USL First Division Weekend Round-Up
Carolina RailHawks and Minnesota Thunder continued their bright starts to the United Soccer Leagues First Division season with victories this past weekend.
The weekend action also saw Rochester Rhinos raise the curtain on their 2008 campaign with two games on the road. Darren Tilley's side started the season on Friday night in South Carolina, but the Upstate New York club had a tough start after falling 2-0 to Charleston Battery at Blackbaud Stadium. Randi Patterson gave Charleston the lead just before halftime before Aaron King took advantage of an Osvaldo Alonso through ball to score the second goal nine minutes from the end. The Rhinos struggled at times to contain their hosts, as the Battery created the better of the game's chances.
Charleston's win was one of three games on Friday, with last season's USL-1 championship finalists in Atlanta Silverbacks and Seattle Sounders locking horns in a re-match at the RE/MAX Greater Atlanta Stadium. The league champions would record their win of the season with a 2-0 victory. Leighton O'Brien scored directly from a corner after just eight minutes for Seattle before French striker Sebastien Le Toux was able to just get a piece of O'Brien's forward ball to complete the scoring on 66 minutes.
In Puerto Rico, a rain-soaked Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium pitch did not stop the Islanders from taking on Montreal Impact, who were looking to bounce back from a 3-2 defeat in Atlanta. Despite having forward Roberto Brown sent off for a bad challenge on Puerto Rico midfielder Osei Telesford five minutes before halftime, former Whitecaps striker Joey Gjertsen scored his first goal of the season when he converted a Dwight Barnett pass for the game winner. The result avenged the Impact's defeat to the Islanders in last season's playoff quarterfinals.
There were two games on Sunday, with Carolina joining league leaders Portland Timbers as the two remaining undefeated clubs in USL-1 after Dan Antoniuk's late strike gave the RailHawks a 1-0 success at Miami FC Blues. Moving into third place in the standings was Minnesota, as another former Whitecaps striker in Alen Marcina scored a first-half winner to register a 1-0 win over Rochester in the Thunder's home opener at James Griffin Stadium in St. Paul. Minnesota goalkeeper Nicolas Platter also saved a first-half penalty from Rochester's Hamed Diallo to preserve a clean sheet.