five minutes later when his ball deep in the box was misplayed by Impact defender Adam Braz, allowing Leo Inacio Nunes to pounce and put a close-range effort into the goal. Three minutes later, Joey Gjertsen had a chance to cut into the deficit from the spot, but Patrick Hannigan made the stop. Eduardo Sebrango finally opened the account for Montreal, but his 75th-minute strike was not enough.
Minnesota Thunder 1 at Charleston Battery 1
It took only six minutes for Minnesota to post a lead, as Leonel Saint-Preux struck for his second goal of the season. The lead was erased, however, in the 38th minute on a penalty from Tsuyoshi Yoshitake.
Saturday, April 25
Cleveland City Stars 0 at Austin Aztex 3
The Aztex posted their first franchise victory in a contest against fellow first-year USL First Division side Cleveland, which had been promoted after claiming the USL Second Division title. Englishman Eddie Johnson struck first 13 minutes into the contest. A red card shown to Ryan Stewart left the City Stars in a difficult situation, and the hosts took advantage. Johnson set up Sullivan Silva in the 71st and closed the match with his second goal of the night in the 90th.
Portland Timbers 0 at Vancouver Whitecaps 1
Perhaps taking advantage of the Timbers playing their opener, the Whitecaps finally found themselves in the win column four games into the season. In a stalemate between rivals, Martin Nash rifled a cleared corner kick past Steve Cronin for the winner in the 63rd.
Sunday, April 26
Minnesota Thunder 0 at Carolina RailHawks 1
For the first time in the club's short history, Carolina posted a third consecutive victory. Brian Plotkin proved to be the difference-maker as the two sides met for the second time in a two-week span. Josh Gardner's attempt to play Plotkin into the area took a fortunate deflection off a Minnesota defender, allowing the midfielder to gather and toe-poke it past Nic Platter for the win in the 58th minute.
USL Second Division
In the lone game Friday evening, Crystal Palace Baltimore blanked the visiting Bermuda Hogges 2-0 on goals from Dan Lader and Val Teixeira. The Hogges found more success the following night against Real Maryland, but the Monarchs led from the beginning, as Gary Brooks set up the initial tally by Sean Rush three minutes in. Brooks went on to connect with Jamie Holmes for the winner in a 3-2 decision. Chad Severs struck twice for Harrisburg against Western Mass, finding the back of the net five minutes into the first half and four minutes into the second in a 3-1 win. Matthew Delicate connected with Joey Worthen in the 36th for Richmond only to see Pittsburgh's Randolph Jerome tally four minutes later in a 1-1 draw. In Charlotte, Dustin Swinehart scored twice, but in-state rival Wilmington registered a surprising 2-2 draw on goals from Jamie Watson and on-loan Charleston striker Aaron King.