Puerto Rico 2 [Fana 44' Foley 77'] - 0 Rochester: One more upset for a first round that hasn't lacked for them. I figured the Islanders were sure to be in tough against Rochester, a team that matched up very well against them, but the Islanders came out gangbusters in the first leg of their series. Rochester lost substitute midfielder Max Ferdinand to a red card in the sixty-eighth minute but were behind the eight-ball immediately, mustering only three shots to Puerto Rico's nine. The Islanders got goals from each of their big scorers, Jonathan Fana and David Foley, whereas Rochester's remarkably deep attack was almost muted. A chippy game with a total of forty-eight fouls also called favoured the tough, frequently physical Islanders.
At least, that's what I think. Because Puerto Rico had an even bigger home field advantage than usual: dangerous conditions at Puerto Rico's Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium forced the game to be moved at the last minute to the Bayamón Sports Complex. The Puerto Rico national team had played a Caribbean Championship tie at Juan Ramón the day before, and that combined with the humid, rainy conditions and Juan Ramón's generally poor field condition apparently meant the pitch was not suitable to be played on. As a result, there was no audio or video from Puerto Rico: we were reduced to relying upon eye-witness testimony from those at the game.
A 2-0 lead is obviously good news for Puerto Rico, who were by no means favoured going into the series. But Puerto Rico has always enjoyed the biggest home field advantage in the second division, and that has carried the unfortunate side-effect that they have sometimes suffered from the biggest away field disadvantage as well. Playing in Rochester before one of the league's strongest crowds, the Rhinos will be coming out hard to erase that deficit and it's hard to believe the Rhinos' remarkable depth can be held in check forever. But for now, Puerto Rico clearly got the exact result they wanted in the first leg.
Vancouver 2 [Koffie 1' Nash 13' (pen)] - 0 Portland: For more details, see the full Eighty Six Forever recap of this match.
It was a night of firsts for Vancouver in the first leg of their series against the Portland Timbers. It was their first win over their Cascadian rivals this season. It was the first goal in North America for 19-year-old midfielder Gershon Koffie, a surprise starter for the Whitecaps who rewarded his coach's confidence in the best possible way by scoring the winning goal in the first minute. It was Vancouver's first home win since a 3-1 victory over Miami FC back in July. A lot of firsts indeed, and every one of them well-timed.
The score flattered Vancouver slightly, as Portland played very strongly and were denied on a couple good scoring chances only by the agility of Vancouver goalkeeper Jay Nolly. Vancouver's ability to spread the field left Portland's flanking players at a loss, but big Bright Dike's attacks down the middle threatened at any moment to overwhelm the smaller Whitecaps central defenders. Dike was responsible for most of Portland's real scoring chances, though his finishing constantly let him down from every range.
But the Whitecaps had their share of close calls as well, with midfielders Terry Dunfield and Philippe Davies both hitting the post, Koffie narrowly missing a chance at a brace on an audacious chip in the second half, and striker Cody Arnoux had a convincing shout for a penalty turned down. With the series returning to Portland on Sunday, one of these teams will be playing their last game in USSF D2: the score favours Vancouver, but if Portland matches their effort from yesterday they'll have a real chance at taking this series.