Brief reports of United Soccer Leagues First Division Playoffs this weekend.
Rochester played the Battery to a scoreless draw in Charleston to win the semifinal series 1-0 on aggregate and advance to its first championship appearance since the team won its last league title in 2001. Eduardo Sebrango scored on the road against his former side late in overtime to give the Whitecaps the lead in a 2-0 series overtime and aggregate score victory. Vancouver advances to its first championship appearance in the USL First Division, facing the three-time champion Raging Rhinos in Rochester Saturday, September 30 at 7:00 pm ET.
Friday, September 22
Charleston Battery 0 at Rochester Raging Rhinos 1
On a free kick in the 17th minute, defender Tim Karalexis took the restart but his hard right-footed attempt cannoned back off the right corner of the crossbar.
In the 37th minute the Battery had to scramble as the Rhinos' Chris Bagley got free at the back of the box during a corner. He headed on target but defender Brandon Curran was there to parry it off the line.
A second yellow card issued to Omar Daley two minutes before the break would change the complexion of the match for the hosts, who were already minus Ben Hollingsworth, who suffered a broken foot in the first round.
Greg Howes broke the deadlock seven minutes into the second half with a stunning strike from 20 yards out. He took a touch towards goal after the ball was played to him from the wing, then hammered a dipping shot towards the target. Dusty Hudock dove backwards but could not prevent the ball from flying home.
Montreal Impact 0 at Vancouver Whitecaps 0
The all-Canadian semifinal series was figured to be a defensive battle between Bob Lilley's Whitecaps and the Impact of Nick DeSantis, an assistant under Lilley while he was continuing his legacy of defensive excellence with Montreal.
It was former Impact player Eduardo Sebrango, however, that nearly made the difference as he had an excellent opportunity from 12 yards in the 36th minute with a blast that four-time Goalkeeper of the Year Greg Sutton was able to deflect away.
It was one of few chances on the night as the two played to a defensive stalemate.
Sunday, September 24
Rochester Raging Rhinos 0 at Charleston Battery 0
Rhinos goalkeeper Scott Vallow was superb throughout, denying Ian Fuller from point-blank range in the first half and tipping a Stephen Armstrong free kick wide in the second.
In the 14th minute Stephen Armstrong played a searching cross to the back post. Ian Fuller volleyed at the goal but Vallow made a stunning save, hooking the ball away to safety with his trailing arm.
Charleston continued to press and were awarded a free kick in the 51st minute just outside the penalty area. Stephen Armstrong's shot appeared to be going in, but Vallow sprang across and tipped the ball off the post and away.
Battery goalkeeper Dusty Hudock was forced into action at the hour mark as the Rhinos hit two successive shots following a free kick. The first attempt was blocked away but the second, hit by Greg Howes, flew through the gap, forcing Hudock to make a diving stop.
Charleston kept up the pressure and had three successive corners as the end of the game approached. On the third attempt the ball was played short to Lazo Alavanja at the edge of the box. Alavanja ran onto the pass to shoot but his low driven attempt was saved by Vallow on the line.
The scoreless draw and 1-0 series aggregate victory sent the Rhinos onto their sixth appearance in the USL First Division Championship, looking for their fourth league title.
Vancouver Whitecaps 0 (2) Montreal Impact 0 (0) (Series Overtime)
Former Impact player Eduardo Sebrango scored the winning goal in the second period of overtime, at the 115th minute of play, on a breakaway on the right flank. Whitecaps midfielder Tony Donatelli completed the score in the final seconds of the game.
After having received a pass from forward Joel Bailey, Montreal's Massimo Di Ioia streaked in alone on Whitecaps Tony Caig, beat him, then hit the post with a low shot from a sharp angle five minutes into the match.
With Montreal having not allowed a goal since August 23, it looked as though the game was headed to penalties as the series overtime played on, but in the 105th minute Whitecaps forward Sita-Taty Matondo hit the crossbar with a diagonal shot from the right wing, putting the 11,800 on hand at the edge of their seats.
Midfielder David Testo then set up the two deciding goals, finding former four-year Impact striker Sebrango on a breakaway five minutes from time and then Donatelli in a similar breakaway moments before the final whistle.
The 2-0 aggregate victory in series overtime sent the Whitecaps to their first USL First Division Championship appearance since joining the league in 1997 after four previous eliminations in the semifinals.