By TRAVIS CLARK
The NSC Minnesota Stars really want that last playoff spot.
Playing at home against playoff-bound Carolina, the Stars took advantage of an early Railhawks red card to come away with a 1-0 win. Carolina's Devon McKinney was sent off for a foul in his own penalty area, but Minnesota's Simone Bracalello missed the ensuing penalty kick. Devin Del Do scored the game's lone goal in the 37th minute to seal the win.
An Austin loss, to go with a Rochester win over the weekend sees the Rhinos finally take over the top spot in the power rankings. It could be short-lived however, as Austin still holds those two games in hand. At the bottom, a rare Miami FC win sees them leap off the bottom spot.
Here's a look at this week's power rankings:
1. Rochester Rhinos (15-6-6)
Last Match– Won 3-0 vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies on September 11.
Next Match– vs. Miami on September 17.
Outlook: Impressive win over Tampa Bay gives Rochester the top spot. A valid championship contender, still needs wins to have a shot at the top seed.
2. Austin Aztex (14-4-7)
Last Match– Lost 3-1 at Puerto Rico Islanders on September 11.
Next Match– at Tampa Bay on September 16.
Outlook: Another slip up in Puerto Rico, Austin has to hope they don't end up playing the Islanders in the first round of the playoffs. Loss of Yohance Marshall could be big in the postseason.
3. Vancouver Whitecaps (10-3-14)
Last Match– Won 3-0 at Crystal Palace Baltimore on September 11.
Next Match– at Minnesota on September 18.
Outlook: Whitecaps look to close out their last season in second division in style, and will enter playoffs as one of the title favorites. Players currently on the roster fighting for a shot in MLS, a definite advantage for Vancouver — both now and for 2011.
4. Portland Timbers (11-7-9)
Last Match– Tied 0-0 at Carolina Railhawks on September 11.
Next Match– at Puerto Rico on September 18.
Outlook: End of the season road trip will be a good test for the Timbers as they head into the playoffs.
5. Carolina Railhawks (10-9-8)
Last Match– Lost 1-0 at NSC Minnesota on September 15.
Next Match– at Baltimore on September 18.
Outlook: Getting results over lower level teams like Minnesota and Baltimore aren't a necessity, but it's a good chance for Carolina to show what they can do.
6. Puerto Rico Islanders (9-9-9)
Last Match– Won 3-1 vs. Austin Aztex on September 11.
Next Match– vs. Portland on September 18.
Outlook: Trying to hold off Montreal for the sixth playoff seed — with a matchup against either Rochester or Austin.
7. Montreal Impact (9-11-7)
Last Match– Lost 2-1 at Miami FC on September 11.
Next Match– vs. Tampa Bay on September 19.
Outlook: Barring a major catastrophe, Montreal is playoff-bound. Couldn't come away with all six points from a road swing however, and hard to see them making a deep run in the playoffs.
8. NSC Minnesota Stars (9-12-7)
Last Match– Won 1-0 vs. Carolina Railhawks on September 15.
Next Match– at Tampa Bay on September 24.
Outlook: Two straight wins have the Stars thinking playoffs, and will get a chance to seal things up with two games remaining.
Last Match– Lost 3-0 at Rochester Rhinos on September 11.
Next Match– vs. Austin on Thursday, September 16.
Outlook: Pressure is on Tampa — Minnesota has opened up a six-point gap, leaving the Rowdies with little room for error.
10. A.C. St. Louis (6-12-8)
Last Match– Lost 3-0 vs. NSC Minnesota on September 11.
Next Match– vs. Austin on September 18.
Outlook: Slim hopes for a playoff spot took a hit after a 3-0 home loss to Minnesota, but it's not completely out of the question.
11. Miami FC (4-11-11)
Last Match– Won 2-1 vs. Montreal Impact on September 11.
Next Match– at Rochester on September 17.
Outlook: Some signs of life from Christian Gomez and Abe Thompson in a win over Montreal. Too little, too late, unfortunately.
12. Crystal Palace Baltimore (6-14-6)
Last Match– Lost 3-0 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps on September 11.
Next Match– vs. Carolina on September 18.
Outlook: Five losses in a row, and Baltimore hasn't scored during that run. It's hard to see there last three games being an improvement on that.