On Wednesday night, the Rochester Rhinos were the only team to pick up 3 points, as they downed the Carolina RailHawks at WakeMed Stadium, Meanwhile, the other three games played ended in draws, as Montreal and Crystal Palace Baltimore both were unable to score, Puerto Rico and FC Tampa Bay each scored once, and on the West Coast NSC Minnesota came back to grab a point in their 2-2 draw with Portland.
Rochester boosted its season record to 11-5-6 with their 2-0 shutdown of the Carolina RailHawks. Neil Kitson recorded the clean sheet, and Rochester were able to get on the board in the 15th minute, as forward Isaac Kissi passed to Canadian Tyler Rosenlund in the box who drove the ball home past RailHawks’ keeper Eric Reed. Rochester took the lead into halftime, but Carolina hung in on a hot North Carolina night until Rhinos substitute Adam West made a nice cross into the middle of the box and Ryan Heins scored the insurance tally in the 79th minute of the contest. Allan Russell, a Scottish Premier League veteran recently signed by the RailHawks, was in the starting lineup for Martin Rennie’s team, but despite some offensive efforts by Josh Gardner, Cory Elieno and Andrei Budnyy, the team fell to 7-5-7. They remain in second place in the NASL Conference, eight points behind the Vancouver Whitecaps, but with three games in hand. Bob Lilley’s Rochester Rhinos are now only two points behind the USL Conference Austin Aztex, but Austin also has three games in hand over Rochester. Still, a big win for the Rhinos on the road.
In Montreal, the offensively-challenged Impact and Crystal Palace Baltimore squads played to a scoreless draw. Man of the match had to be CP Baltimore goalkeeper Evan Bush, who worked hard to earn the clean sheet, making 13 saves throughout the night. Montreal dominated the contest, outshooting the Baltimore team by an 11-3 margin in the first half alone but were unable to beat Bush despite efforts by Ali Gerba, Eduardo Sebrango and Tony Donatelli. The crowd of over 12,000 at Saputo Stadium must have felt that the Impact would break the deadlock in the second half, but Bush continued to be equal to the task, as again Sebrango, Gerba and Donatelli threatened, and even Montreal defender Wesley Charles put a header on goal. Crystal Palace Baltimore looked like they might steal three points on a great 30 yard shot by Cuban forward Yakiel Perez, but the ball flew just over the Montreal goal. Perez later forced Impact goalkeeper Matt Jordan into a couple of good saves to make Jordan earn his shutout. Montreal again threatened at the end of the match, after CP Baltimore defender Andrew Marshall was ejected after being issued his second yellow card of the match. Unfortunately for Montreal fans, substitute Reda Agourram was denied by Bush.
Montreal now stand at 6-9-7, and their 25 points places Marc Dos Santos’ team equal footing with FC Tampa Bay and the Puerto Rico Islanders. Crystal Palace Baltimore are now tied with AC St. Louis at 5-10-6, and their total of 21 points puts Jim Cherneski’s team only four points from the last playoff spot. Crystal Palace Baltimore have gotten results in all three matches this season with Montreal, winning once and drawing twice. Newly signed French defender Richard Pelletier made his debut Wednesday night for the Impact.
In Bayamon, Puerto Rico, the FC Tampa Bay Rowdies were able to deny the Islanders three points as they forced a 1-1 draw on a stoppage time blast from recently acquired midfielder Ricardo Sanchez. “It was really, really important that we got that goal. A point is just a point, but it’s important that we took two off them as well. It’s quite important for us,” said Rowdies’ Head Coach Paul Dalglish. Puerto Rico held the lead almost the entire way, thanks to a Josh Hansen goal in the 31st minute, assisted by Kevon Villaroei. But Sanchez was able to beat Islanders’ goalkeeper Bill Gaudette as his shot bounced under the crossbar, and Aaron King credited with the assist. Colin Clarke’s Islanders had a slight edge in shots 17-14, and corner kicks 7-5, but were unable to find a second goal to put the game away. FC Tampa Bay’s exciting new loan acquisition, forward Maykel Galindo from Chivas USA, made his debut for the Rowdies and played about an hour before being substituted.
Finally, at PGE Park befoe a sold out crowd of over 15,400, the Timbers and NSC Minnesota stars played to an entertaining 2-2 draw. NSC Minnesota’s forward Melvin Tarley started things out with a quality long shot in the 6th minute that Timbers’ goalkeeper Steve Cronin was able to handle. The Stars opened the scoring in the 24th minute, when former Timbers U-23 player Ely Allen beat Cronin, as Allen took a chipped ball from Andrei Gotsmanov just outside the six yard box and left-footed it into the net. Despite protests of Allen being offside, the goal and the Stars’ lead stood until Portland’s young powerhouse Bright Dike had his say. In the 44th minute, Dike took a ball that was kept alive in the Stars’ penalty area by teammate Ryan Pore, headed it up, chested it and buried a low shot past the Stars’ Joe Warren. Great effort by Dike for his third league goal of the season.
In the second half, Pore built his league-leading goal total to 12, as he converted a penalty kick in the 63rd minute to give Portland a 2-1 lead. But Coach Manny Lagos’ Stars are the comeback kids, and they weren’t to be denied the equalizer and a valuable road point. A minute after Pore’s goal, Portland defender Ian Joy received a red card for a late two-footed sliding tackle. Down to ten men, the Timbers’ could only hold their lead for five minutes as NSC Minnesota substitute Simone Bracalello, who had just entered the game, headed a corner kick into the Timbers’ goal. Bracalello, a native of Genoa, Italy who has played in the lower divisions of Italian football, had seconds earlier tested Cronin with a dangerous volley that Cronin tipped over the crossbar. Andrei Gotsmanov garned his second assist of the night, and the game ended up drawn.
The draw was NSC Minnesota’s fifth in a row, and extends their unbeaten streak to six games. It was a big day for the Timbers, as John Spencer was officially announced as the new coach for their 2011 MLS season, and new Dutch signee Ibad Muhamadu made his Timbers’ debut, making a cameo appearance in the 82nd minute, and midfielder Keith Savage earned his first start in 2010. Spencer was also interviewed at halftime on the Fox Sports NorthWest broadcast of the game. On the negative side, Portland forward Mandjou Keita was AWOL for the game. Keita has been having a rocky season after leading the Timbers’ in scoring in 2009. For more on that story, check out the Dropping Timbers blog http://www.droppingtimber.com/.
Despite four scheduled games, there was not much change in the league standings as three of the matches were draws. All twelve USSF D2 are in action on Saturday, as Crystal Palace Baltimore hosts Carolina, Montreal renews their rivalry with the Rhinos in Rochester, Miami FC and FC Tampa Bay tussle again in their Florida derby in Miami, Puerto Rico hosts the powerful Austin Aztex and Portland travels to St. Louis.