The battle for positions in the United Soccer Leagues First Division standings is beginning to heat up, as clubs near the two-thirds mark of their seasons following the latest round of weekend action.
There is little to choose between all 11 clubs in USL-1 at the moment, as a set of results either way could have considerable impact on a team's position in the league table.
The latest action started last Wednesday, as Vancouver Whitecaps needed a late second-half goal from Charles Gbeke to cancel out Randi Patterson's opening strike for USL-1 leaders Charleston Battery in a 1-1 draw at Swangard Stadium.
Vancouver's weekend opponents in Carolina RailHawks started their two-game Pacific Northwest road trip with a goalless draw at Portland Timbers, with both sides having a man sent off at PGE Park. The other game on Thursday saw Minnesota Thunder begin life after Amos Magee in positive fashion, as they recorded their first win in two months and at their new National Sports Center home with a 2-1 result over Seattle Sounders.
The lone game on Friday saw Rochester Rhinos play the first match of a home-and-home series with Montreal Impact, with both clubs having to settle for a 1-1 draw at PAETEC Park. Leonardo Di Lorenzo's fine free kick earned Montreal a point in Upstate New York after Danny Earls had given Rochester the lead.
The two games on Saturday took place in the Pacific Northwest, with the Whitecaps getting an early goal from Eduardo Sebrango in a 1-0 home win over Carolina - Vancouver's first win over the RailHawks in club history. Down in Seattle, meanwhile, the Sounders got a fine second-half strike from Frenchman Sebastien Le Toux, as they recorded a crucial 1-0 victory over Charleston at the Starfire Sports Complex.
The weekend ended with three games on Sunday. Rochester claimed an impressive 2-0 win over Montreal at Saputo Stadium – much in thanks to first-half goals from Luke Kreamalmeyer and Matthew Delicate. In south Florida, Miami FC Blues scored two goals inside the first half-hour on their way to a 3-0 victory over Atlanta Silverbacks. In Minnesota, Puerto Rico Islanders move to within a point of leaders Charleston after coming from two goals down to defeat the Thunder 3-2. Josh Hansen, Fabrice Noel, and Edwin Miranda struck the decisive goals in the second half at the National Sports Center.