USL First Division Weekend Round-Up

Portland Timbers and Minnesota Thunder remain the front-runners in the early stages of the United Soccer Leagues First Division season after the latest weekend of action. After three straight wins to begin 2008, Portland had to settle draws this weekend, while Minnesota made it three victories on the trot to move into second in the USL-1 standings. The Timbers dropped their first points at home on Thursday night, as Rochester Rhinos recovered from two season-opening defeats the previous weekend to claim a goalless draw at PGE Park. There were goals in the lone Friday night encounter, as Charleston Battery came from a goal down to claim their second win of the season with a 3-1 home success over Miami FC Blues. Despite going behind to an early strike from Brazilian striker Alex Afonso, Randi Patterson leveled for the Battery before former Cuban international Osvaldo Alonso struck a fortunate winner early in the second half. Patterson put the game out of Miami's reach with a fine header in the late stages at Blackbaud Stadium. There were four games on Saturday, with Atlanta Silverbacks and hosts Carolina RailHawks having to settle for a 2-2 draw in the first Southern Derby Cup game of the season. Former Vancouver Whitecaps striker Jason McLaughlin converted an Ansu Toure pass to give Atlanta the lead before former Silverbacks hit-man Dan Antoniuk took a Steven Curfman pass to slot home an equalizer for Carolina. There would be late drama at WakeMed Soccer Park, as both sides found the back of the net again. Jamil Walker thought he had won the game for the RailHawks after getting a piece of Kupono Low's free kick on 83 minutes, but a minute after taking the lead, David Hayes ensured a share of the spoils for Atlanta. In wet conditions in St Paul, Minnesota recorded a third-straight 1-0 victory after substitute Melvin Tarley headed home Frederico Moojen's cross in second-half stoppage time to hand Montreal Impact their third defeat in five games. In Seattle, meanwhile, a crowd of 10,184 showed up at Qwest Field to see the Sounders create more of the chances in their home opener against Pacific Northwest rivals Portland Timbers, but settle for a 0-0 draw. The story was similar up the road at Swangard Stadium in Vancouver, as the Whitecaps carried most of the play against visiting Rochester. However, Whitecaps fans went home happy after Eduardo Sebrango scored his second goal of the season for a 1-0 win.