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Quarterfinal series all rated tossups
by Paul Kennedy, September 24th, 2009 7AM
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[USL-1] The USL First Division playoffs begin Thursday with the first legs of the three quarterfinal round series: Carolina-Vancouver, Puerto Rico-Rochester, and Charleston-Montreal. Two of the three games the teams in each series played during the regular season ended in ties, so the series are all tossups. For a look at the three matchups ...

#2 Carolina RailHawks (16-7-7) vs. #7 Vancouver Whitecaps (11-10-9)
-- Carolina enjoyed its first winning season in its three-history under first-year Scottish coach Martin Rennie, who led Cleveland to the 2008 USL-2 title. Key players defender Mark Schulte and forward Sallieu Bundu played for him on the City Stars. The RailHawks are loaded with former MLS players. Among them are first-year USL-1 players Daniel Paladini, Gregory Richardson, John Cunliffe and Brian Plotkin.

-- Vancouver has won two of the last three USL-1. It finished seventh in this year's standings to claim the last playoff berth but it is peaking at the right time. The Caps have only one loss in their last 10 games. Injuries are a concern, though, in particular in the middle of the backline. Vancouver is led by the 1-2 punch of Charles Gbeke (who won the regular-season goalscoring title with 12 goals) and Wes Knight (who shared the assist title with eight).

Previous meetings: Carolina 2-1, Tie 1-1, Tie 1-1.

#3 Puerto Rico Islanders (15-7-8) vs. #6 Rochester Rhinos (11-9-10)
-- Puerto Rico is coming off a 1-1 tie with Saprissa on Tuesday night in the Concacaf Champions League. It defeated the Rhinos in last year's semifinals, coming back from a two-goal deficit after the first leg. Cristian Arrieta, who scored the winning goal in last year's second leg, is the leading scorer this year with 10 goals. Former D.C. United striker Nicholas Addlery is second with eight goals.

-- Rochester suffered a blow when Liberian Johnny Menyongar, its first player in six years to score 10 or more blows, was lost for the season with a knee injury on Sept. 13. The Rhinos' next highest scorer was Warren Ukah with three goals.

Previous meetings: Tie 0-0, Tie 0-0, Puerto Rico 2-0

#4 Charleston Battery (14-5-11) vs. #5 Montreal Impact (12-11-7)
-- Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser is the USL-1's longest tenured coach, having served as the head coach since 2005. The only goal scored in the three Battery-Impact meetings was Dan Antoniuk's goal for Charleston in the third game. Dusty Hudock, who recorded all three shutouts, will miss the playoffs due to a knee injury. Keith Wiggins has taken over in goal. Forward Randi Patterson is the leading scorer with six goals and two assists.

-- The Impact was 0-3-1 when Marc Dos Santos replaced John Limniatis as head coach. Montreal is 12-8-6 since then. Panamanian forward Roberto Brown was the Impact's leading scorer for the second year in a row with seven goals (five game winners) and three assists.

Previous meetings: Tie 0-0, Tie 0-0, Charleston 1-0.


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