By TRAVIS CLARK
The other Northwest rivalry is alive and well, ready for the jump to MLS in 2011.
In what was a tight, back-and-forth meeting at Swangard Stadium in British Columbia Thursday evening, Portland defeated Vancouver by a 2-1 margin, a first win north of the border since 2004. The Whitecaps took the lead early in the second half, before a couple of defensive blunders from Vancouver allowed the Timbers to grab a winner through defender Mamadou Danso.
Two Thursday evening matches — the other saw the Rochester Rhinos deal Tampa Bay Rowdies a late 1-0 loss — set the tone with four more games slated for this weekend, including a renewal of the Florida rivalry, with Tampa Bay set to host Miami FC on Sunday.
Here's a closer look at this weekend's matchups:
A.C. St. Louis at Crystal Palace Baltimore, 3:00 PM
If Palace Baltimore has any legitimate aspirations of making the postseason, this one is a must-win. A merry-go-round of home venues has certainly thrown the club for a loop, and Saturday's match will be at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Md. These next few games at home are crucial for Baltimore, who remain in contention for an unlikely playoff spot. St. Louis, while lacking consistency, can't be taken likely — they took down Monteal 3-0 earlier in June, and tied Minnesota 2-2 on the road.
Rochester Rhinos at Puerto Rico Islanders, 8:05 PM
A late goal from Isaac Kissi nipped all three points for the Rhinos in Tampa Bay on Thursday, and the next stop on a three-game road swing takes Rochester to Puerto Rico. With the win, the Rhinos have eclipsed the 30 point mark and are a safe bet for the postseason, and now boast the second-best point total in the league.
They'll face an Islanders squad in need of a turnaround, winless in four and boasting just one win out of six this month. Of course, many of those results were a point, keeping Puerto Rico very much in the mix.
Miami FC at FC Tampa Bay Rowdies, 4:00 PM
The stakes are high ahead of this edition of the Florida Derby. Both Tampa Bay and Miami head into this one struggling to keep their head above water. The Rowdies can't seem to score, and Miami can't win. Odds are that this one could head for a scoreless draw — will Miami's Christian Gomez or Tampa Bay's new signing Jonny Steele be the difference maker in this one?
NSC Minnesota Stars at Vancouver Whitecaps, 10:00 PM
A tricky road test awaits Minnesota, a side that has performed admirably in 2010. They head to British Columbia, facing a fired up Whitecaps side after their Thursday night loss to rivals Portland. Of the new teams, Minnesota appears to have the best shot at grabbing a playoff spot, and nothing would be better for the team's confidence then a road win against Vancouver.
Starting defender Greg Janicki will be unavailable after his red card against Portland, but the Whitecaps have the depth to fill in the gaps.