USL-1 Semifinal Preview

Picture from uslsoccer.com

Photo from uslsoccer.com

Two years ago, Portland knocked off Vancouver then the reigning champions in the playoffs. This weekend,  the Timbers have the opportunity to once again best there Northwestern rivals, but this time come in as a heavy favorite.

The Timbers have been outstanding this season, top to bottom. Steve Cronin has been strong in goal, and going forward the Timbers have had a knack of scoring timely goals in big matches all season long. Keith Savage and Manjdou Keita have both been exceptional.

On the other side, Vancouver has struggled through much of the season, and was a playoff team largely due to the weakness at the bottom of the table this season in the USL First Division.

Charles Gbeke is certainly a player to watch, as a big target player that can get others involved in the play. The young Canadian, Marcus Haber is also a threat for the Whitecaps, making challenging runs off of Gbeke.

In the other semifinal, two wildly inconsistent teams that both started the year in the knock out stages of the CONCACAF Champions League face off. Montreal has improved as the season wore on, and eliminated Charleston in the first round of the playoffs. The Puerto Rico Islanders are led by Jonny Steele and Christian Arrieta and have boatload of experience at a high level. Of course, under Colin Clarke the Islanders still haven’t won a title, finishing second in the last year in both the CFU Caribbean Club Cup (where Clarke played a number of reserves in the final) and the USL playoffs last season. The Islanders also finished as semifinalists in last year’s CONCACAF Champions League.