I really wanted to be wrong about my prediction for the FSC game last Friday. And for awhile I was, as the Silverbacks looked pretty good. But the last 5 minutes killed them. That's my big impression of the USL First Division action from last week. Don't forget, most of the teams in the league have Open Cup games on Tuesday.
1. Vancouver Whitecaps (+1) - I'll forgive the tough draw in Puerto Rico on Sunday. Look at how the weather gets down on the island this time of year. They pulled out a late winner in Miami on Friday, so 4 points from a 2-game roadtrip puts them back on top, both in the Power Rankings and the USL First Division table. They'll be down south for a good week starting this weekend, as they go to Charleston, then Carolina and finally Atlanta. Combined with last weekend's trip, I wouldn't even have gone home.
2. Rochester Raging Rhinos (-1) - Another sign that California's playing better. A 1-1 draw at PAETEC against the Rhinos. Especially after the 5-2 drubbing the Rhinos put on the Battery the previous weekend. Never fear, though, as the Silverbacks visit town on Friday.
3. Montreal Impact (+1) - Much better. THAT'S what I expect from the Impact, a 1-0 victory at Qwest Field over the Sounders. Combined with a 1-1 tie at Portland on Thursday, and the pulled the same as Vancouver, 4 points from a 2-game roadtrip. Looks like the move to get Alen Marcina from Puerto Rico was a smart one.
4. Carolina RailHawks (+3) - 2 games and 2 wins in the Southern Derby. You can pretty much write off the Silverbacks to defend their title, and the RailHawks now have the upperhand thanks to their 2-0 win over Charleston on Saturday. Hey, 2 goals is an offensive explosion for this team. Still bunched up in the middle of the table with about 7 other teams right now.
5. Portland Timbers (-) - A 1-1 draw at home over Montreal on Thursday. I still don't know what to think of this team. They've only played 9 games while every other team has played more, including an incredible 15 played by Rochester. So conceivably, if they caught up with everyone else, they could be at the top of the table. A look at the schedule comes up with something funny: 4 out of the Timbers' next 5 games are against California. No joke.
6. Seattle Sounders (-3) - Maybe I jumped the gun on them and put them too high. I don't know about you, but I can't wait for tomorrow night's Open Cup game against the Timbers. The two biggest rivals in the league, battling it out for a spot in the 3rd round against Chivas USA. They get Miami at home on Thursday before heading to Rochester for an unusual Tuesday night game next week.
7. California Victory (-1) - I move them down a spot after a 1-1 draw AT ROCHESTER? Am I expecting too much from this team now? Naw, I think that after watching Patrick Ianni's goal on Sunday for the Dynamo that scoring that goal for the Victory would have meant a lot more.
8. Puerto Rico Islanders (-) - I don't know what's going on down on the island. The game report from Sunday's tie against Vancouver still hasn't been posted on the USL website. I COULD watch the highlights on USL Live, but I'm busy watching Mystic River right now. So don't ask.
9. Charleston Battery (-) - They finally woke up with just a few minutes left to steal one against Atlanta, before all but handing the Southern Derby to Carolina on Saturday. They get Vancouver at home on Saturday in a big game for both. One to watch for sure.
10. Minnesota Thunder (+1) - A home win! The home fans finally get something to cheer about. Plus California is a pretty good team these days. Three more home games in a row, two against Montreal and one against California. These games are make or break for the Thunder's playoff chances.
11. Miami FC (-1) - Things aren't looking good for Miami. Since the infamous 2-1 win at Atlanta, they've only managed 2 points in their last 4 games, with three of those games at home. Add to that four straight road games, all on the west coast, and it spells doom for their playoff hopes.
12. Atlanta Silverbacks (-) - I really wanted them to win on Friday. I was all ready to move them up a few spots before disaster struck. I've said about all that's needed to be said about these guys, and while I'm disappointed that nothing's been done as far as changes go, it doesn't surprise me. And I really don't think Corey Woolfolk, who's been cast off pretty much half of the teams in the league, is the answer up front.