By Simon Fudge/whitecapsfc.com
Portland Timbers secured the United Soccer Leagues First Division regular season title following a very busy week of action.
The Oregon-based outfit claimed their first Commissioner's Cup since 2004 and a first-round bye in this season's USL-1 playoffs, with several other issues also being resolved during the next-to-last week of the 2009 regular season. Montreal Impact, Rochester Rhinos, and Vancouver Whitecaps also secured the final three postseason berths during the latest round of action.
The action began on Labour Day Monday, with Portland earning a late 1-0 victory at Austin Aztex through a goal by Stephen Keel. On Tuesday, Rochester earned their playoff spot - and that of Montreal's - with a 2-1 victory at Miami FC Blues. Johnny Menyongar scored both goals for the Rhinos in South Florida. In the Caribbean, a Cristian Arrieta penalty and a goal by John Krause gave Puerto Rico Islanders a 2-0 victory over Carolina RailHawks.
The league's two Canadian clubs met for the fifth this season on Wednesday, with Montreal's Peter Byers scoring in the time added on at the end of the match to claim a 1-0 home victory over Vancouver at Stade Saputo.
There was a surprise result in Minnesota on Thursday, as the Thunder defeated Puerto Rico 5-2 at the National Sports Center Stadium. Rod Dyachenko and Ricardo Sanchez each had a goal and an assist for the home side.
The final playoff spot was determined on Friday, as Vancouver were assured their place in the postseason after Charleston Battery defeated Miami FC 2-1 in South Carolina. Scott Buete's comical late winner at Blackbaud Stadium meant the Blues missed out of the playoffs for a third straight year. In Portland, the Timbers were left stunned by a 2-1 home defeat to Austin at PGE Park. Ryan McMahen and Lyle Adams scored in the second half to secure only the Aztex's second away win of the year.
On Saturday, Carolina avenged their midweek defeat in Puerto Rico by defeating the Islanders 2-1 at WakeMed Soccer Park. Early goals by Gregory Richardson and Andriy Budnyy meant the RailHawks leapfrogged their Caribbean rivals into second place in the USL-1 standings.
There were four matches on Sunday to wrap up the week. Rochester and Miami FC played to a goalless draw in Upstate New York, while Montreal claimed a late 1-1 draw with Minnesota Thunder at Stade Saputo. Byers scored the Impact's equalizer before being sent off near the end of the match at Stade Saputo. In Vancouver, the Whitecaps returned to winning ways after late goals by Marcus Haber and Gordon Chin earned a 2-1 win over Austin at Swangard Stadium. Finally, Portland suffered another shock home result, as they were beaten 1-0 by Cleveland City Stars at PGE Park. Jason Hotchkin's first-half free kick gave the Ohio-based outfit a bright moment in what has been a tough transition to USL-1 from the USL Second Division this season.