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USSF D2 Weekend Roundup: Maxwell Griffin’s Hat Trick Keeps Aztex on Top

In USSF D2 action Saturday, the league leading Austin Aztex added another three points with a 3-1 vcitory over Miami FC. The Portland Timbers got back to winning ways, stopping the streaking NSC Minnesota Stars 2-0 to avenge Thursday’s 1-0 loss to NSC Minnesota, FC Tampa Bay Rowdies lost again, 1-0, in Puerto Rico to the Islanders and Crystal Palace Baltimore drew 1-1 with the Carolina RailHawks. Sunday afternoon the Rochester Rhinos visit Saputo Stadium to take on the Montreal Impact.

The Austin Aztex improved their league best record to 8-2-3 with their House Park victory over the Miami FC Blues, led by former UCLA forward Maxwell Griffin, who scored a hat trick.  Griffin opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, assisted by former Missouri Baptist University and St. Louis Lion player Lawrence Olum.  Griffin had almost scored earlier, but Blues’ goalie Caleb Patterson came up with a big save.  Two minutes after taking the lead, Miami FC drew level with another Paulo Araujo Jr goal, his fifth of the season.  Araujo Jr. continues his tremendous form, having scored four goals in the Blues Open Cup victory Tuesday night.   But the Aztex weren’t done by any means, and Adrian Heath’s squad took the lead when Maxwell Griffin scored again in the 65th minute, assisted by Texas defender Jay Needham.  Each team was playing with ten men at this point, as midfielders Sean Cameron of Miami and Sullivan Silva of Austin got into it and were both sent off.at the hour mark of the match.  Griffin added his third goal in three minutes before stoppage time as Yordany Alverez fed him with a great through ball that Griffin handled well before netting.  Miami FC fall to 2-3-7 after the contest.

The Portland Timbers avenged their Thursday loss to NSC Minnesota with their 2-0 victory on the road.  ending NSC Minnesota’s four game league unbeaten streak that saw the Coach Manny Lagos’ Stars climb back into USSF D2 playoff contention.  Things went all wrong early for NSC Minnesota, as veteran defender Kyle Altman was called for a trip in the penalty area, and USSF D2 top goal-scorer Ryan Pore converted the penalty kick in the 6th minute.  Stars’ keeper Joe Warren earlier in the season had saved three penalty kicks in a row, but was unable to deny Pore.  NSC Minnesota had some good possession, and looked more dangerous after the 70th minute when Lagos brought in forward Brian Cvilikas to pair with Warren Ukah, but Portland was able to ice the game on Josh Cameron’s first goal of the season off a counterattack very late in the contest.  Timber’s keeper Steve Cronin earned the clean sheet, and said afterwards that “we’ve given up some late goals that resulted in ties and losses, so we feel like we should have a few more points on the board.  We all feel like this has been a long time coming.”   Portland’s record is now 4-5-4, while NSC Minnesota drops to 5-8-2.

The Puerto Rico Islanders picked up three much-needed points with their 1-0 win over FC Tampa Bay on the rain-soaked pitch at Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium.  The Islanders’ forward David Foley scored the lone goal in the 65th minute, and Islanders’ Bill Gaudette kept the clean sheet.  FC Tampa Bay’s Rob Valentino looked to even the score, but his attempt from a free kick was called offsides.  Paul Dalglish’s FC Tampa Bay Rowdies fall to 5-4-3, while the Islanders go to 4-5-1.  The Rowdies have dropped all three league games in June so far after scoring six goals against fellow expansion teams AC St. Louis and NSC Minnesota at the end of May, although they won their US Open Cup game Tuesday night and play Miami FC in the second round of Open Cup play this coming Tuesday June 22.  FC Tampa Bay is without Jeremy Christie, who is in South Africa playing for New Zealand’s overachieving World Cup squad.

At Wake Med Soccer Park Saturday night, visiting Crystal Palace Baltimore were able to secure a point against the Carolina RailHawks.  Crystal Palace Baltimore benefitted from an own goal by RailHawks’ defender Matt Bobo in the 22nd minute, and held a 1-0 lead at the half.  The RailHawks countered at the 51 minute mark when Floyd Franks beat Baltimore’s keeper Evan Bush on a penalty kick.  Despite a flurry of action, neither team was able to add another goal.  RailHawks’ coach Martin Rennie said afterwards that ““We have to be better at taking our chances in the final third,” said RailHawks head coach Martin Rennie. “It’s disappointing not to be able to capitalize on the many chances we had. Credit to Crystal Palace Baltimore for hanging on to the tie.”  Carolina staya ahead of Crystal Palace Baltimore in the NASL Conference standings with a 3-2-5 record, with Baltimore at 3-6-3.

The Montreal Impact try to narrow the five point gap in the USL Conference standings as they will endeavor to climb up behind Vancouver this afternoon at Saputo Stadium against Rochester.   On Tuesday, eight USSF D2 American teams play in US Open Cup action, with AC St. Louis heading north to play NSC Minnesota, Miami FC battle with FC Tampa Bay in a Florida derby, the Carolina RailHawks play the USL-2 Charleston Battery, the Rochester Rhinos host the USL-2 Pittsburgh Riverhounds, the Austin Aztex host the amateur Arizona Sahuaros of Phoenix and Portland play the Kitsap Pumas of the PDL.

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