By JOHN BOSCHINI
A high-profile clash of two league leaders highlights this weekend's action in the NASL.
The high-flying Carolina Railhawks will look to avenge their Week 1 loss to the Puerto Rico Islanders, who returned to NASL play with a 2-0 loss to Minnesota in midweek. Carolina holds a six-point lead over Puerto Rico, but the Islanders have two games in hand.
Things aren't going quite so well for the Montreal Impact and FC Tampa Bay, both of whom are struggling near the bottom of the table. Aside from its five-goal clinic against FC Edmonton, the Impact has scored only three goals this season and will rely on its defense to get a result. FC Tampa Bay, on the other hand, has scored only four times this season.
The Atlanta Silverbacks will continue to search for their first win of the season over mid-table Ft. Lauderdale. Both sides are struggling offensively, letting in a league-high 11 goals.
With its win over the weekend, Minnesota took over second place in the NASL table, but the Stars have the weekend off. A win for Puerto Rico would put it back in the runner-up position.
Here is a look ahead to the weekend action in the NASL:
Puerto Rico Islanders at Carolina Railhawks (Saturday, 7 p.m.)
Etienne Barbara will try to extend his goal-scoring streak to seven games as the Railhawks look to extend their unbeaten run to seven games. Puerto Rico downed Carolina, 1-0, on the first weekend of the season in a rematch of last season's championship game.
Jonathan Para and Nicholas Addlery will bear the burden of getting the Islanders, who are coming off a lenghty absence from league play, back on track.
Montreal Impact at FC Tampa Bay (Saturday, 7 p.m.)
Montreal has ben one of the streakier teams this season. Two uninspired performances against Tampa Bay gave way to an offensive explosion against Edmonton, and the Impact will try to ride that momentum to its second win of the season.
FC Tampa Bay has scored only four times with no player scoring more than once. A steady defense is not enough to push Tampa Bay up the table, and there's danger of the gap becoming too wide.
Ft. Lauderdale Strikers at Atlanta Silverbacks (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
It's a matchup of leaky defenses as Atlanta tries to get its offense on track after scoring only three goals in six games. Ft. Lauderdale's Eduardo Coudet has four goals on his own, and the Strikers shouldn't expect Atlanta to provide much resistance.
Atlanta has yet to earn a single point at Silverbacks Park this season, and a win would go a long way towards averting disaster in 2011.
What do you think of this weekend's games? Excited for Puerto Rico vs. Carolina? Expecting Atlanta to get its first win of the season?
Share your thoughts below.