Rematch from 2008 semifinals highlights opening round

USL News Release

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

TAMPA, FL – The USL First Division playoffs kick off with the three Quarterfinal round series Thursday evening in Montreal, Rochester and Vancouver as seeds two through seven compete to join the regular season champion Portland Timbers in the Semifinals the following week.

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Highlighting the opening round of the playoffs is a rematch between 2008 Semifinalists Puerto Rico and Rochester, who dueled to a thrilling overtime decision last year. Meanwhile, Carolina returns to the playoffs after a year’s absence, but will face the defending champion Vancouver Whitecaps. The third series pits veteran rivals and former league champions Charleston Battery and Montreal Impact against one another. The Timbers await the lowest remaining seed to advance.

#2 Carolina RailHawks (16-7-7, 55 pts) vs #7 Vancouver Whitecaps (11-10-9, 42 pts)
Sept 24 at Vancouver – 10:30 pm ET :: Sept 27 at Carolina – 5:00 pm ET
2009 Season Series – Video Highlights [+]

Two clubs on the polar opposites of the spectrum, the two-time champion Whitecaps come in as the lower seed against Carolina, who posted the first winning record in the franchise’s brief three-year history. Carolina previously advanced to the playoffs in 2007, but were quickly dispatched 3-0 on aggregate by the eventual champion Seattle Sounders.

This season, the Carolina RailHawks took the season series with a win in the opener in Carolina and two draws since. An own goal and Sallieu Bundu tally in the opener proved enough as Vancouver was only able to get a goal from Charles Gbeke in the 90th of the 2-1 defeat. They then played to a scoreless draw in Vancouver and finished 1-1 back in Carolina in the final meeting in which rookie Marcus Haber scored in the 66th and Andriy Budnyy equalized with three minutes remaining.

The all-time series between the two sides is as even as it can be at 2-2-4 over and 1-1-2 in both Carolina and Vancouver.

The Whitecaps enter the playoffs as arguably the most difficult team to beat having only lost one game in their last 10 at 4-1-5. They are 4-0-2 at home during that stretch, but are winless on the road at 0-1-3. Carolina has a similar story over the past 10 games at 4-2-4 overall with records of 4-0-1 at home and 0-2-3 on the road.

#3 Puerto Rico Islanders (15-7-8, 53 pts) vs #6 Rochester Rhinos (11-9-10, 43 pts)
Sept 24 at Rochester – 7:05 pm ET :: Sept 27 at Puerto Rico – 6:00 pm ET
2009 Season Series – Video Highlights [+]

The semifinal series of a year ago was a thrilling affair. The regular season champion Islanders, in the midst of their amazing CONCACAF Champions League run, suffered a surprising 2-0 loss on the road in the first leg, giving up two second half goals by Andrew Gregor and Johnny Menyongar after a first half ejection to Edwin Miranda. In the second leg, Fabrice Noel and Taiwo Atieno, now a member of the Rhinos, scored in the first half to level the series, which proceeded to overtime where Cristian Arrieta tallied the winner in the 119th minute.

Since that opening leg though, Rochester has been unable to find a way past Bill Gaudette, suffering the second leg shutout and three more this year. The 2009 meetings led off with a pair of scoreless draws in each venue with the Islanders taking the season series with a 2-0 win on goals from Dan Gargan and Sandy Gbandi September 6. The scoreless run goes back four games as well in Puerto Rico for the Rhinos, encompassing Darren Tilley’s two-year tenure as coach.

Tilley’s Rhinos come into the series with a record of 1-4-3 overall against Puerto Rico, going 1-1-2 at home and 0-3-1 on the island, a record that is contradictory to their form on the road this season. The Rhinos led the league with eight wins away from home this year, but will be tested again against and Islanders squad that was also the best at home with only one defeat on the year.

The Rhinos come into the series 3-2-5 over the last 10 games with a 1-1-4 record at home and 2-1-1 mark on the road. Puerto Rico is 6-3-1 in their last 10 (5-0-0 at home, 1-3-1 away) despite also balancing six Champions League games (1-2-3) at the same time. In their three Champions League home games, Puerto Rico is unbeaten with three draws, recently playing Mexican power Cruz Azul to a 3-3 tie and Costa Rican juggernaut Saprissa to a 1-1 finish.

#4 Charleston Battery (14-5-11, 53 pts) vs #5 Montreal Impact (12-11-7, 43 pts)
Sept 24 at Montreal – 7:45 pm ET :: Sept 27 at Charleston – 7:00 pm ET
2009 Season Series – Video Highlights [+]

In a match-up between the longest tenured USL-1 coach in Charleston’s Mike Anhaeuser and the least tenured coach in Montreal’s Marc Dos Santos, the Battery proved to be only one goal better than their opposition in a stalemate of a regular season series. The two clubs played to a pair of scoreless draws early in the season with Charleston taking the third contest 1-0 in July on a Dan Antoniuk strike.

Dusty Hudock was in goal for all three clean sheets, but will miss the playoffs due to injury. Despite his absence from the lineup, the Battery have done well in closing out the season albeit with fewer shutouts. Charleston has gone 5-2-3 over the last 10 games with a record of 3-1-2 at home and 2-1-1 on the road. Montreal is 5-3-2 with a home record of 3-1-2 and road mark of 2-2-0 over their final 10 games of the season.

The Impact head into the postseason for the second straight year with a different coach than who began the campaign as Dos Santos took over after a winless 0-3-1 start by John Limniatis, posting a record of 12-8-6 on the year. Limniatis was in charge for the first meeting with Charleston this season and Dos Santos made his league debut in the second.

Anhaeuser on the other hand, has a 6-4-2 record against Montreal since he began coaching the Battery in 2005. In his fifth season as coach, he has been twice as long as every other coach with the exception of Portland’s Gavin Wilkinson, who is in his third year. No other coaches were in their positions when he won the Coach of the Year honor in 2006.

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Edwin Jusino
Director Ejecutivo de FutbolBoricua.net. Actualmente estudiante de Historia de las Américas en programa combinado Maestría/PhD de la Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, Recinto Metropolitano. Lleva más de una década cubriendo el fútbol de Puerto Rico. Actualmente está trabajando su disertación doctoral sobre el pasado presidente de la FPF, el Dr. Roberto Monroig. Hincha del Club Atlético de Madrid y de la Selección Nacional de Fútbol de Puerto Rico. Puede contactarle via twitter o Instagram en @erjusinoa