Minnesota scores three unanswered goals in second half to win game but lose series
Special to The Sun
MINNEAPOLIS- Whitecaps have advanced to the semifinals of the USL First Division playoffs after holding on to defeat Minnesota Thunder 5-4 on aggregate, despite losing Sunday's second leg 4-3.
In an eventful game at the National Sports Center Stadium in Blaine, Minn., the Whitecaps built on a 2-0 first-leg win at home, as goals by Alfredo Valente, Martin Nash, and Eduardo Sebrango had Vancouver in a 5-1 aggregate lead at one stage.
However, the Thunder made the series a contest right up until the final whistle, with Minnesota scoring three unanswered goals in the second half after Luchi Gonzalez had struck for the home side in the first half. Melvin Tarley, Stephen deRoux, and a late penalty from substitute Frederico Moojen gave Minnesota a final win before bringing their 2008 USL-1 season to a close.
Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson made one change to the lineup that started the first leg at Swangard on Friday night, with Charles Gbeke replacing Nicholas Addlery in the visitors' attack.
Thunder interim head coach Donny Gramenz also made one change to his starting XI, with Brian Kallman replacing Kevin Taylor in the Minnesota backline.
The Whitecaps will now return home and prepare for a two-leg semifinal clash with Canadian arch-rivals Montreal Impact, who overcame Seattle Sounders 4-3 on aggregate after a thrilling 3-1 second-leg win at Saputo Stadium in Quebec on Sunday. Details of both semifinal matches will be announced on Monday.
On Wednesday, the Impact will be in Honduras to play Club Deportivo Olimpia in their latest Group C match in the CONCACAF Champions League.
In the other USL-1 semifinal, Commissioner's Cup winners Puerto Rico Islanders will face Rochester Rhinos over two legs next weekend.
The Rhinos advanced to the semis after claiming a 2-1 aggregate win over Charleston Battery in their quarterfinal series.
© The Vancouver Sun 2008