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USSF D2 Holiday Weekend Roundup

In USSF D2 action on Saturday July 3, the Puerto Rico Islanders were able to get a road draw against the league-leading Austin Aztex;  the Rochester Rhinos continued their winning ways with a 2-1 home win over the Montreal Impact; the Carolina RailHawks stretched their unbeaten streak with a 2-0 road win over AC St. Louis and, in a Pacific Northwest derby, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers played to a scoreless draw.  On Sunday,  Crystal Palace Baltimore avenged last week’s loss to NSC Minnesota  with a 1-0 win in Minnesota while FC Tampa Bay and Miami FC played to a 1-1 draw.

The USSF D2 league leading Aztex benefitted from Islanders’ charity Saturday night, as Puerto Rico defender Richard Martinez overhit a headed ball back to goalkeeper Bill Gaudette, with the ball sailing past Gaudette to give the Aztex a 1-0 lead in the first minute of play.  Puerto Rico almost gifted Austin another own goal later in the half off a cross in the box, but Gaudette was able to recover and snare the ball.  Austin’s Yordany Alvarex pushed a through ball to teammate Maxwell Griffin in the 34th minute, but Gaudette deflected the ball away.  The Islanders were able to earn a point and spoil the Aztex House Park party when Keon Daniel beat Aztex’ keeper Miguel Gallardo in the 75th minute with a left-footed blast.  The Aztex still lead the league with 33 points with a 10-2-3 record, 8 points better than Vancouver and Rochester.  Puerto Rico now stands at 4-7-1 after the 1-1 draw.

The Rochester Rhinos keep on rolling with 2-1 win over Montreal at Marina Auto Stadium before 6,500 fans.  The Rhinos are undefeated in seven of their last eight games in all competitions, losing only to the MLS Columbus Crew in extra time last Tuesday in US Open Cup action.  The Rhinos opened the scoring at the end of the first half.  A Max Ferdinand free kick made its way to Troy Roberts, who slotted home from six yards out after miscommunication between Impact keeper  Srdjan Djekanovic and defender Stephen De Roux.  In the second half, Rochester keeper Neil Kitson made two big saves on the Impacts’ Roberto Brown half-volley and a Tony Donatelli rebound shot at the hour mark.  While Montreal looked more dangerous, Bob Lilley’s Rhinos got a great goal against the run of play by sub Rich Constanzo in the 85th minute, who pounced on a loose ball in the box and made a nice run and turn to find the back of the net.  Montreal got a consolation goal in stoppage time as  Impact forward Reda Agourram headed a Filipe Soares cross to ruin Kitson’s clean sheet.  Rochester is second to Austin in the USL Conference with a 7-3-4 mark, while Montreal slipped to third behind Vancouver and Carolina in the NASL Conference.

The Carolina RailHawks raised their record to 4-2-6 and gained second place in the NASL Conference with their road win against AC St. Louis.  Martin Rennie’s club featured a strong defense, with Eric Reed earning a clean sheet in the 2-0 win.  AC St. Louis had some sparkle offensively, but continue to have trouble finishing.  Joseph Kabwe of Carolina had a big game, scoring the opening goal with a hard blast in the 16th minute and assisting on Josh Gardner’s tally just past the hour mark.  Reed was able to hold onto a Luke Kreamalmeyer shot, and AC St. Louis keeper Alec Dufty made a few good saves in front of the home crowd of 2,100 fans.  AC St. Louis, who fought bravely Tuesday night against the LA Galaxy at Home Depot Center before giving up a goal near the 70th minute, fall to 2-8-2, and play a Thursday night game against Vancouver on the road.  AC St. Louis outshot Carolina 12-8 but had only four shots on goal.

Vancouver continued its trend of great defense and lack of finishing in its scoreless draw at PGE Park, as a Portland crowd of over 9,000 were unable to witness Timber Joey use his chainsaw in a Portland goal celebration.  The two MLS-bound clubs were each unable to get much going early in the game, until the Whitecaps’ outstanding Jay Nolly made a save on a point-blank header from Portland forward George Josten at the end of the first half.  The Timbers came out on fire after halftime, with Tony McManus firing high over goal and Mamadou Danso hitting the post with a header in the first five minutes after intermission.  Nolly again came up big seven minutes later, tipping a Mandjou Keita header over the crossbar.  Portland Coach Gavin Wilkinson brought on league leading scorer Ryan Pore and hot forward Bright Dike in the second half, but they were unable to work their magic.  Portland outshot Vancouver 20-6 and led in corner kicks 7-3, but Nolly is certainly the hottest goalkeeper in USSF D2 this season.  Steve Cronin also earned a clean sheet for the Timbers, who now have a 5-5-5 record, while Vancouver ends a five game road trip and stays atop the NASL Conference with a 6-2-7 mark.

Sunday, Crystal Palace Baltimore got back on the good foot, downing NSC Minnesota on the road, 1-0, and avenging their loss to NSC Minnesota last week in Baltimore.  According to Brian Quarstad of Inside Minnesota Soccer, the Stars played their best game of the season.  In the sometimes cruel sport of soccer, though, you have to be able to finish, and the Stars were unable to beat CP Baltimore keeper Evan Bush.  CP Baltimore scored the game’s only goal, as Japanese midfielder Tsuyoshi Yoshitake took a pass from midfielder Dan Lader and coolly finished past NSC Minnesota keeper Joe Warren.  Jim Cherneski’s Crystal Palace Baltimore squad rise to 4-7-3, while NSC Minnesota falls to 6-9-2, as they disappointed a nice home crowd of over 2,100.  Stars’ midfielder Ely Allen commented after the game that “Its gut wrenching. It feels like they stole one from us. It was just one of those days where we couldn’t finish, and they made us pay for it.”

Finally, in a Florida derby match that was delayed by heavy rains and lightning, Miami FC came back with an 89th minute goal to spoil the fun of the over 5,100 FC Tampa Bay Rowdies fans at Steinbrenner Field to gain a 1-1 draw.  The game was scoreless until the 82nd minute, when New Zealand international Jeremy Christie, in his first game back with FC Tampa Bay after the World Cup, was able to take advantage of Miami FC’s inability to clear to score unassisted.  But Miami FC didn’t give up, and were able to equalize seven minutes later when Edward Santeliz beat Rowdies’ goalkeeper Darryl Sattler to take a point.  Miami FC and FC Tampa Bay have drawn twice in their two 2010 league meetings, with two more games to play in their Coastal Cup derby.  Miami FC, however, eliminated FC Tampa Bay in the US Open Cup two weeks ago.  Miami FC is now 2-4-8, while FC Tampa Bay are 5-5-4 after the match.

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