In USSF D2 action Saturday, the red-hot Austin Aztex defeated Crystal Palace Baltimore, 2-0; the surging FC Tampa Bay Rowdies prevailed at home over the Puerto Rico Islanders 2-1; the Rochester Rhinos returned to winning ways by downing the Vancouver Whitecaps at home 2-1, and in a contest between two teams desperately needing a win, NSC Minnesota was able to drop the visiting AC St. Louis squad, 3-2. On Sunday, the Montreal Impact hosted the Carolina RailHawks before a sell-out Saputo Stadium crowd, but the RailHawks triumphed 2-0.
The Austin Aztex now have totaled 20 points on the season after their road win in Baltimore. Crystal Palace Baltimore played well in their first half and looked threatening, but were unable to capitalize. Baltimore’ goalkeeper Evan Bush had to make a nice save on a defensive giveaway to keep the game scoreless at halftime. The Aztex, though, finally broke the ice with a 65th minute penalty kick by Jamie Watson. The Aztex were awarded the penalty after an obvious handball by Baltimore veteran Val Texiera. In the 81st minute, Maxwell Griffin doubled the score for the Aztex on a fine finish off an Eddie Johnson pass. Aztex’ goalie Miguel Gallardo recorded the clean sheet.The Aztex now stand at 6-1-2, already outdoing their five win performance in 2009. Great credit goes to Aztex’ coach, Adrian Heath, and owner Phil Rawlins for reshaping this team into a Division 2 power. Crystal Palace Baltimore fall to 3-5-1 after putting together a nice streak of obtaining points in their recent run of games.
FC Tampa Bay was able to gain three points Saturday night in front of over 5,000 home fans as they dropped the Puerto Rico Islanders 2-1. Islanders’ midfielder Joseph Salem was red-carded in the 38th minute of the match, and the Rowdies’ Aaron Wheeler scored his fourth goal in five games shortly afterwards to put his team up, 1-0. Colin Clarke’s Islanders didn’t roll over and play dead, though, and the 10-man squad were able to draw level in the 58th minute as Marco Velez scored on a pass from Joshua Hansen. The Rowdies broke through in the 83rd minute, as Aaron King netted assisted by Wheeler. FC Tampa Bay outshot the Islanders, 8-2, as the streaking squad now stands at 5-1-3 while Puerto Rico drops to 2-3-0.
The Rochester Rhinos returned to winning ways in front of over 7,700 fans at Marina Auto Stadium on Saturday, defeating the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1. After losing their last two games, Bob Lilley’s Rhinos held the punchless Whitecaps without a shot in the first half. At halftime, Vancouver coach Teitur Thordarson changed his strike force, bringing in Marcus Haber and Cornelius Stewart for Marlon James and Ansu Toure, but it was the Rhinos who opened the scoring, as Aaron Pitchkolan headed past Vancouver keeper Jay Nolly in the 74th minute from a Jamie Franks corner. Ten minutes later, Rochester’s Anthony Hamilton doubled the score. The Whitecaps ruined Rochester’s Neil Kitson’s shut out with a stoppage time consolation goal as Ricardo Sanchez curled a precise free kick past the Rochester keeper. The Whitecaps, whose defense has carried them this season, fell to 3-2-3, while Rochester goes on to a 4-3-2 record.
NSC Minnesota hosted AC St. Louis Saturday night in a clash in which both struggling teams needed a three-point pick-me-up. AC St. Louis started well, keeping possession in the Stars’ half of the pitch. The presence of all-time MLS great Steve Ralston in the young AC St. Louis line-up ws felt early, as his right flank run ended in Luke Kreamalmeyer’s goal, assisted by Gauchinho. The Stars, who played on the road Thursday night, began to find their rhythm as the first half wore on, and knotted the score on a Daniel Wasson goal in the 43rd minute, began by a long throw-in into the box by teammate Kevin Friedland. In the second half, AC St. Louis’ Gauchinho got the ball past the Stars’ Joe Warren, but the NSC Minnesota Stars replied with two unanswered goals by Kyle Altman, and in the 88th minute by Neil Hlavaty, to salt away the three points. AC St. Louis falls to 1-7-1, while the Stars notch their third victory and stand at 3-7-1.
Sunday afternoon, a large crowd in Montreal saw the Impact’s five game undefeated streak end, as the Carolina RailHawks won 2-0. The RailHawks got a 20th minute goal by Maltese striker Etienne Barbara, and their defense was stellar against the Impact, who seemed threatening throughout the contest but were unable to dent the net. Carolina’s Eric Reed was able to secure the clean sheet, but not without a last-minute scare as Montreal’s Roberto Brown headed over the crossbar very late off a short free kick from the left of the area. Carolina sealed the victory, counterattacking after the Brown’s near miss, and Sallieu Bundu slotted the ball past Montreal’s Matt Jordan. The RailHawks’ big road win takes Martin Rennie’s club to a 3-2-2 record, while Montreal drops to 3-2-2.