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Carolina, Puerto Rico Advance in USSF D2 Playoffs

The Carolina RailHawks finally found a way to score against NSC Minnesota, and once they learned, they learned well, as the RailHawks poured in four goals in the last half hour to defeat the NSC Minnesota Stars 4-0 Saturday night at WakeMed Soccer Park.    The loss eliminates the expansion Stars from the USSF D2 playoffs.   In Rochester, the Rhinos won the battle but lost the war as they defeated the Puerto Rico Islanders 2-1, but were eliminated from the playoffs on aggregate goals 3-2.

Carolina RailHawks 4-0 NSC Minnesota Stars

The NSC Minnesota Stars shut out the Carolina RailHawks twice in their two meetings during the regular season, and played a scoreless draw with Carolina Wednesday night in Blaine, Minnesota.  The Stars held the RailHawks in the second leg for the first hour, before the flood gates opened. 

The Stars went down to ten men in the 38th minute as captain Andres Arango, the Stars’ 2010 Player of the Year, was ejected for apparently headbutting a Carolina player during a scuffle involving both teams.  The Stars actually outshot the RailHawks, 6-4, in the scoreless first half.

But being down a man, and Carolina Coach Martin Rennie’s introduction of midfielder Daniel Paladini into the game in the 54th minute, spelled the end of the Stars’ playoff dreams.  Paladini, who became more of a scoring threat as the season progressed, beat Stars’ veteran keeper Joe Warren in the 64th minute.  Paladini assisted on the next two Carolina goals, by Josh Gardner in the 72nd minute and Amir Lowery in the 84th minute, as the curtain closed on the Stars’ season.  A fourth Carolina goal came off of defender Brian Kallman two minutes before regulation time ended, and the crowd of over 2,500 RailHawks fans could celebrate the first Carolina playoff win in team history. 

Great credit goes to Coach Manny Lagos and his expansion Stars for holding Carolina, USSF D2’s second highest scoring team, scoreless for so long.   Obviously playing a man down hurt the Stars immensely, and Coach Rennie took advantage with some astute substitutions to get the victory.  Credit RailHawks keeper Eric Reed with two clean sheets in the playoff series, quite an accomplishment.  Carolina’s next playoff opponent will be the Montreal Impact, who defeated the Austin Aztex 3-2 Saturday night.

Rochester Rhinos 2-1 Puerto Rico Islanders

As they did earlier this season against the LA Galaxy in CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round play, the Puerto Rico Islanders built enough of a margin in their first leg game to withstand losing the second match and still go forward on aggregate goals.  The Rochester Rhinos defeated the Islanders 2-1 at Marina Auto Stadium, but couldn’t overcome a 2-0 deficit from the first leg of their playoff series.

Coach Colin Clarke’s Islanders started things off right, getting a lead and the important third goal of the playoff series when defender Alexis Rivera scored in the 21st minute.  Rivera’s first goal of 2010 came as he chested down a ball and left-footed a low shot that beat Rhinos’ keeper Neil Kitson.  The Rhinos responded in the 39th minute, as forward Andrew Hoxie stretched and toe-poked a ball from defender Frankie Sanfilippo to tie the score 1-1.

In the 54th minute, Coach Bob Lilley’s Rhinos took the lead as forward Anthony Hamilton scored, assisted by Rhinos 2010 MVP Aaron Pitchkolan.  But the Rhinos could not get another past Gaudette and the Islanders’ veteran defense, despite Lilley bringing in the Rhinos leading scorer, Isaac Kissi, right before the hour mark.  The Marina Auto Stadium crowd of over 4,600 went away disappointed, despite the good effort, as the eighth-seeded Islanders dispatched the first-seed Rhinos from the playoffs.   The Islanders will play the winner of the Vancouver-Portland series in the next round of the playoffs.  Vancouver won the first leg, 2-0, heading into the second leg game in Portland on Sunday. 

Carolina Starting Lineup:  Reed, Woolard, Rusin, McKenney, Low, Watson, Lowery, Gardner, Franks, Heinemann, Barbara  Subs Used:  Paladini, Russell, Elenio, Davidson, Richardson

NSC Minnesota Starting Lineup:  Warren, Lorenz, Clements, Arango, Altman, Wasson, Takada, Rodriguez, Del Do, Allen, Bracalello  Subs Used:  Kallman, Cvilikas, Friedland

Rochester Starting Lineup:  Kitson, West, Sanfilippo, Roberts, Pitchkolan, Greenfield, Bellamy, Versailles, Motagalvan, Hoxie, Hamilton  Subs Used:  Kissi, Costanzo, Short, Gore

Puerto Rico Starting Lineup:  Gaudette, Villaroel, Velez, Rivera, Martinez, Horst, Nurse, Miranda, Dalgado, Jagdeosingh, Fana  Subs Used:  Hansen, Emory

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