Appearing as though both were destined to be left behind by the rest of the league, the Cleveland City Stars and Minnesota each provided eye-opening results on the weekend that showed they should not be taken lightly.
After previously suffering a home opening 3-0 loss to the Rochester Rhinos, the promoted City Stars avenged the defeat in spectacular fashion on the same Middlefield Cheese Stadium pitch with a three-goal second half performance Saturday evening to reverse the scoreline.
Now trailing Cleveland by four points, the winless Minnesota Thunder side did their part to keep pace Sunday afternoon with a surprising 2-0 victory over the second-place Carolina RailHawks.
The Thunder came into the match 0-5-4, but made early progress toward ending their winless status with a 13th-minute strike from Brian Cvilikas heading in a free kick from Ricardo Sanchez.
Set pieces were the magic solution to the Thunder's problem as Rod Dyachenko's corner in the 27th minute found its way to Lawrence Olum to double the advantage for the hosts as Nic Platter went on to post seven saves in the shutout victory.
Minnesota hosts the Chicago Fire of the Premier Development League in U.S. Open Cup action Tuesday while the RailHawks take on the USL Second Division Wilmington Hammerheads.
USL First Division
Thursday, June 11
Carolina RailHawks 0-0 Portland Timbers
A John Cunliffe sending-off five minutes into the second half left the RailHawks in a holding pattern as the two sides played to the scoreless stalemate. Carolina's Caleb Patterson and Portland's Steve Cronin each made two saves in the match.
Friday, June 12
Puerto Rico Islanders 4-1 Austin Aztex
It was a long strange trip to Puerto Rico for the expansion Aztex, and the match was no fun ride either as Jonathan Steele volleyed home five minutes in for an early Islanders lead. Cristian Arrieta struck from the spot in the 36th to double the lead, but Austin crawled back on an excellent long range effort from Jean Alexandre. However, Arrieta's fourth penalty in three games in the 70th minute restored the two-goal difference and Nicholas Addlery put the match out of reach in the 87th.
Miami FC Blues 2 at Vancouver Whitecaps 3
The visitors got on top early when Zourab Tsiskaridze scored just 10 minutes in, but the Wes Knight to Charles Gbeke combo put the Whitecaps on top with back-to-back strikes in the 16th and 34th minutes.
Saturday, June 13
Charleston Battery 1-1 Portland Timbers
Two of the most difficult teams to beat on the season thus far, proved to hold true against one another as Portland moved to 5-1-5 and Charleston remained unbeaten at 6-0-6. Randi Patterson put the Battery on top in the 64th with Mandjou Keita responding in the 84th for Portland.
Sunday, June 14
Miami FC Blues 2-0 Austin Aztex
After flying all the way across the continent from Vancouver, the Blues put up a surprising effort against Austin and did so right from the start. After hitting the woodwork on a penalty in the 17th, Diego Serna would finally find the net five minutes later to give Miami the lead. Then on the half-hour mark Connally Edozien made it 2-0 as Pat Hannigan held on for the shutout win.