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Saturday, August 22, 2009

After RailHawks tread water in Whitecaps, can they outrun the Rhinos?

Posted by on Sat, Aug 22, 2009 at 2:58 PM

click to enlarge John Cunliffe, skimming on the Whitecaps (photo by Rich Bostwick)
  • John Cunliffe, skimming on the Whitecaps (photo by Rich Bostwick)

The RailHawks and the Vancouver Whitecaps traveled an aggregate total of 10,000 miles in four days to emerge with two points apiece. Following Saturday's 0-0 stalemate in Vancouver's Swangard Stadium, the two squads battled fatigue and humidity Tuesday night in Cary for a 1-1 draw. After falling behind on a 66th-minute Vancouver goal, late sub Andriy Budnyy settled a ball from John Cunliffe and scored to salvage the draw in the 87th minute.

Here are video highlights, and here's the stat box.

The thing of it is, it was a decent result for both sides. Vancouver got two points from a tough opponent to keep them in the playoff hunt. And, despite the results, the RailHawks are still in a strong second-place position—which some might consider a better prize than first place, with the first-round playoff bye that comes with it.

Right now, Portland is in the driver's seat for regular season title, with 48 points to Carolina's 44, with both teams having seven games to play. Here's how the playoff contenders stack up, ranked by points-per-game. The top seven make the playoffs.

  1. Portland: 2.09 ppg
  2. Carolina: 1.91

  3. Charleston: 1.8
  4. Puerto Rico: 1.7
  5. Rochester: 1.43
  6. Montreal: 1.26
  7. Vancouver: 1.22
  8. Miami: 1.2

If the current league positions hold (which they won't, of course), the RailHawks will be looking at a trip to Canada in the first round. Portland probably won't lose tonight at home against Miami (who will then have to play in Vancouver tomorrow), while the RailHawks have a much tougher task to extract points from Rochester in Marina Auto Stadium tonight. If they'll get the three points, they'll still be in shouting—if not striking—distance of the Timbers.

We'll know more in a few hours. Watch the RailHawks on at 7:35 p.m.

A few odds and ends:

  • Goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell and central defender Jeremy Tolleson were named to the Week 19 USL-1 team of the week. It was the second week in a row for Patterson-Sewell, who shut out Vancouver last Saturday, and the first mention of the season for Tolleson.
  • The RailHawks defense's shutout streak ended at 566 minutes on Tuesday night, after Marcus Haber's goal in the 66th minute.
  • Here's some audio from Tuesday night's post-game interviews with Martin Rennie, Eric Reed and Budnyy. (I've been serving on a jury all week, which means catching up with my normal work at night; so, I haven't had time to keep up with the posting.) Of particular note: Rennie acknowledges that Vancouver's Marlon James probably did score a goal during Saturday's 0-0 tie, but says that the referee made the right call at the time.


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