USL First Division Weekend Round-Up

Portland Timbers lead the way in the early stages of the new USL First Division season after a second weekend of action. Nine of the 11 USL-1 clubs now have a game under their belts, with last season's championship finalists in Atlanta Silverbacks and Seattle Sounders raising the curtain of their 2008 campaigns on Saturday. Action began last Thursday night, as the Timbers paid to tribute to their long-serving mascot and ambassador in 'Timber Jim' Serrill, who formally retired from his role with the Oregon club. Timber Jim's final game saw new signing Chris Brown score a fine second-half winner to give Portland a 1-0 victory over ten-man Puerto Rico Islanders in front of 10,977 fans at PGE Park. The Caribbean visitors had to play just over half of the game a man short after Englishman Taiwo Atieno was sent off for allegedly using an elbow against Timbers defender Justin Thompson. There were three games on Saturday, with Montreal Impact recovering from their season-opening defeat at Canadian rivals Vancouver Whitecaps with a 2-1 win at Miami FC Blues. Things did not start well for Nick De Santis' side, however, as Brazilian striker Alex Afonso headed home Sean Cameron's cross give the south Florida club the lead. Montreal, however, looked far stronger in the second half and restored parity soon after the restart, as Roberto Brown headed home Leonardo Di Lorenzo's cross from the left for 1-1. The Impact's winner came from a Miami defensive error with seven minutes remaining, as JP Rodrigues' poor back header to Blues goalkeeper Josh Saunders forced a mix-up at the top of Miami's box and allowed new signing Dwight Barnett to lob the ball into an empty net for the away win. Defending USL-1 champions Seattle Sounders had a tough start to their final season in the league after claiming a late 1-1 draw at improved Charleston Battery. Louie Rolko gave the South Carolina club the lead with a fine first-half strike from Aaron King's pass before Kenji Treschuk salvaged the Sounders a point in injury time at Blackbaud Stadium with a fine low strike after Charleston failed to deal with a Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar free kick in their own box. Last year's USL-1 championship finalists Atlanta began their 2008 campaign with a 1-1 home draw against Southern Derby rivals Carolina RailHawks. After a goalless first half at RE/MAX Greater Atlanta Stadium, Carolina took the lead when new addition Steven Curfman curled a fine right-footed free kick past Silverbacks goalkeeper Ryan McIntosh four minutes after halftime. Atlanta earned a point when former Chicago Fire forward Jerson Monteiro came off the substitutes' bench to score the equalizer on 72 minutes.