Two champions will collide Friday when the defending W-League title holders Pali Blues travel to Maryland to face the 2007 champion Washington Freedom in the W-League championship game at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
Pali posted a surprising 4-0 victory on the road over fellow unbeaten Hudson Valley Quickstrike Lady Blues, the regular season champion, in the semifinals last Friday evening. Mexican international striker Iris Mora scored and set up to other tallies in the match. The following night in a completely opposite encounter, the Ottawa Fury and Freedom dueled to a scoreless stalemate through 120 minutes before goalkeeper Chante Sandiford made two saves for a 3-1 decision in the penalty kick tiebreaker to send the Freedom through.
Meanwhile in the Premier Development League, the Elite Eight weekend saw a continuation of the top seeds exiting early from the previous divisional tournaments the week before, a trend that has become common in the PDL over the years. Advancing from the weekend were the eighth-seeded Chicago Fire, who were second in their division, and the 20th-seeded Ventura County Fusion, who will host the PDL Championship Saturday.
Kitsap, the highest remaining seed at number three, was knocked out in the quarterfinals 2-1 on a 90th minute free kick by the Ventura County Fusion in Laredo, where the host and defending three-time finalist Heat also were upended, falling 3-1 in overtime to Bradenton. The Fusion went on to score six unanswered in the semifinal, beginning just two minutes after allowing the opener to the Academics. In Des Moines, the Fire blanked the Ocean City Barons, who had an excellent US Open Cup run earlier in the year with two upsets over pro clubs, by an unexpected 3-0 scoreline and the host Menace were ousted 1-0 by the Cary Clarets. Chicago needed overtime to advance, downing Cary 2-1 to return to the final for the first time since finishing runners-up in 2003.
USL First Division
While USL-1 co-leaders Puerto Rico Islanders may have been the first in action on the week, it was a non-league affair as they posted a 1-0 victory on the road in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League Preliminary Round series against Major League Soccer's Toronto FC Wednesday. League action resumed the following night, however, with the Charleston Battery claiming sole possession of first with a narrow 1-0 win over Austin on a Scott Buete strike early in the second half. On Friday, the Vancouver Whitecaps rolled to a 3-1 victory in Rochester on a pair of goals from Marlon James and a goal and assist from Tyrell Burgess.
On a busy Saturday night, the Portland Timbers were unable to keep pace with Charleston due to a 90th minute penalty, but their 1-1 draw in Minnesota was enough to extend their record unbeaten run to 18 games. Another late 90th minute strike cost Montreal a win in Miami as the two finished 1-1 while Vancouver and Cleveland went scoreless in Ohio. Carolina moved tighter to the lead pack with a 3-0 victory over Austin. USL Second Division
In a meeting of playoff-bound sides Wednesday, the Richmond Kickers took a narrow 1-0 decision on the road against Harrisburg to pull even with Wilmington at the top of the table. Then on Saturday, the Kickers edged Real Maryland 1-0 while the Hammerheads were posting a 2-0 win in Pittsburgh, keeping the two tied at the top. Meanwhile, the Charlotte Eagles stayed in the playoff hunt with a 0-0 draw in Bermuda. In a rough week for the City Islanders, they were shutout again Sunday, but earned a point in a scoreless draw on the road against Real Maryland.