The USSF D2 2010 regular season ends on Sunday October 3 when the Montreal Impact host the Austin Aztex at Saputo Stadium. The first leg games of the playoffs begin on October 6-7, with the second leg occurring on October 9-10. Eight of the USSF D2’s twelve teams will earn a playoff spot — the first two seeds in the playoffs go to the NASL and USL Conference winners, with the other six seeds awarded according to a team’s point total regardless of conference. The Austin Aztex and Rochester Rhinos have already clinched playoff spots, with Austin improving from a five win season in 2009 to being arguably the best club in USSF D2 in 2010, while the Rhinos have secured a playoff spot for the fifteenth consecutive season…..quite an achievement. Congratulations to both clubs.
Here are the playoff standings as of Monday September 7th…..we’ll look at the contenders and pretenders in a two-part series.
|*Austin Aztex||USL Conference||1||24||14||3||7||45||27||18||49|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC||NASL Conference||2||26||9||3||14||27||18||9||41|
|*Rochester Rhinos||USL Conference||4||26||14||6||6||32||20||12||48|
|Portland Timbers||USL Conference||3||26||11||7||8||28||20||8||41|
|Carolina RailHawks||NASL Conference||5||25||10||8||7||35||27||8||37|
|Puerto Rico Islanders||USL Conference||6||25||8||8||9||31||28||3||33|
|Montreal Impact||NASL Conference||7||25||8||10||7||27||27||0||31|
|NSC Minnesota Stars||USL Conference||8||26||7||12||7||24||35||-11||28|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||USL Conference||9||25||6||9||10||33||33||0||28|
|AC St. Louis||NASL Conference||10||25||6||11||8||25||34||-9||26|
|Crystal Palace Baltimore||NASL Conference||11||26||6||14||6||18||39||-21||24|
|Miami FC Blues||NASL Conference||12||25||3||11||11||27||44||-17||20|
I believe it’s safe to say that the first six teams in the current standings are a safe bet to make the playoffs. Besides Austin and Rochester already clinching, it appears that the NASL Conference title will fall to either Vancouver or possibly Carolina, who are within four points of first-place Vancouver with a game in hand. Whoever doesn’t win looks likely to finish second. The Portland Timbers are on a six-game unbeaten streak, having allowed only three goals in those six games while shutting out opponents four times. With Bright Dike finding his USSF D2 scoring boots to help USSF D2 goal leader Ryan Pore, Gavin Wilkinson’s team seems solid.
The Puerto Rico Islanders only gained a point on their two-game West Coast swing last week, but Coach Colin Clarke rested several regulars in the Vancouver game. Given their performance prior to heading out West (an eight game unbeaten streak with wins over Austin and Rochester and their form in the CONCACAF Champions League, I feel comfortable in stating that the Islanders will make the playoffs. Holding onto the sixth spot with 31 points, a win at home over current seventh seed Montreal Wednesday night would be huge.
That leaves six teams battling for the two remaining playoff spots that are currently held by Montreal, with 31 points, and expansion team NSC Minnesota, who are tied for the 8th playoff position with FC Tampa Bay but win in head to head competition. Of these six teams, AC St. Louis, Montreal, FC Tampa Bay and Miami FC have five games to play, while NSC Minnesota and CP Baltimore have only four. Let’s break it all down and see what we can come up with.
In the Driver’s Seat: The Montreal Impact are three points ahead of NSC Minnesota and FC Tampa Bay, five ahead of AC St. Louis, seven ahead of CP Baltimore and eleven above Miami FC. They play two of their five last games at Saputo Stadium. Although their final two matches are against Vancouver and Austin, they may benefit from those teams resting players for the playoffs. Montreal has won its last two matches by a composite 7-0 score, with forward Ali Gerba notching five goals to win USSF D2 August Player of the Month. Marc Dos Santos’ club has been inconsistent all year, but have jettisoned some players who were contributing little. With goalkeeper Matt Jordan healthy again and posting two consecutive clean sheets, and the addition of defenders Wesley Charles and Richard Pelletier, the Impact are better defensively. Recent acquisitions such as Gerba, midfielders Antonio Ribeiro, Rudolphe Mayard and Marco Terminesi and forward Anthony Le Gall are contributing, and with ageless forward Eduardo Sebrango regaining his goal-scoring touch, Montreal fans have good reason to be optimistic.
Part 2 of the Battle for the Playoff Spots will be posted shortly.