USL First Division Weekend Round-Up

By Simon Fudge/ Portland Timbers took a big step towards claiming the United Soccer Leagues First Division regular season title after a pair of wins on the road. Fellow Commissioner's Cup contenders Charleston Battery and Puerto Rico Islanders also claimed victories during the latest round of action, while Carolina RailHawks saw their four-match winning streak come to an end in British Columbia. The action started on Tuesday night, with Charleston getting two goals from Japanese import Tsuyoshi Yoshitake, as the Battery defeated the struggling Cleveland City Stars 4-1 at Blackbaud Stadium. On Wednesday night in Quebec, a late goal by Ryan Pore gave Portland a 1-0 away win over Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo. The lone Friday night match-up saw Minnesota Thunder earn a well-deserved 1-0 win over Miami FC Blues in South Florida. Melvin Tarley's second-half strike at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, gave Donny Gramenz's side their first away win of the season. There were three games on Saturday, with Portland extending their remarkable unbeaten streak to 22 matches with a 4-1 win at Rochester Rhinos. Mandjou Keita and Pore each had a goal and an assist in the Timbers' victory in Upstate New York. In the Caribbean, Puerto Rico Islanders kept pace with the USL-1 frontrunners after an important 1-0 home win over Montreal. Defender John Krause scored the Islanders' winning goal late in the first half at the Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium. On the west coast, Vancouver Whitecaps were left frustrated by a 0-0 draw versus Carolina at Swangard Stadium, despite outplaying the RailHawks for the majority of the contest. Finally, on Sunday, Minnesota left it late to earn a 2-2 draw with fellow USL-1 strugglers Austin Aztex in the Texas state capital. Tarley's two goals for the Thunder - including a very late equalizer - confirmed a four-goal stalemate at Nelson Field.