USL-1 regular season closes quietly
With the playoff field and regular season champions already set, the 2009 USL First Division regular season came to a peaceful end as the teams set for seeds two through seven jockeyed for playoff position over the course of six games in the final four days.
Two contests featured bouts between playoff-bound sides, but neither finished with immediate rematches for the quarterfinals the following week as Carolina defeated Montreal to secure second and Charleston battled to a scoreless draw in Rochester.
In the end, the Portland Timbers were followed by the RailHawks, Puerto Rico Islanders and Battery in the top four, respectively, with the Impact, Rhinos and defending champion Vancouver Whitecaps rounding out the bottom three of the playoff sides.
As the Commissioner's Cup winners the Timbers receive a bye to the league semifinals and will face the lowest remaining seed. The quarterfinals will see the RailHawks facing Vancouver, the Battery taking on Montreal and the Rhinos squaring off against Puerto Rico in a rematch of last year's semifinal round series that was decided in overtime in favor of the Islanders.
Thursday, Sept. 17
Cleveland City Stars 1 at Portland Timbers 2
The last-place City Stars were unable to duplicate the upset of a week ago as the Timbers snapped a surprising three-game home losing streak. With Ryan Pore observing a suspension, George Josten stepped to the forefront with a strike six minutes in and another 11 minutes into the second half for a two-goal advantage. Ryan Stewart made it interesting in the 63rd, but Cleveland was unable to find another for a draw.
Friday, Sept. 18
Montreal Impact 0 at Carolina RailHawks 2
Daniel Paladini converted a penalty kick just shy of the hour mark in the match and new loan addition from USL-2 champion Richmond Matthew Delicate set up Brian Plotkin to secure the victory in the 90th minute.
Charleston Battery 0 at Rochester Rhinos 0
With both clubs reeling from recent losses of their top players for the playoffs due to injury, preparing for the playoffs may have been more important than potential seeding. The Battery saw Keith Wiggins post a shutout in goal as he continued as Dusty Hudock's replacement while the Rhinos remained scoreless without Johnny Menyongar in the lineup.
Cleveland City Stars 1 at Vancouver Whitecaps 2
Despite playing the night before, the visitors showed plenty of heart as they rallied back from an early 11th minute Charles Gbeke header to tie it up on a fantastic effort from Teteh Bangura moments before the break. Vancouver's decider came from the spot with Marlon James converting from 12 yards in the 73rd following a handball in the box.
Saturday, Sept. 19
With little on the line and a Champions League game on the horizon, the Islanders sent most of the regular starters out for the finale in South Florida and rolled to an easy victory over Miami. Nicholas Addlery scored a minute into the affair and set up Jonathan Steele in the 26th to double the lead. Josh Hanson tallied on the hour mark with an own goal giving the Blues their only consolation on the night in the 73rd. Sunday, Sept. 20
Charleston Battery 3 at Minnesota Thunder 2
The Thunder did not go so quietly into the offseason as they fought back from a two-goal deficit. Darren Spicer struck 17 minutes in and Tsuyoshi Yoshitake made it 2-0 in the 26th, but two minutes later Melvin Tarley pulled one back for Minnesota. In the 35th, Ricardo Sanchez put the match back on level terms for the second half. Yoshitake, however, proved the difference, connecting with Dan Antoniuk for the winner in the 79th.