With a two-game road trip to South Florida, the Portland Timbers were poised to make history. A second half free kick from David Hayes rescued a draw, 1-1, Friday evening as the Timbers advanced their unbeaten streak to 15 games to tie the league record for a single season set by Montreal in 2005. Two nights later, the Timbers scored three unanswered from three different players in the second half for a 3-0 victory to set the new mark at 16.
The four points put the Timbers at the top of the table along with the Puerto Rico Islanders, who posted a 1-0 victory in Montreal Saturday on a 45th minute penalty from Christian Arrieta. It was the fifth straight shutout Montreal had suffered, including a scoreless draw Wednesday in Rochester. Charleston was left behind in third with a pair of draws, going scoreless in Cleveland Friday and earning a 1-1 draw in Rochester Saturday on a Randi Patterson strike that came nine minutes after Johnny Menyongar had given the Rhinos the lead.
Carolina stayed with the lead pack with a 2-1 victory over visiting Vancouver Friday evening. Newcomer Gregory Richardson struck just before the break and Sallieu Bundu tallied in the 65th minute. Charles Gbeke's goal in the 90th minute proved too late for the Whitecaps. At the bottom of the table, the Minnesota Thunder moved up from last with a 1-0 win Saturday at home against Austin, edging the Aztex on a 40th minute Rod Dyachenko strike.
USL Second Division
In the tight race at the top of the table, the Wilmington Hammerheads created a three-way tie at the top Friday with a 3-1 win over Real Maryland on two goals from Jamie Watson and a goal and assist from Phil Hufstader. It was short-lived, however, as Richmond and Harrisburg pulled away again Saturday. Goals from Joey Worthen and Matthew Delicate gave the Kickers a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace and Chad Severs gave Harrisburg a 1-0 home win over Pittsburgh in the 64th minute.
Real Maryland rebounded for a 1-1 draw in Charlotte Saturday via a late Gary Brooks tally. And in Massachusetts, Bermuda rebounded from a 5-0 thumping Friday to earn a 2-2 draw Sunday against Western Mass in a double dip between the two. Premier Development League
The regular season came to a close in dramatic fashion as numerous teams clinched playoff berths over the course of the week. Among the most intriguing of the finishes was the Southern Conference where both divisions came down to a final determining game.
In the Mid South Division, West Texas posted a 3-1 win at Rio Grande Valley to advance, sending Austin through as well. In the Southeast, a head-to-head showdown pitted the must-win New Orleans Jesters at Panama City. Tied 1-1, the Jesters nearly became the first unbeaten team to miss the postseason, but a stoppage-time penalty gave them a 2-1 win to clinch a berth with their peculiar 5-0-11 record. They joined the 12-0-4 Ottawa Fury as the two unbeatens on the year.
Among the race for the regular season title were Kitsap Pumas and Reading Rage. Kitsap's shot was damaged in Victoria, where the team suffered its first loss, 2-1, Friday. Reading, meanwhile, took advantage and claimed the league title with a 13-1-2 record, edging out Ottawa by a point.
In the conclusion of the W-League playoff chase, the two biggest stories were the race for the second spot in the West and the competition for the regular season title that comes with an automatic semifinal berth. Seattle Sounders were in the driver's seat in the west, but a trip to California proved disastrous as they dropped all three games. Meanwhile, the Colorado Force posted their first-ever win over the Vancouver Whitecaps, securing a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 1998. On Sunday, Hudson Valley finished the season with a 2-0 win at New York to claim the regular season title.