The Carolina RailHawks missed an opportunity to gain points on NASL Conference leaders Vancouver Thursday night on a soggy field in Minnesota, losing to the Stars 1-0. Adding insult to injury, the RailHawks will be without defender Devon McKenney and midfielder Amir Lowery, who both received red cards in the Minnesota match, and defender Mark Schulte, who will miss the rest of the season with an ACL injury, for tonight’s clash in Baltimore. The RailHawks have been shut out their last two times out, and will be looking for a result akin to their September 3rd 3-0 blanking of CP Baltimore.
Jim Cherneski’s Baltimore club will also be looking to repeat a result an earlier result against their opponents, one that saw them beat the Carolina club on August 14th 2-1. Since that time, CP Baltimore has been shut out in their last five games, and their toothless offense lags in last-place in USSF D2. Cherneski will be looking for goals from Gary Brooks and newcomers Adrian Bumbut and Allan Sanchez. CP Baltimore have had some good moments this season, but far too few, especially lately, and with such a weak attack their playoff chances are minimal.
In Bayamon, Puerto Rico, the Islanders will look to get back on track after losing their CONCACAF Champions League match Wednesday night to Toluca, 3-0, in Mexico. The Islanders hold the sixth spot in the USSF D2 playoff hierarchy, six points behind their Saturday night opponents, the Portland Timbers. The Timbers have clinched a playoff spot, and are finishing the season on the road, as PGE Park is being refurbished and will be unavailable for their playoff contests. With an 11-7-8 record, the Timbers have bounced back from an earlier skid. Currently undefeated in their last seven outings, the Gavin Wilkinson’s Timbers will rely on a revived offense and an in form defense to pad their record going into the playoffs.
Coach Colin Clarke’s Islanders, 9-9-9 in league play, lost in Portland 1-0 on September 2. Playing in the CCL and preparing his club for a strong playoff run requires a fine balancing act by Clarke, as he needs to keep his players fresh. La Tropa Naranja achieved one of their finest league victories in 2010 against the Austin Aztex last Saturday, recording an emphatic 3-1 win, and Clarke will be looking to build on that rather than the disappointing loss to Toluco during the Bicentario celebration in Mexico. This should be a fun match to watch.
On Sunday, FC Tampa Bay look to strengthen their playoff bid with an afternoon win in Montreal. Unable to find three points since their July 25 victory over Miami FC, the Rowdies were on the losing end of their only previous meeting with the Impact, dropping the June 12th match 2-1. Paul Dalglish’s team has been in the habit of getting behind in contests, and although they’ve managed late game rallies in two of their last three contests, those rallies resulted only in draws, not the wins the club needs to gain the playoffs. Loanee Justin Morrow has come in to help on the Rowdies’ backline, while Josh Lambo has been getting starts recently in goal.
Montreal hold the seventh playoff spot after reeling off three consecutive wins before their upset loss last Saturday in Miami. The Blues were able to keep the league’s hottest scorer, Montreal forward Ali Gerba, without a goal, although he did assist on Montreal’s lone goal. The NSC Minnesota Stars are tied in points with Montreal, so it is imperative for Montreal to get a win before their Saputo Stadium fans on Sunday. Their match with FC Tampa Bay should be a ‘take no prisoners’ affair, with playoff hopes for both teams resting on the outcome.