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USSF D2 Weekend Preview

In upcoming USSF D2 action Saturday, the Carolina RailHawks will host the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Montreal Impact visit Crystal Palace Baltimore, the Portland Timbers continue their road trip with a date in Tampa Bay and league-leading Austin hosts Miami FC.  On Sunday, the NSC Minnesota Stars take their first trip to St. Louis to take on the up and coming AC St. Louis squad.

The Vancouver-Carolina clash features the top two teams in the NASL Conference.  Vancouver leads with 33 points to Carolina’s 24, but the RailHawks have four games in hand over their Canadian counterparts.  This will be the last regular season meeting between the two clubs, as Vancouver heads to MLS next season.  Teitur Thordarson’s Vancouver squad is coming off a 1-0 road win over Montreal Wednesday night, a team they had difficulty beating in past seasons.  Young players such as Ethan Gage, Philippe Davies, Cornelius Stewart and Blake Wagner have been getting more time on the pitch for Vancouver, who recently parted ways with Ricardo Sanchez, Jonny Steele and Justin Moose.  The RailHawks will have Josh Gardner back from suspension due to yellow card accumulation, along with new signing Allan Russell, who debuted in Carolina’s 1-0 road loss to Rochester.  Russell, 29, is a 6’1″ striker from Scotland who has played with such Scottish teams as Partick Thistle, Kilmarnock, Airdrie United, St. Mirren and the Hamilton Accies.   The Whitecaps will be without their new signee, Ridge Mobulu, who has visa issues, and injured defender Mouloud Akloul and forward Randy Edwini-Bonsu. Vancouver and Carolina are tied for the least amount of goals allowed in 2010, each with 13.  Both Thordarson and Carolina Coach Martin Rennie should have their teams primed for this important match.

Montreal visits Crystal Palace Baltimore for a Saturday evening match.  Both teams are coming off losses, with Crystal Palace Baltimore suffering a tough defeat in a physical battle with AC St. Louis last week in extreme Baltimore heat and humidity, and Montreal losing in the afore-mentioned contest with Vancouver midweek.  CP Baltimore defeated the Impact in Montreal on July 18, and will look to repeat, as they are now tied with AC St. Louis with 19 points, although CP Baltimore has a game in hand.  Both teams have struggled to find consistency this season, as Crystal Palace Baltimore have gotten four of their five season wins on the road, while Marc Dos Santos’ Montreal club have only been able to get eight points away from Saputo Stadium.  Montreal signed a new player this week, former Minnesota Thunder player Marco Terminesi, who had six goals and four assists in only 17 games for the Thunder in 2009.  Terminesi is known for his quickness, technical skills and powerful left foot.  Coach Jim Cherneski’s CP Baltimore side will be without defender Paul Robson, following his red card last Saturday.  The game will be played at the Maryland Soccer Plex.

Paul Daglish’s FC Tampa Bay team will try to make it two wins in a row when they host the Portland Timbers Saturday night.  The Rowdies, who suffered a winless drought of almost two months, came back strong last week against Florida rival Miami FC at George Steinbrenner Field, getting back on the good foot with a 2-0 win.  Portland had a five game unbeaten streak broken in St. Louis Wednesday, and Gavin Wilkinson’s club will be looking to demonstrate that the midweek loss was a fluke and the unbeaten streak the reality.  Portland’s Ryan Pore still leads the league in scoring, and the Timbers lead the league in shots taken, but the team only outranks CP Baltimore in team goals.  FC Tampa Bay welcomes the return of midfielder Stanley Nyazamba from suspension, and goalkeeper Daryl Sattler has moved up to fifth place in league goalie stats with a GAA of only 0.85. 

Also on Saturday night, the Austin Aztex host Miami FC, a team with the least amount of wins in USSF D2 play.  The Aztex have been the most impressive USSF D2 team in 2010, combining many offensive threats with the solid goalkeeping of Miguel Gallardo.  The Aztex’ Eddie Johnson is second to Pore in the league goalscoring race with 8, while teammates Jamie Watson and Maxwell Griffin are tied for fourth with 6 goals each, and often Adrian Heath’s attack-oriented team are relentless.  The Aztex have been the most consistent team in the league, and I think have proven their quality to those who remember last year’s five win squad.  For Miami FC, the season has been marred by nine draws, tied for most in the league with Vancouver.  New Coach Daryl Shore, an experienced assistant with the Chicago Fire, will have to try to figure out a way to get the best results from his talented squad.  Christian Gomez, Paulo Araujo Jr. and Brian Shriver are offensive threats, but Miami FC has allowed more goals than anyone in the league.    Getting a consistent defensive effort will be key for Miami FC’s playoff hopes.

On Sunday, AC St. Louis host their Mississippi River rivals, NSC Minnesota, in a rare 5:00 pm CDT start.  The two teams have met twice in league play in Minnesota, with the Stars coming back in each contest to gain a win and a draw.  In Open Cup play, AC St. Louis beat NSC Minnesota 1-0, so the two teams are quite evenly matched.  NSC Minnesota come to St. Louis having played to draws in their last three games, while AC St. Louis’ midweek win gave them their first winning streak of the season, and they have won both of their last home games by 3-0 scores.  Mike Ambersley leads the team in goals with six after his Wednesday night hat trick, while Brian Cvilikas leads the Stars with four.  This has become a good rivalry, as Stars’ coach Manny Lagos noted.  “It’s good for the fans that we’ve played exciting games with St. Louis this year,” Lagos said. “Entering the season, we thought a rivalry with St. Louis would develop based on geography, but to have it develop on the field is much better.”   Indeed.  AC St. Louis Coach Dale Schilly will welcome back Brazilian midfielder Gauchinho from a two-game suspension, and hopes goalkeeper Alec Dufty’s two clean sheets in succession will continue.  

I’m looking forward to some exciting games in USSF D2 this weekend.  All games will be available for viewing via live online streaming on the team websites.


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