By virtue of tonight’s 2-2 draw between the Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers, the Carolina RailHawks have clinched first place in the USSF D2’s NASL Conference and second seed in the upcoming D2 soccer playoffs, which begin this Wednesday, Oct. 6.
With Vancouver needing a three-goal win over Portland to displace Carolina’s lead, the Whitecaps pressed forward into the face of Portland’s staunch defense. Optimism filled Swangard Stadium as Vancouver took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
However, two goals by Portland’s Kalif Alhassan and Bright Dike over the first 11 minutes of the second half all but sealed the RailHawks’ conference crown. Ironically, Vancouver and Portland – regional rivals and 2011 MLS expansion franchises – will now face each other in the first round of the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the RailHawks will face the 7th seed NSC Minnesota Stars, which finished the regular season with 11 wins, 12 loses, and 7 draws. However, two of those wins came against the RailHawks in as many meetings between the clubs this year.
The 1st round of the playoffs will take place between Oct. 6 and Oct. 10. Carolina and Minnesota will play a two-match, home-away format, with the aggregate score leader advancing to the second round. Details on game dates and times should be announced Sunday evening.