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USSF D2 Weekend Roundup: Aztex and Rhinos Draw, AC St. Louis Score Big Win

This weekend in USSF D2 action, the league’s two highest scoring teams, Austin and Rochester, played to a scoreless draw Friday night while on Saturday AC St. Louis came up with its biggest win of the season, dropping the Montreal Impact 3-0.  Also on Saturday, NSC Minnesota beat a struggling FC Tampa Bay club at home 1-0, while Portland dropped Miami FC 2-0.  The Puerto Rico Islanders played two games this weekend in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, defeating Crystal Palace Baltimore 2-0 Friday night while losing by the same 2-0 score to the hot Carolina RailHawks on Sunday.

Friday night in Rochester, over 4,500 fans at Marina Auto Stadium probably expected to see a festival of goals, as Austin, with 29 in league play, visited the Rhinos, who have scored 19.  The top two teams in the USL Conference maintained their positions, though, as neither team could get on the scoreboard and both the Aztex’ Miguel Gallardo and the Rhinos’ Neil Kitson recorded clean sheets.  Aztex’ leading goal scorer Eddie Johnson sat out with an injury, and their top-notch defender Jay Needham also sat out with a bout of food poisoning.  Both teams had chances to score, as the Aztex’ Maxwell Griffin had a one on one opportunity with Kitson, but Kitson saved, and later both Lance Watson and Jamie Watson had attempts for Adrian Heath’s Aztex.  Super sub Isaac Kissi was involved in a couple of late chances for the Rhinos, passing to Tyler Rosenlund, whose shot hit the crossbar, and then having a very late chance himself, when his bicycle kick went wide of the Aztex’ goal.  Austin remains in first place with a 9-2-5 record, while Bob Lilley’s Rochester squad remains six points behind in the USL Conference with a 7-3-5 mark. 

In St. Louis Saturday night, a crowd of over 2,300 saw the young AC St. Louis team play its best game of the season, as they kicked the Montreal Impact 3-0.  After a scoreless first half, sub Chris Salvaggione beat Montreal’s Srdjan Djekanovic with a beautiful bicycle kick in the 57th minute.  Montreal’s Leonardo Di Lorenzo had saved a goal with his off the line clearance of an Anthony O’Garro header, but his kick went to Salvaggione, who scored his first USSF D2 goal.  Hard-working winger Luke Kreamalmeyer tallied a few minutes later, assisted by Bosnian St. Louisan Elvir Kafedzic, and Jeff Cosgriff finished off the St. Louis goalfest with a 25 yard blast in the 78th minute, assisted by USL vet Kreamalmeyer.  AC St. Louis Coach Dale Schilly and his staff gained their first USSF D2 win, and his team outshot Montreal 11-5, with goalkeeper Alec Dufty only having to make two saves to gain the clean sheet, his fifth in the last eight games.  Schilly used his bench well, and his backliners played solidly and kept Montreal bottled up throughout the match.  Coach Marc Dos Santos Impact team falls to 4-6-5, while AC St. Louis raises its record to 3-8-3 and aims to get out of the league cellar and make a run for a playoff spot.

NSC Minnesota hosted the FC Tampa Bay Rowdies Saturday night, and in the third meeting between the two expansion clubs, NSC Minnesota came up with a 1-0 win, with Stars’ keeper Joe Warren getting the shutout.  NSC Minnesota gained its goal courtesy of Tampa Bay’s Rob Valentino own goal, as Stars’ midfielder Scott Lorenz’ shot deflected off of Valentino and went past Daryl Sattler into the Rowdies’ goal.   NSC Minnesota withstood a chance by the Rowdies’ Yendry Diaz, whose first half free kick went wide of the Stars’ net, as the Stars outshot the Rowdies 7-3 and dominated on corner kicks over the struggling Florida squad, 10-4.  NSC Minnesota Coach Manny Lagos has the Stars playing great defense, led by Andres Arango, and they have accumulated 16 points in their last eight games with a 5-2-1 record.  Their total of 23 points on the season has them tied for 4th with Portland in points in USSF D2.  The Rowdies have been sliding lately, although some help has arrived as Colorado Rapids’ loanee Andre Akpan got the start on Tampa Bay’s frontline.  FC Tampa Coach Paul Dalgish commented that “”It is always tough to win on the road in this league, and tonight was very frustrating, especially with nearly half of our starters sidelined.  It has been difficult for our team lately with all of the injuries, but we can change the results by continuing to work hard and developing these young players who we are counting on now. And once again, the effort was there from our team, but we came up short.”  FC Tampa Bay falls to 5-6-4 while NSC Minnesota rises to 7-9-2.  NSC Minnesota will host Mississippi River rivals AC St. Louis Wednesday evening, but will be without Arango, who will have to sit out the contest because of accumulation of yellow cards.

Miami FC dropped its first match of a two-game roadtrip Saturday night at PGE Park against the Portland Timbers, 2-0.  Timbers’ keeper Steve Cronin recorded his fourth consecutive clean sheet in front of over 12,000 Timbers’ fans, and it was well-earned as Miami FC forced him to make seven second half saves.  Portland took the lead after a scoreless first half on a header by defender Ross Smith off of a free kick inthe 48th minute, but Miami FC stormed back as Paulo Araujo Jr alone had four shots, including a point-blank shot on goal that Cronin smothered.  The game turned into an attacking contest, but Miami FC was unable to tally, and Portland’s league-leading goal scorer, Ryan Pore, put the game out of reach very late in the contest as he split two defenders and was able to beat Miami FC’s keeper Caleb Patterson.  “This is the toughest loss so far this season. This is a season where everything is costing us a whole lot. How we react to bad moments is what’s going to make us or break us. We will regroup and concentrate for our game in Vancouver,” Miami FC Head Coach Victor Pastora said.  Gavin Wilkinson’s Portland side climbs back up the standings with a 8-5-5- record while Miami FC drops to 2-5-8 and are winless in their last four games.  Sunday the Timbers hosted Mexican side Atlas, and defeated the FMF team on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw in regulation time.

The Puerto Rico Islanders played twice at Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel this weekend, besting Crystal Palace Baltimore 2-0 Friday night before being shutout by the Carolina RailHawks on Sunday.  Crystal Palace Baltimore has won three times on the road this season, but Jim Cherneski’s team was shutout by Bill Gaudette Friday night.  Puerto Rican international Richard Martinez opened the scoring in the 24th minute.  The defender shot past CP Baltimore’s Evan Bush off a deflection on the edge of the 18 yard box.  CP Baltimore defender Andrew Marshall contributed to the Islanders’ lead in the 40th minute with an own goal.  CP Baltimore Coach Jim Cherneski commented that “Our energy was really good and the commitment was there. We just came out on the wrong end of a 2-0 scoreline.”    Crystal Palace Baltimore stays at 15 points on the season with a 4-8-3 record. 

 Sunday, Carolina was able to get three points against the Islanders, winning 2-0. “I’m very pleased with our second road win in a row,” said RailHawks coach Martin Rennie. “We had to work really hard for it tonight as Puerto Rico is a very difficult place to play in. We managed to pick up six points here this season and now we look forward to our next game in Montreal.”  Carolina is undefeated on the road this season, and the back four of Greg Shields, Matt Bobo, Mark Schulte and David Hayes helped Eric Reed earn another clean sheet, which included blocking a point-blank Islanders’ chance in the second half.  Sallieu Bundu got the RailHawks on the scoreboard in the 18th minute, assisted by Matt Bobo, and Josh Gardner added another goal eight minutes later with an assist from Amir Lowery.  Carolina is now 5-2-6 while Puerto Rico are 5-7-2 after the weekend’s action.

This will be a busy midweek for USSF D2 teams, as Rochester visits Crystal Palace Baltimore on Wednesday, Montreal hosts Carolina, Miami FC continues its Pacific Northwest road trip against Vancouver and NSC Minnesota clash with AC St. Louis on Wednesday night.  On Thursday FC Tampa Bay hopes to get back to winning ways as they host the Islanders.

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