USL First Division Weekend Round-Up
Portland Timbers made it three wins out of three with two more home victories in the United Soccer Leagues First Division.
Gavin Wilkinson's side have set the early pace in USL-1, as another seven league games took place over the weekend. With the exception of Rochester Rhinos, the ten remaining USL-1 clubs have played at least two games in the 2008 campaign.
The action started last Thursday in Oregon, as Portland recorded their second win of the year with a 2-1 home success over Minnesota Thunder. Portland native Chris Brown scored his second goal of the season after just nine minutes before Aaron Paye took advantage of some slack Portland marking to convert a low Ricardo Sanchez cross for the equalizer just before halftime. The Timbers secured all three points on 65 minutes when Shaun Higgins converted Andrew Gregor's cross at the far post.
Friday's games saw Miami FC Blues record their first win of the season with a 2-0 away victory over Puerto Rico Islanders. In the first of two weekend games on the Caribbean island, Sean Cameron headed home Walter Ramirez's free kick midway through the first half to give Miami the lead. Despite the soggy conditions and having Cameron sent off for a late challenge in the second half, Blues substitute Juan Pablo Galavis headed home Alex Afonso's cross with nine minutes remaining to earn the south Florida club an important away win.
Atlanta Silverbacks also claimed their first win of the season after surprising Montreal Impact 3-2 at RE/MAX Greater Atlanta Stadium. Macoumba Kandji gave Jason Smith's side the lead, as he beat Impact goalkeeper Andrew Weber through the legs on 19 minutes. Montreal's response was emphatic, however, as Patrick Leduc blasted home a close-range volley for a 1-1 halftime scoreline. David Hayes restored Atlanta's lead when he made the most of a neat Rodrigo Rios through ball to score seven minutes after the restart. Former Vancouver Whitecaps striker Jason McLaughlin then struck Atlanta's winner with a fine twisting header from Ansu Toure's cross on 71 minutes. The Impact made the scoreline respectable with a late goal from substitute Charles Gbeke, but the result was Montreal's second defeat in their opening three league games.
On Saturday, a fine first-half strike by Connally Edozien gave Carolina RailHawks their first win of 2008, as they dispatched of Southern Derby rivals Charleston Battery 1-0 at WakeMed Soccer Park. Charleston also had John Wilson sent off on the hour mark for a poor challenge on Carolina's Martin Nunez. Saturday also saw Portland claim win number three with a 2-0 result over Pacific Northwest rivals Seattle Sounders. Japanese striker Takayuki Suzuki scored his first-ever goal for his new club with a superb strike after just six minutes, and despite lots of pressure from the defending USL-1 champions, it was Suzuki who set up another new signing in Miguel Guante to score Portland's second goal, as the Timbers maintained their 100 per cent record to sit at the top of the USL-1 standings.
The other Saturday match-up saw Minnesota bounce back from a season-opening defeat in Portland by claiming their first win in Vancouver since 1997 with a 1-0 win over the Whitecaps. Ricardo Sanchez's second half penalty was the difference, as Vancouver's Japanese defender Takashi Hirano had brought down Thunder striker Luchi Gonzalez in the box.
The lone game on Sunday saw similar soggy conditions, but a different scoreline, as Puerto Rico won their second home meeting with Miami 3-1. Penalties from Puerto Rico's Victor Herrera and Miami's Alex Afonso meant a 1-1 halftime scoreline before Osei Telesford struck the winner for Colin Clarke's side on 76 minutes. Englishman Taiwo Atieno ensured all three points for Puerto Rico late on, as both clubs finished the match with ten men. Miami's Cristiano Dias and Puerto Rico's Christian Arrieta were both red carded by referee Reggie Rutty.