By TRAVIS CLARK
With the inclusion of Portland's 2-1 win over Vancouver last night, this weekend is another first for the USSF Division 2 — every team plays during this stretch of games.
Highlighting this weekend is the rematch of the 2009 USL semifinal that saw the Montreal Impact knock Puerto Rico out of the playoffs en route to the Impact's 2009 USL championship.
Much less is at stake in this early juncture of the season, but Montreal's sluggish start to 2010 has seen them come away with just a single point in two matches. On the other hand, Puerto Rico, having to cope with the departures of notables like Jonny Steele (Vancouver) and Cristian Arrieta (Philadelphia) is looking for a third straight win.
Here's a look at the rest of this weekend's USSF Division 2 matchups:
Carolina Railhawks at Rochester Rhinos, 7:00pm
Carolina takes to the road for the first time this season, while Rochester finally gets their home opener in a matchup of two teams in distinctly different places. There's the steady, consistent side of Carolina, defined by a tight and organized defense — and the Rhinos, shuffling their lineup consistently as they search for a new identity. So far so good for Rochester, who grabbed seven points from their first four games away from home, and can tie Portland at 10 points with a win against Carolina. Giving the Railhawks an edge, however, is Rochester's short rest after a Wednesday night trip to Minnesota.
FC Tampa Bay Rowdies at Miami FC, 7:30pm
Can a rivalry be reborn in Florida? Miami officials can only hope that the visit of Tampa Bay gets more out of the gate, after reporting attendances of 1,235 and 1,089 in their first two home games. The offensive improvements that Miami hoped for have yet to materialize either, going goalless in those two matches. The Rowdies have performed well in their two games this season, losing against Minnesota despite putting forth a solid effort. A win in Miami is within reach for Paul Dalglish and his Rowdies.
Austin Aztex at NSC Minnesota Stars, 8:00pm
Austin makes the trip up to Minnesota to face the Stars, aiming to bounce back from last weekend's loss against Rochester. Minnesota suffered a home loss of their own, meekly going down to Rochester 3-0 on Wednesday. It was the first time Joe Warren's rustiness proved costly, though Minnesota certainly had more problems than just in goal. The Stars could lose a second home match in a row if they don't show improvement this weekend against a solid Austin squad.
Crystal Palace Baltimore at A.C. St. Louis, 8:10pm
A battle of the bottom feeders could see one team walk away with their first win of the season. Baltimore and St. Louis have a collective six losses this season, with neither looking capable of beating better opposition. Visiting Baltimore is playing their first of five straight road games, and if they can't win against St. Louis it won't get any easier. That's far from guaranteed, as St. Louis will have the home support urging them on towards a first-ever win.