Saturday night featured a full slate of USSF D2 games, all of which had playoff implications. Rochester regained the USL Conference lead by slapping down FC Tampa Bay 3-0 while the Austin Aztex lost to the Puerto Rico Islanders 3-1. Vancouver clinched a playoff spot by bullying Crystal Palace Baltimore in their backyard by a 3-0 margin, while Miami FC scored a win over Montreal. Surprisingly, the Carolina RailHawks and Portland Timbers played to a scoreless draw. In an earlier post, we described NSC Minnesota’s 3-0 spanking over their downstream Mississippi River rivals AC St. Louis.
In front of a home crowd of more than 8,000 at Marina Auto Stadium, the Rochester Rhinos demonstrated that they liked first-place quite well, thank you. A two-week layoff didn’t hurt them at all as they recaptured the USL first place spot that the Aztex had taken back during Rochester’s idle stretch. The Rhinos 3-0 win also dented FC Tampa Bay’s playoff aspirations, as the Rowdies now are three points behind NSC Minnesota, although the Rowdies do have a game in hand.
The Rowdies’ Josh Lambo, starting in goal for the injured Daryl Sattler, kept the contest scoreless early, denying chances by Rochester’s Tyler Rosenlund in the 12th minute and Isaac Kissi in the 32nd. Finally, in the 41st minute, Rhinos’ forward Anthony Hamilton drew a penalty kick against the Rowdies’ Pascal Millen. Rhinos’ defender Jonathan Greenfield converted to give his team a 1-0 lead. Minutes later, Rosenlund and Kissi combined to double the lead, with Kissi netting his team-leading sixth goal of the season.
Ahead 2-0 at half, Bob Lilley’s Rhinos were determined to get the three points. Darren Spicer hit the Rowdies’ goalpost with a shot shortly after intermission, and began a goal scoring sequence by stealing the ball, and passing to midfielder Alfonso Montagalvan, who dished to Rosenlund, who found the back of the net for a 3-0 margin. Rochester held on despite an injury to goalkeeper Neil Kitson, who had to be replaced by veteran Scott Vallow in the 68th minute. Paul Dalglish’s Rowdies showed some life late, with Ricardo Sanchez and Aaron Wheeler looking threatening, but nothing resulted in the boxscore. The Rowdies, who were missing starting defender Rob Valentino in addition to Sattler, debuted defender Justin Morrow, on loan from the San Jose Earthquakes, on their backline. Jeremy Christie and Aaron King returned to action Saturday night after being sidelined by injuries, but the Rowdies’ usually potent offense was missing in action.
In Bayamon, Puerto Rico, the Austin Aztex were unable to withstand a second-half Islanders’ avalanche of goals, and lost 3-1 to the Islanders, relinquishing first place to the Rhinos. The Aztex scored first, with Jamie Watson notching his seventh goal of the season in the 18th minute on a penalty kick, and held onto a 1-0 lead going into the half.
That wasn’t good enough, however. Islanders’ captain Noah Delgado brought his team back, scoring in his second game in a row just past the hour. He was assisted by substitute forward Kendall Jagdeosingh. A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Jagdeosingh added his own goal at the 70 minute mark as he converted a penalty that beat Aztex’ goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo. Another Islanders’ sub, forward Jonathan Fana, added an insurance tally in the 87th minute, assisted by defender Kevon Villaroel. The big win over the Aztex boosted Colin Clarke’s Islanders back to .500 with a 9-9-9 mark, and returned the club to the sixth playoff position, bouncing Montreal to the seventh spot. It was a great way to celebrate the Islanders’ announcement earlier this week that they were joining the NASL. When the Islanders sent no representatives to the USSF D2 meetings in August, some feared for this proud franchise’s future.
Although the Aztex slipped into second place in the USL Conference, they have two games in hand compared to the Rhinos. The Aztex still lead USSF D2 in scoring, and have only lost four times during their remarkable 2010 season. Coach Adrian Heath was without MVP candidate Eddie Johnson for Saturday’s game, and injuries left his team a little thin for their matchup with the Islanders. Don’t count the Aztex out. They travel to Tampa to take on the Rowdies Thursday night. The Islanders host the Portland Timbers next Saturday, while Rochester are at home Friday night against Miami FC.
Rochester Starting Lineup: Kitson,Sanfilippo, Pitchkolan, Roberts, Greenfield, Versailles, Rosenlund, Montagalvan, Spicer, Kissi, Hamilton Subs Used: Franks, Hoxie, Vallow, Heins, Short
FC Tampa Bay Starting Lineup: Lambo, Morrow, Diaz,Yates, Steele, Sanchez, Nyazamba, Millen, Christie, King Subs Used: Wheeler, Yamada, Galindo
Puerto Rico Starting Lineup: Gaudette, Rivera, Martinez, Horst,Emory, Telesford, Miranda, Delgado, Bangura, Hansen, Foley Subs Used: Jagdeosingh, Gbandi, Fana, Salem
Austin Starting Lineup: Gallardo, Sakuda, L.Griffin, Marshall, Bernard, L.Watson, Callahan, Alvarez, J.Watson, Patterson, M. Griffin Subs Used: Hemming, Fuller, Jerome