Puerto Rico Islanders need only a point to claim the United Soccer Leagues First Division regular season title following their latest success this past weekend.
In what was the penultimate weekend of regular season action in USL-1, three clubs secured their places in the league playoffs, while two sides were officially ruled out of postseason contention.
Montreal Impact may have had a slow start to the 2008 season, but a fine recent run of results culminated in the Quebec club taking a playoff spot with a 2-1 victory at Seattle Sounders on Wednesday evening. Second-half goals from former Whitecaps midfielder Tony Donatelli and Antonio Ribeiro gave Montreal the win at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila, Washington.
Thursday saw Charleston Battery become the next club to earn a postseason berth after a dramatic 2-1 victory over the Timbers in Portland. Late goals by Lazo Alavanja and Aaron King all but ended Portland's hopes of making the playoffs, despite a first-half strike by Shaun Higgins.
Friday saw Puerto Rico take another step towards the Commissioner's Cup title as regular season champions after a 2-0 win over Rochester Rhinos in Upstate New York. Goals by Kendall Jagdeosingh and Cristian Arrieta kept the Islanders at the summit of USL-1, with Colin Clarke's side needing just a draw from their final two games to earn a first-round playoff bye.
There were three matches on Saturday, with Minnesota Thunder taking their unbeaten run to five games with an emphatic 4-0 victory at home to Charleston. Melvin Tarley led the way by scoring two of Minnesota's four goals at the National Sports Center. The result also ended the playoff hopes of Portland and Miami FC Blues, with both clubs unable to finish in the top seven. Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Charles Gbeke came back to haunt his old club Montreal by scoring the match-winning goal just before halftime, as the Whitecaps edged the Impact 1-0 at Swangard Stadium. The win guarantees that Vancouver can finish no lower than second in the standings, while the three points kept the Whitecaps hopes of a first-place finish still alive. Down the road in Seattle, the Sounders added themselves to the list of clubs that made the playoffs with a 1-1 draw versus Atlanta Silverbacks. The Georgia-based outfit have two games left to try and claim the final playoff spot.
The lone game on Sunday saw Hamed Diallo score against former club Rochester, but the Rhinos claimed a point versus the RailHawks in Carolina after Ross Smith secured a 1-1 draw at WakeMed Soccer Park. Carolina remain alive to make the playoffs, but Scott Schweitzer's side will need to win their final two games to have any chance of playing in the postseason.