USL First Division Weekend Round-Up

There is little to separate the top three clubs in the United Soccer Leagues First Division, with the race for the regular season title likely heading for the wire. Only two points separate Charleston Battery, Puerto Rico Islanders, and Vancouver Whitecaps at the top of the USL-1 standings, though defending league champions Seattle Sounders and last season's USL-1 championship finalists Atlanta Silverbacks are both well positioned to make moves toward the summit, with the Commissioner's Cup going to the top club at the end of the 30-match regular season schedule next month. The latest weekend of action started as early as last Tuesday, with the Whitecaps concluding a difficult four-games-in-eight-days road trip with a disappointing 3-2 defeat at Atlanta Silverbacks. Youngsters Luca Bellisomo and Admir Salihovic scored their first-ever USL-1 goals for Vancouver in a losing cause in the US state of Georgia. There were two games on Thursday, with Minnesota Thunder claiming an important 2-1 win at home to Charleston. Former Whitecaps striker Alen Marcina had an assist and the match-winning penalty versus the Battery. In Oregon, meanwhile, Seattle made their last regular season visit as a USL-1 club to arch-rivals Portland Timbers, with Brian Schmetzer's side keeping their hopes alive of retaining the fan-based Cascadia Cup with a 1-0 win in front of a crowd of 12,332 at PGE Park. The three games on Friday saw Montreal Impact extend Carolina RailHawks' winless streak to nine games, as John Limniatis' side recorded a 2-0 victory at WakeMed Soccer Park. Atlanta, meanwhile, continued their busy month of August with a goalless draw at home to Miami FC Blues. In the Caribbean, Puerto Rico continued to impress by hammering Rochester Rhinos 4-0 at the Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium. El Salvadoran midfielder Edwin Miranda scored twice against the Upstate New York club. The lone game on Saturday saw Portland extend their winless streak to seven games after a 1-1 draw with Charleston at PGE Park. Lazo Alavanja canceled out Bryan Jordan's first-half goal in The City of Roses. The weekend ended with three games on Sunday, including a 1-1 draw in the return match between Rochester and Puerto Rico at PAETEC Park. Alfonso Loera scored for the Rhinos before Taiwo Atieno equalized for the Islanders. Minnesota, meanwhile, made it two wins-in-a-row after an impressive 3-1 victory over Seattle. Mexican Ricardo Sanchez scored the crucial goals in the second half at the National Sports Center. Finally in Vancouver, the Whitecaps avenged their midweek defeat to Atlanta by beating the Silverbacks 3-2 at Swangard Stadium. Vancouver's Eduardo Sebrango and Atlanta's Ansu Toure each scored twice in a thrilling afternoon encounter in Burnaby, British Columbia.