By TRAVIS CLARK
Miami FC finally managed a win. The often maligned Blues grabbed a 1-0 victory on the road against fellow stragglers Crystal Palace Baltimore.
More movement seems to occur on the bottom of the Power Rankings than the top these days, and the same was true this week. Once again, the high-flying Aztex are holding the top spot, while Rochester solidified its number two status with a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers on Wednesday.
The Rhinos and Aztex, along with the Vancouver Whitecaps are the three sides closet to clinching a playoff spot — going off the assumption at least 35-40 points will be the cutoff.
Here's a look at this week's power rankings:
1. Austin Aztex (11-2-5)
Last Match– Won 3-1 vs. Miami FC on July 31.
Next Match– vs. Tampa Bay on Saturday, August 7.
Outlook: The striker-rich Aztex got even richer with the addition of Randi Patterson this past week. Between him, Jamie Watson, Maxwell Griffin and Eddie Johnson, Austin is going to be a tough beat in the playoffs. They should be able to handle Tampa's visit this weekend at House Park.
2. Rochester Rhinos (10-5-6)
Last Match– Won 1-0 vs. Portland on August 4.
Next Match– at Carolina Railhawks on Wednesday, August 11.
Outlook: The Rhinos survived a road trip and keep eking out 1-0 wins. Their victory Wednesday was the third time they've done that this season. Carrying and maintaining this form into the playoffs has to be their focus.
3. Vancouver Whitecaps (8-3-10)
Last Match– Tied 2-2 at Carolina Railhawks on July 31.
Next Match– at A.C. St. Louis on Friday, August 6.
Outlook: Vancouver needs a win to keep pace with Austin. The strong defense continues to carry the load, though had a letdown last weekend against Carolina, blowing an early lead.
4. Portland Timbers (7-6-5)
Last Match– Lost 1-0 at Rochester Rhinos on August 4.
Next Match– vs. NSC Minnesota on Wednesday, August 11.
Outlook: A roller coaster season continued this week. The Timbers couldn't find a way to win on the road in Rochester, but are looking good for the playoffs. A weekend off ahead of hosting Minnesota give them a chance to sort things out.
5. Carolina Railhawks (6-4-7)
Last Match– Tied 2-2 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps on July 31.
Next Match– vs. Montreal on Saturday, August 7.
Outlook: The Railhawks showed real fight to recover and tie against Vancouver. Encouraging signs from the offense, though shipping the Whitecaps two goals in the early stages isn't good.
6. Montreal Impact (6-8-6)
Last Match– Tied 1-1 at Baltimore on July 31.
Next Match– at Carolina on Saturday, August 7.
Outlook: The Impact needed some luck to avoid defeat against one of the league's worst teams last weekend. They also suspended forward Peter Byers for violating team rules, a development that won't help a club struggling to score.
7. NSC Minnesota Stars (7-9-6)
Last Match– Tied 2-2 at A.C. St. Louis on August 1.
Next Match– at Portland on Wednesday, August 11.
Outlook: Minnesota currently holds the title of "best expansion side" and can hold onto that during a trip to Portland next week. With 10 days off, the Stars have a chance to creep closer towards a playoff spot.
Last Match– Tied 2-2 vs. Portland Timbers on July 31.
Next Match– at Austin on Saturday, August 7.
Outlook: Can Tampa Bay continue to bounce back? They righted the ship against Miami and tied against Portland — though conceded another late goal in the process. The Rowdies are right on the brink, and have a tough challenge ahead of them.
9. Puerto Rico Islanders (6-7-5)
Last Match– Won 3-1 vs. Rochester Rhinos on July 24.
Next Match– vs. Miami FC on Saturday, August 7.
Outlook: Puerto Rico has advanced to the group stages of the CONCACAF Champions League, but at what cost? The two legs with the Galaxy allowed for the Islanders to rest, and a home game against Miami is a favorable matchup.
10. A.C. St. Louis (5-10-5)
Last Match– Tied 2-2 vs. NSC Minnesota on August 1.
Next Match– vs. Vancouver on Friday, August 6.
Outlook: An entertaining match against Minnesota ended in disappointment. Luke Kreamalmeyer's second appeared to be enough for a winner, but a late goal erased hopes of three points. A win over Vancouver this weekend would be a morale-boosting result.
11. Miami FC (3-8-9)
Last Match– Won 1-0 at Crystal Palace Baltimore on Wednesday, August 4.
Next Match– at Puerto Rico on August 7.
Outlook: Miami's win in Maryland was just their third of the year. It's not too late to think playoffs, but it would be wise to go one game at a time. A trip to Puerto Rico is a tough challenge, and anything shy of three points every time on the field for Miami does them no good.
12. Crystal Palace Baltimore (5-10-5)
Last Match– Lost 1-0 vs. Miami FC on August 4.
Next Match– vs. Montreal on Saturday, July 31.
Outlook: Crystal Palace appear to be a mess, both on and off the field. Financially, problems in the background influenced the sale of Randi Patterson to Austin. Then, Baltimore couldn't get the better of Miami. There have been some bright spots this year, but those are quickly becoming distant memories as Baltimore heads toward the bottom of the league.