The Seattle Sounders entered the final week of the USL First Division two points back in a three-way race for the Commissioner's Cup as the regular season champion, but had non-league aspirations also on the agenda as they faced FC Dallas in the U.S. Open Cup Semifinal Tuesday.
Looking for a third straight win over an MLS opponent in the Open Cup, the Sounders would come up short as the 2005 USL-1 champions finished on the wrong side of a thrilling 2-1 overtime decision at Qwest Field.
The disappointing loss did not sidetrack the Sounders, however, as they played host to the California Victory two nights later. Seattle pasted the last-place side 4-0 on a hat-trick from striker Sebastien Le Toux to pull into a one-point lead over rival Portland Timbers and the defending two-time regular season champion Montreal Impact, who moved level with Portland at the top on Wednesday with a 1-0 win over Atlanta. The trio would enter the final weekend with one game remaining and separated by one point.
Montreal's bid for a third consecutive and sixth all-time regular season championship came up short, however, Saturday night in Rochester. Despite shutting their rival out in three previous wins recently, the Impact were stunned by the Rhinos, who delivered a 2-0 reversal of the last two games between the pair.
The regular season championship came down to the final night of the season with Portland scoreboard watching as their game started an hour after Seattle's in Minnesota. The Sounders went up 1-0 in the 14th and held on for the win to lock up the Commissioner's Cup.
At the other end of the playoff chase, the Carolina RailHawks and Charleston Battery came into the week looking to pass idle Miami FC for the eighth playoff spot. Charleston would get the first crack Friday at taking the commanding position despite Carolina holding the tiebreaker advantage between the two, but were unable to do so as they played to a scoreless stalemate against playoff bound Puerto Rico.
On Saturday, the expansion RailHawks rebounded from their 2-1 overtime U.S. Open Cup loss to the New England Revolution and a Thursday night drubbing in a 5-0 league loss at Minnesota to take care of business in California, posting a 2-0 win to clinch the final playoff spot and a quarterfinal fixture against the regular season champion.
The defending champion Vancouver Whitecaps battled to a 1-1 draw against Atlanta Friday, which secured fourth for the Silverbacks, and closed up the USL-1 regular season schedule with a scoreless draw against Portland, setting up a rematch series in the playoffs.
The two-leg, aggregate score quarterfinal series will take place Friday, Sept. 14 and Sunday, Sept. 16. Seattle will face Carolina, second-seed Portland will play Vancouver, third-seed Montreal will take on Puerto Rico and fourth-place Atlanta will meet Rochester. Atlanta, Carolina, Montreal and Vancouver will open the quarterfinals at home Friday.