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Montreal Downs Carolina, Vancouver and Puerto Rico Draw

In the first leg matches of the 2010 semifinal USSF D2 playoffs Thursday, the Montreal Impact eked out a 1-0 victory over the Carolina RailHawks at Saputo Stadium, while the host Puerto Rico Islanders and Vancouver Whitecaps played to a scoreless draw.  The second leg of the playoff semifinals occur on Sunday, as Montreal travels to Carolina and Puerto Rico visit the Whitecaps’ Swangard Stadium.

Montreal Impact 1-0 Carolina RailHawks

A crowd of 7,500 at Saputo Stadium saw the Impact take the first leg of their semifinal series with Carolina 1-0.  The only goal came on a Leonardo Di Lorenzo free kick in the 35th minute.  After a foul on Montreal’s Anthony Le Gall,  Di Lorenzo took the resulting free kick near the 18 yard box.  His low drive somehow eluded a maze of players and softly went past Carolina goalkeeper Eric Reed for the score.  Reed didn’t seem to react well to the shot, making me wonder if he lost sight out of it as it made its way towards the net.

The goal stood up for Montreal in the rough and tumble match.  The Impact had several other quality chances to score, including a shot by Eduardo Sebrango that Reed deflected and two Carolina defenders kept Ali Gerba from cashing in on the rebound.  Gerba, who scored four goals in Montreal’s quarterfinal series with Austin, had four shots on the evening but was unable to convert.  Montreal looked to be the stronger team in the first half, as Marc Dos Santos’ side outshot the RailHawks 9-3 in the first 45 minutes.

Montreal had to replace goalkeeper Matt Jordan and midfielder Antonio Ribeiro at halftime, bringing in Srjdan Djekanovic between the posts and Filipe Soares in midfield.   Eduardo Sebrango had a another opportunity to score in the 50th minute, but his header from a Di Lorenzo cross went over the Carolina crossbar.   The RailHawks picked up steam in the second 45, although the 2nd half was fitful as both teams became more physical.  Play seemed to stop constantly because of players on the ground, and a total of six yellow cards were issued in the game, three in each half.

But Carolina Coach Martin Rennie seemed to find the right mix as the game went on, as subs Cory Elenio and Tom Heinemann picked up the RailHawk’s attack.  Heinemann looked to score in the 79th minute, but his goal was nullified by an offsides call.  As Rennie said after the match, “In the first half Montreal played really well and we didn’t play as well as we would have liked to.  But in the second half we improved a lot and had some chances to win the game, and we had a good goal from what we could see that was given offsides, and that was disappointing.”

Montreal’s Dos Santos has won every playoff game he’s coached for the Impact.  “We know that nothing has been decided today, but it is another step towards the championship,” said Dos Santos. “We deserved the result tonight, against a very good team that was well organized. We showed a lot of character.”

The second leg of the series will be played at 6:00 pm ET Sunday at Carolina’s WakeMed Soccer Park.  Carolina came back from a scoreless first leg away match against NSC Minnesota to score four goals in their second leg at home, so Montreal’s lead may be in jeopardy.  Should be fun.

Puerto Rico Islanders 0-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

A scoreless draw was not probably what most Islanders fans were looking forward to, but that was the result Thursday evening between the Islanders and Whitecaps.  The game was not played at the Islanders’ usual home, Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium, but rather at the Bayamon Soccer Complex on a hot and humid evening. 

The 2,800 fans in attendance may not have been greatly pleased with the result, but Vancouver Coach Teitur Thordarson was.  “I thought we did very well tonight,” Thordarson told whitecapsfc.com from Puerto Rico. “Our plan was to defend well and make sure that Puerto Rico did not score in this first game. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to create any real chances ourselves, but to get a draw here in the playoffs is not a bad result. We dealt with the weather and a change of venue very well in the end, and I was very impressed with the players because the effort they put in tonight was fantastic.”

Coach Colin Clarke’s Islanders were definitely the brighter offensive team on this night, tallying 10 shots in the game to only two by the Whitecaps, but USSF D2’s stingiest defense frustrated the Islanders and kept them scoreless.  The Islanders had several quality chances, including one by forward Kendall Jagdeosingh in the fifth minute.  Jagdeosingh made a quality run but his shot was tipped away by Vancouver goalkeeper Jay Nolly.  Puerto Rico’s leading scorer, David Foley shot wide in the 33rd minute, while the Cap’s Philippe Davies’ countered with a long free kick a minute later that went wide.  Whitecaps’ youngster Cody Arnoux had a chance five minutes later off a Martin Nash through-ball, but his attempt was wide of net.  The Islander’s Josh Hansen forced a good save from Nolly as the half ended.

Vancouver settled into a defensive mode in the second half, and although the Islanders pressed they couldn’t break through.  Chances by captain Noah Delgado, Kevin Villaroel and Sandy Gbandi went for naught, and La Tropa Naranja had to settle for a draw at home.  Nolly and Islanders’ keeper Bill Gaudette recorded the clean sheets.  The second leg of the series takes place Sunday at 7:00 pm ET in Vancouver. 

Montreal Starting Lineup:  Jordan, Pizzolitto, Braz, Billy, Aaboubou, Ribeiro, Le Gall, Donatelli, Di Lorenzo, Sebrango, Gerba  Subs Used: Djekanovic, Soares, Agourram, Placentino

Carolina Starting Lineup:  Reed, Woolard, Rusin, McKenney, Low, Watson,  Paladini, Lowery, Gardner, Davidson, Barbara  Subs Used:  Elenio, Franks, Heinemann

Puerto Rico Starting Lineup:  Gaudette, Villaroel, Velez, Martinez, Horst, Nurse, Gbandi, Delgado, Jagdeosingh, Hansen, Foley  Subs Used:  Emory, Daniel, Allison, Miranda

Vancouver Starting Lineup:  Nolly, Janicki, Gage, Forko, Bellisomo, Wagner, Koffie, Dunfield, Davies, Nash, Arnoux  Subs Used:  Porter, Williams, Mobulu, Chiumiento, Morfaw

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