USL First Division Weekend Round-Up
By Simon Fudge/whitecapsfc.com
Puerto Rico Islanders returned to the top of United Soccer Leagues First Division, despite two goalless draws over the weekend.
0-0 stalemates have been the order of the day for the Caribbean outfit since the start of July, with the Islanders out in front of a very busy-looking top end of the USL-1 standings. Portland Timbers kept pace with a late win in Texas, while Minnesota Thunder and Vancouver Whitecaps had mixed fortunes with their latest league contests.
The weekend action began on Thursday night, with the Whitecaps returning from an extended break to thrash Minnesota 4-0 at Swangard Stadium. Lyle Martin's first-half goal was followed a Martin Nash penalty and late strikes by Charles Gbeke and Marcus Haber. The result was Vancouver's biggest win in USL-1 for exactly four years.
On Friday night, Puerto Rico and Rochester Rhinos drew 0-0 at Marina Auto Stadium in Upstate New York. Despite the scoreline, the match was an eventful one, with Rochester's Brent Sancho and head coach Darren Tilley both sent off early in the second half.
There were three games on Saturday, with Carolina RailHawks earning a share of the Southern Derby Cup after 1-0 away victory over Charleston Battery. Sallieu Bundu's first-half strike was enough to claim all three points at Blackbaud Stadium. In Minnesota, meanwhile, the Thunder recovered from defeat in Vancouver to defeat Montreal Impact 3-0 at home. Ricardo Sanchez, Brian Cvilikas, and Melvin Tarley earned Minnesota only their second win of the season at the National Sports Center Stadium. It was Montreal's third straight defeat in USL-1, with Nevio Pizzolitto sent off in the match for dissent. On Monday, Impact midfielder Sandro Grande was suspended by the club following his unsportsmanlike behaviour towards teammate Mauro Biello during the game in Blaine, Minnesota.
The third match on Saturday saw late drama in the Texas state capital, as Portland defeated Austin Aztex 2-1. The Aztex thought they had earned a draw after Gifton Noel-Williams canceled out Mandjou Keita's opening goal for the Oregon-based outfit. However, the Timbers claimed a valuable away win through Johan Claesson in the dying stages.
The two matches on Sunday saw Puerto Rico make it 0-0 draw number three after the Islanders could not break down the struggling Cleveland City Stars in Bedford, Ohio. In South Florida, Miami FC Blues claimed their first-ever home win versus the Whitecaps after a 2-1 victory at Florida International University Stadium. Former 'Caps striker Alen Marcina and a Leo Inacio Nunes penalty sealed the win for the Blues, while youngster Dever Orgill struck a late consolation goal for Vancouver.