USL-1 Playoff Preview
Having had the great honor to serve as a color commentator for Miami FC’s local broadcasts this season (both on USL Live and local cable), I have seen every USL-1 team in person and broken them down. Here is my analysis of the first round of the playoffs.
#2 Carolina RailHawks (16-7-7, 55 pts) vs #7 Vancouver Whitecaps (11-10-9, 42 pts)
Carolina is just too deep for Vancouver, the defending champions who struggled much of this season. The Whitecaps have been particularly bad on the road all season, and I just don’t see this being much of a contest.
Carolina’s attacking quality has been on display, much of the season, and Martin Rennie’s teams always defend well away from home as well. Gregory Richardson has been particularly good in the later part of the season for the Railhawks.
#3 Puerto Rico Islanders (15-7-8, 53 pts) vs #6 Rochester Rhinos (11-9-10, 43 pts)
The Islanders appear to have been caught both in USL and CONCACAF. In the last week, Colin Clarke’s men have blown two late leads in the Champions League, basically eliminating the team from consideration to make the knock out rounds. Now they face the Rhinos, a team with an organized defense and some attacking quality. Ultimately, Puerto Rico’s inability to score goals away from home will doom them in the away leg.
Darren Tilley’s side will feel especially aggrieved about their controversial exit from the US Open Cup, which featured violent play from the opposition (DC United) not result in a sending off, and a penalty call that at best could be called marginal and at worst totally, frivolous. This should motivate the Rhinos.
The Islanders have question marks at the back, despite Colin Clarke’s negative style away from home. Bill Gaudette however, is tough to beat, but since the Islanders have suffered from massive fixture congestion and travel woes all year, it is likely to catch up with them in this series.
#4 Charleston Battery (14-5-11, 53 pts) vs #5 Montreal Impact (12-11-7, 43 pts)
Montreal has had a turbulent year, which began with the collapse in Mexico against Santos in the CONCACAF Champions League, then featured a six goal meltdown versus TFC, a choking incident between players during a match in Minnesota and a coaching change. The Impact truly have not impressed me all year, and despite a decent close to the season, Charleston is too well organized for this bunch. Perhaps it is a testimant to the Impact organization that Montreal has even made the playoffs this season
Dusty Huddock is out for Charleston, giving Montreal a chance, but I think Charleston still has enough to take this series.