USL First Division Weekend Round-Up
The battle of the top two in the United Soccer Leagues First Division ended in stalemate during the latest weekend of action.
Puerto Rico Islanders and Vancouver Whitecaps look to be the two frontrunners to win the Commissioner's Cup, but their latest clash gave neither side a clear advantage in the race for the USL-1 regular season title.
With the playoffs just around the corner, Montreal Impact boosted their postseason aspirations in North Carolina, while Rochester Rhinos made inroads to earning a higher playoff seed in Georgia. Minnesota Thunder, meanwhile, kept their hopes of making the playoffs alive with two good results in south Florida.
Action started last Wednesday, with the Whitecaps taking league lead for 48 hours after a convincing 2-0 home victory over Atlanta Silverbacks. Lyle Martin's first-ever goal for the goal proved to be the winner in the midweek match at Swangard Stadium.
Puerto Rico went back to the top of the table - albeit on goal difference - after a goalless draw with the third-place Battery in Charleston, South Carolina. The result was one of two games played on Friday, with Minnesota claiming a remarkable 2-1 victory at Miami FC Blues. Zinho's side were left fuming with referee Fernando Galvan, as he sent off no less than three Miami players in Leo Inacio Nunes, John Pulido, and Walter Ramirez in the final six minutes of the match at Tropical Park Stadium.
On Saturday, Montreal made it three wins in a row after a 2-0 victory over the RailHawks in Carolina. After a severe thunderstorm delayed kick-off at WakeMed Soccer Park by two hours, recent acquisition Peter Byers scored his first two goals in an Impact uniform, despite having defender Nevio Pizzolitto sent off and head coach John Limniatis ejected from the game. While the Impact are in Central America this week for CONCACAF Champions League action, Scott Schweitzer's RailHawks look likely to miss out on the USL-1 postseason following the home defeat. In Atlanta, meanwhile, Rochester moved level on points with Charleston in the standings after Johnny Menyongar scored the Rhinos' winner in a 1-0 win over the Silverbacks. Defeat for Jason Smith's side ran their winless streak to eight games and left their playoff hopes hanging in the balance.
Miami's playoff hopes slimmed further after Minnesota took another away point versus the Blues on Sunday. Nathan Knox canceled out Sean Fraser's opening goal in a 1-1 draw at Tropical Park. In Puerto Rico, the game of the weekend also ended in a draw. Takashi Hirano's superb free kick finish canceled out Kendall Jagdeosingh's second-half goal, as the Islanders and Whitecaps shared the spoils after a 1-1 draw at the Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium in Bayamon.