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Exciting USSF D2 Saturday Action Part 2: Vancouver Clinches Playoff Spot

It’s no big surprise that the Vancouver Whitecaps clinched a playoff spot, as they’ve been rolling along in first place in the NASL Conference all year.  But with so much roster turnover this season, the often punchless ‘Caps did well with their finishing Saturday night and emphatically downed the struggling Crystal Palace Baltimore 3-0.  The Whitecaps are cruising with a nine-game unbeaten streak, and an eleven game unbeaten streak on the road.  They haven’t lost in their last twenty games.

Give Crystal Palace Baltimore credit.  The team came out fighting, and had better opportunities early in the match.  In the first eleven minutes of the match, Baltimore forward Gary Brooks had a shot go just wide of the net.  Teammate Santiago Fusilier forced a save by Vancouver keeper Jay Nolly, with the rebound falling to Neto, who shot high over the crossbar.  Baltimore’s Matthew Mbuta had a opporunity shortly afterwards, but Nolly was able to save his effort, also.

Vancouver’s offense began percolating as the half went on, but CP Baltimore kept the pressure on, too.  Vancouver’s Randy Edwini-Bonsu forced a corner kick in the 26th minute, and missed a later chance when his shot missed the target.  Mbuta and Brooks had quality chances late in the half, but it was Vancouver who opened the scoring in stoppage time when Greg Janicki headed a Phillipe Davies’ corner kick past CP Baltimore keeper Evan Bush.  The ‘Caps were somewhat lucky to take a 1-0 lead into locker room at intermission.

Jim Cherneski’s Baltimore squad came out after halftime with determination, with Brooks forcing Nolly into an early save.  But the Whitecaps were simply too much for the CP Baltimore team.  Substitute Ridge Mobulu played a give-and-go with midfielder Terry Dunfield, and found Edwini-Bonsu in front of a wide-open Baltimore net.  Edwini-Bonsu slotted for his second goal of the season.  Dunfield added his own goal six minutes later, as his 76th minute low strike beat Evans for a 3-0 ‘Caps lead.  A Vancouver native, Dunfield’s goal capped a great individual week for him, as he was a starter of the Canadian national team that beat Honduras in an international friendlyTuesday in Montreal.

Congratulations to Vancouver Coach Teitur Thordarson and his team on clinching a playoff spot.  Thordarson, who will be at the helm when Vancouver begins MLS play in 2011, has kept his team getting results all season long, despite the roster fluctuations.  The league’s stingiest defense has had problems finishing, but did well Saturday night.  And a tip of the hat to CP Baltimore, who put on a braveheart performance against a superior squad.  CP Baltimore actually outshot Vancouver 18-12, and gained eight corner kicks to Vancouver’s six.

In Miami, the Blues put aside a season of frustration for one night, and came up with a fine 2-1 win over the streaking Montreal Impact.  Miami FC Daryl Shore picked up his second win since taking over in midseason, and the win kept the team’s faint playoff hopes alive, although they’d probably have to win all of their remaining four matches to get close.  Still, it was a nice win for Miami FC fans, as Montreal came into town outscoring opponents 9-1 in their last three matches.  Miami FC had only defeated Montreal once in twelve previous meetings.

The Blues were led by two MLS veterans, former MVP Christian Gomez and Abe Thompson, and a goalkeeper making his 2010 starting debut, Matt Glaeser.  Despite missing their leading goal scorer, Paulo Araujo Jr, who went on loan last week to Real Salt Lake, the Blues got the job done.

Both teams came out wearing their scoring boots, as Glaeser was baptized early, having to make a big save.  But Miami FC came right back, with ‘Chuky’ Chijindu working a sequence with Gomex and unleashing a hard shot that went straight at Montreal goalkeeper Matt Jordan.  Lennon Celestino almost came up big for the Blues, but his 17th minute chance hit the crossbar.  Montreal responded, as Philippe Billy’s free kick found the Miami woodwork.  But veteran Gomez put the Blues ahead 1-0 late in the half, placing a free kick into the net after Chijindu drew a foul. 

After halftime, it was Montreal’s turn on the scoreboard.  Veteran forward Eduardo Sebrango hit the back of the net nine minutes after break, scoring his fourth goal of the season to equalize.  The Cuban is certainly in good form, and he was assisted by the hottest goalscorer in USSF D2, Ali Gerba.  But Miami FC got the game winner in the 83rd minute, as forward Abe Thompson was assisted by JP Rodrigues.  Both teams had five shots, and each keeper made three saves on the night.  The Blues were able to shut out Gerba, whom they held to one shot.  Gerba had scored seven goals in his last three matchs.  A shout out to Miami’s defense for playinig a sound game, and congrats to Matt Glaeser on getting a win in his first 2010 start. 

In Cary, North Carolina, the RailHawks and Timbers played to a somewhat surprising scoreless draw.  Carolina had scored 12 goals in its last six games, while Portland have been undefeated in their last six matches.  The draw left Carolina six points behind Vancouver in the race for the NASL Conference, while Portland are now at 11-7-9.

The game was not without offense, as the teams combined for 28 shots and 12 corner kicks.  Carolina’s Nic Platter was called up on to make four saves in earning his second consecutive clean sheet, while his Portland counterpart, Steve Cronin, notched his eleventh shut out of the season while making five saves.  As RailHawks coached Martin Rennie said afterwards,  “It’s probably a fair result. “We played some good stuff in the first half and I thought they did better in the second. I thought it would be a game like that where it would be close and you’d have to take that one or two chances and we just didn’t take them tonight.”

Stormy weather may have held down the scoring, as rain came down near the end of the first half and continued for the rest of the match.  Also, USSF D2 scoring leader, Portland’s Ryan Pore had to miss the contest, and RailHawks’ midfielder Daniel Paladini, who’s been on a scoring tear lately, made only a brief appearance because of injury.  With the draw, Gavin Wilkinson’s Timbers retain their fourth place berth in the playoff race, while Carolina remains in the fifth spot.

Notes:  Vancouver’s Jay Nolly shared his clean sheet with backup Simon Thomas, who came in at the 82nd minute, marking his first appearance.  Nolly had played every minute in goal for Vancouver since the second leg of a semi-final USL-1 playoff game against Montreal in 2008, when he had to sit out with a suspension.  CP Baltimore newcomers Alan Sanchez and Adrian Bumbut, after starting last week’s game, both came on as second half subs this Saturday.  Portland defender Mamadou ‘Futty” Danso was called up by the Gambian national team at the end of August for their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Namibia.  Carolina’s forward Tom Heinemann, who appeared in his first game for the RailHawks last week, scoring a goal, had six shots in the match with Portland Saturday.  Miami FC’s Christian Gomez’ free kick goal against Montreal was his fifth goal of the season.  Montreal’s midfielder David Testo received his fifth yellow card of the season and will have to sit out Montreal’s match against next Sunday against the Rowdies.

CP Baltimore Starting Lineup:  Bush, Texeira, Robson, Nishimura, Marshall, Lader, Healey, Fusilier, Mbuta, Neto, Brooks  Subs Used: Sanchez, Bumbut, Flores

Vancouver Starting Lineup:  Nolly, Knight, Janicki, Bellisomo, Forko, Nash, Elliott, Dunfield, Davies, Edwini-Bonsu, McDonald  Subs Used:  Mobulu, Arnoux, Tsiskaridze,Morfaw. Thomas

Miami FC Starting Lineup:  Glaeser, Lancaster, Randolph,Hohlbein, Rodrigues,Mayen, Celestino, Thompson, Martins, Gomez, Chijindu Subs Used:  Shriver, LePetit, Nunez, Goldberg, Veris

Montreal Starting Lineup:  Jordan, Pelletier, Pizzolitto, Aaboubou, Terminesi, Testo, Ribeiro, DiLorenzo, LeGall, Gerber, Billy Subs Used:  Sebrango, Donatelli, Mayard, LeDuc, Braz

Carolina Starting Lineup:  Platter, Woolard, Shields, McKenney, Low, Watson, Lowery, Gardner, Franks, Russell, Heinemann  Subs Used:  Paladini

Portland Starting Lineup:  Cronin, Smith, Kirk, Keel, Joy, Savage, Marcelin, Lopez, Claesson, Muhamadu, Dike  Subs Used:  McManus, Suzuki, DeMartin, Alhassan, Danso

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