For the first time since 2002, the Rochester Rhinos, one of the most successful second division clubs in North American history, claimed a league championship, capturing the regular season title with a victory in St Louis along with a little help from a longtime rival. It marked the end of an eventful week as USSF Division-2 wrapped up the regular season. Just days earlier, the playoff-bound Puerto Rico Islanders also registered another monumental victory in the CONCACAF Champions League, coming back from a two-goal deficit against Mexican club Toluca to post a stunning 3-2 victory. The two clubs will clash in the Quarterfinals as the postseason opens this week during the two-week break in CCL play.
Similarly, Major League Soccer the focus on the action is turning toward the top of the conference tables as the margin in the race for the playoffs is becoming increasingly staunch for those outside the zone. But with the playoffs several weeks away, the CCL was a large focus for a Real Salt Lake and Columbus, which is also primed for the US Open Cup Championship against the Sounders in Seattle Tuesday night.
South of the border, form held for the league leaders in the Mexican Primera.
Major League Soccer
It was a busy week for MLS clubs as eight teams played twice, four of them in Champions League play. The other four met in a pair of Wednesday evening league matches that saw the Colorado Rapids roll, 4-1, with a pair of goals from Omar Cummings against visiting Philadelphia and the Chicago Fire romp on the road, 3-0, in San Jose.
Colorado’s high, though, was short-lived as DC United came into town and posted a stunning 1-0 upset on a 45th minute goal from Danny Allsopp. Chicago also saw their fortunes turn as they fell, 3-0, on the road to FC Dallas on a historic evening at Frisco Park. The victory marked the 18th consecutive unbeaten game, tying the league’s record for a single-season streak, and the match was capped with a penalty from Jeff Cunningham in the 67th minute that placed him in a tie with Jaime Moreno for the all-time MLS scoring lead at 132 goals. The losing teams in the two Wednesday fixtures both played to draws Saturday with Philadelphia finishing 1-1 against Houston and San Jose earning a scoreless draw in Columbus against a Crew squad that was coming off a 2-1 road loss in Guatemala to Municipal Wednesday and preparing for the US Open Cup Final this Tuesday.
The other three Champions League clubs from MLS saw mixed results. Fresh off their first group win, 2-0, against Marathon Wednesday, the Seattle Sounders rallied for a 3-2 win against Toronto FC, who played Real Salt Lake to a stalemate in the all-MLS CCL match Tuesday. RSL, meanwhile, won in New England, 2-1.
RSL’s victory placed them atop the league table momentarily while the New York Red Bulls used a 1-0 win over Kansas City, who missed an opportunity to gain ground in the playoff race, to leap over the Crew for first in the Eastern Conference. RSL, however, saw that lead return to Los Angeles Galaxy in the lone match Sunday as they defeated city rival Chivas USA, 2-1.
With the playoff field already determined, the weekend was all about the race for the top seeds in the two conferences. A key contest Friday night in Cary, North Carolina played a pivotal role in both as the RailHawks played host to the Austin Aztex.
In the NASL Conference, Carolina assumed control of the top spot Friday evening with a 3-1 victory Austin, putting pressure on Vancouver to win big the following night against Portland. The Whitecaps, however, were unable to pull away from the Timbers in a 2-2 draw that gave Carolina the conference title.
In the USL Conference, the Rochester Rhinos came from behind after giving up a goal three minutes in, downing host AC St Louis, 2-1, on a pair of Isaac Kissi goals in the second half, jumping to the top spot and placing the pressure back on Austin in the league’s regular season finale Sunday in Montreal. The Aztex, though, fell behind and three minutes after the opening goal lost a man with a red card to Randi Patterson as they finished the season with a 2-0 defeat, their third loss in four games.
In other matches, Tampa Bay crushed a hapless Baltimore squad that traveled to Florida with only 11 players, 6-3, and Miami FC drew 1-1 with the Puerto Rico Islanders, who were coming off a fantastic come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Toluca in the Champions League.
The results created a few quirks in the playoff matches as Portland and Vancouver will meet up immediately again as will Montreal and Austin. The other pairings will see the regular season champion Rochester Rhinos face Puerto Rico and Carolina playing Minnesota. The Quarterfinals begin Wednesday in Montreal and Minnesota with the other series kicking off Thursday in Puerto Rico and Vancouver.
After starting the season winless in the first eight, Atlas nearly won its second straight on the road against Chivas Guadalajara, but errors cost the club the win. Gerardo Flores gave Atlas the lead in the 73rd, but his celebration, the act of moving the hair-restraining tape from his head to over his eyes like Zorro, resulted in a second caution that left his team short-handed. The club nearly held on for the win only to see an own goal off a failed clearance conclude the Guadalajara clasico.
But while the clasico may have seen an entertaining finish, there were several other matches of intrigue. Unbeaten Monterrey did well against promoted Necaxa with two goals in the first half hour to maintain its status. Cruz Azul, however, stayed at the top of the overall table by two points with a 1-0 victory over America. The other two Champions League contestants squared off with Santos Laguna getting a pair of goals five minutes apart just before the break en route to the shutout win over visiting Toluca, keeping them within one point of Monterrey in Group A. Toluca’s loss allowed San Luis, with a 1-0 win over Tigres, to pull level for first in Group B, leaping over America, which sits a point back.
Friday, October 1
Estudiantes Tecos 0-0 Jaguares
Saturday, October 2
Monterrey 2-1 Necaxa
Scoring – MON: Humberto Suazo 12, Aldo De Nigris 27… NEC: Pablo Quatrocchi 90
Santos Laguna 2-0 Toluca
Scoring – SL: Jose Cardenas 38, Cristian Benitez 43
San Luis 1-0 Tigres UANL
Scoring – SL: Othoniel Arce 47
Atlante 1-3 Pachuca
Scoring – ATL: Johan Fano 18… PAC: Edgar Benitez 46, 59, Dario Cvitanich 91+
Sunday, October 3
Pumas UNAM 1-0 Morelia
Scoring – PUM: Dante Lopez 63
Puebla 2-0 Queretaro
Scoring – PUE: Andres Olivera 65, Rodrigo Salinas 70
Chivas Guadalajara 2-2 Atlas
Scoring – GUA: Miguel Ponce 31, Own goal 90… ATL: Flavio Santos, Gerardo Flores 73
Cruz Azul 1-0 America
Scoring – CA: Christian Gimenez 52