USL First Division Weekend Round-Up
By Simon Fudge/whitecapsfc.com
Portland Timbers became the first club in the United Soccer Leagues First Division to clinch a playoff berth following the latest weekend of action.
Gavin Wilkinson's side made it 23 matches without defeat on Saturday, as fellow regular season title-chasers Charleston Battery and Carolina RailHawks lost ground on the Oregon-based outfit. The league's two Canadian clubs in Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps also had a productive week.
The action started on Tuesday, with Carolina needing a late goal from Ukrainian striker Andriy Budnyy to earn a 1-1 draw with the Whitecaps in Cary, North Carolina. Montreal, meanwhile, got second-half goals from Peter Byers and Mauro Biello, as the Impact defeated Cleveland City Stars 2-1 in Bedford, Ohio.
Wednesday saw a six-goal thriller in Upstate New York, with Minnesota Thunder earning a point with a dramatic 3-3 draw versus Rochester Rhinos. Jeremiah Bass' late goal meant a share of the spoils at Marina Auto Stadium.
The lone match on Thursday saw the Whitecaps claim a third-straight draw after a 1-1 result with Charleston in South Carolina. The Battery's Ian Fuller cancelled out Charles Gbeke's early goal for Vancouver at Blackbaud Stadium.
There were three games on Saturday, with Cleveland ending a 13-match winless streak following a 1-0 home win over Minnesota. Teteh Bangura's first-half goal gave Rod Underwood's City Stars all three points. Carolina, meanwhile, took their unbeaten run to seven games after a goalless draw at Rochester. Portland made sure they reached the postseason for the first time since 2007 after a 3-1 home win over team-man Miami FC Blues. Mandjou Keita had two goals and an assist for the Timbers at PGE Park, as Portland registered their fifth straight win in USL-1. Miami's Walter Ramirez was sent off in the second half for a horrible challenge on Timbers midfielder Tony McManus.
Sunday saw the two Canadian clubs in action at home, with Montreal defeating strugglers Austin Aztex 2-0 at Stade Saputo in Quebec. Cedric Joqueviel and Peter Byers had the goals for the Impact. In Vancouver, two late goals by Gbeke earned the Whitecaps an important 2-0 home win over Miami FC.