USL First Division Weekend Round-Up

Three clubs lead the way at the top of United Soccer Leagues First Division standings, as the 2008 regular season enters the latter stages. Vancouver Whitecaps, Charleston Battery, and Puerto Rico Islanders look to have set the pace for who will finish top at the end of the 30-game campaign, with the top club receiving a first-round bye in the USL-1 playoffs. Action started as far back as last Tuesday, as a fine winning goal by Alfredo Valente gave the Whitecaps a 2-1 win at Miami FC Blues, with Vancouver maintaining their 100 percent all-time record in south Florida. There were three games on Friday, with Atlanta Silverbacks getting the better of Southern Derby rivals Charleston after 2-1 home win. Ansu Toure scored Atlanta's first-half winner before the talented Liberian received a red card in the second half. Puerto Rico missed the chance to take advantage of Charleston's slip-up when it fell 2-1 at home to Seattle Sounders. Josh Gardner scored Seattle's winner in the Caribbean. Those two results welcome news for Vancouver, as three first-half goals gave the Whitecaps a 3-2 win at Carolina RailHawks, despite Japanese fullback Takashi Hirano receiving a red card at WakeMed Soccer Park. The lone game on Saturday saw Portland Timbers overcome a Ricardo Sanchez penalty and Luchi Gonzalez strike to earn a 2-2 draw at Minnesota Thunder. Miguel Guante and a Bryan Jordan penalty in the second half claimed a point for Gavin Wilkinson's side. The weekend action wrapped up with three games on Sunday, including a top-of-the-table clash in South Carolina, as Charleston avenged a home defeat earlier in the season to the Whitecaps with a 2-0 result at Blackbaud Stadium. Osvaldo Alonso had both goals for the Battery. Puerto Rico then pulled to within a point of the top two after a 1-0 win over Carolina. Cristian Arrieta scored in the first half at the Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium. The best game of the weekend may have occurred in Upstate New York, with Atlanta edging a seven-goal thriller over Rochester Rhinos 4-3. The PAETEC Park encounter included three penalties and six bookings, with David Hayes' second-half spot kick claiming all three points for the Silverbacks.