By TRAVIS CLARK
It took three weeks, but every USSF Division 2 team has now kicked off in 2010.
The last team to play, Puerto Rico, got off a hot start right away, beating NSC Minnesota at home, before heading on the road to earn another three points against Crystal Palace Baltimore. As a result, the Islanders shot up this week's edition of the USSF D2 Power Rankings.
Action continues tonight and tomorrow, as Minnesota hosts Rochester (the Rhinos playing a fourth straight game on the road) and Portland plays Vancouver in a clash of the No. 1 and 2 teams in Week Three's Power Rankings.
Here's a look at this week's USSF Division 2 Power Rankings:
SBI USSF DIVISION 2 POWER RANKINGS (Week 3)
1. Portland Timbers (2-0-1)
Last Match– Tied Montreal 1-1 on Sunday.
Next Match– vs. Vancouver on Thursday, April 29.
Outlook: A busy stretch for Portland ended successfully with a 1-1 draw away against Montreal on Sunday. Ryan Pore is carrying the offense at the moment, and the former Kansas City Wizards midfielder is humming along with four goals from three games.
2. Vancouver Whitecaps (2-0-1)
Last Match– Beat A.C. St. Louis 1-0 on Saturday.
Next Match– at Portland on Thursday, April 29.
Outlook: Their performances might not be the prettiest, but this early in the season the results are falling the Whitecaps way. A gritty 1-0 win over A.C. St. Louis should have been by a bigger margin, but a win is a win. A trip to Portland on Thursday will be a tough challenge.
3. Puerto Rico Islanders (2-0)
Last Match– Won 3-1 at Crystal Palace Baltimore on Saturday.
Next Match– at Montreal on Saturday, May 1.
Outlook: A bright start for Puerto Rico has the Islanders off on the right foot. Their two wins came against two new clubs, however, and a long trip up to Montreal this weekend will be their biggest test of the season at this point.
4. Austin Aztex (2-1)
Last Match– Lost vs. Rochester, 2-1 on Sunday.
Next Match– at NSC Minnesota on Saturday, May 1.
Outlook: The win streak had to end sometime, though Adrian Heath has to be a bit disappointed that Austin couldn't equalize up a man against Rochester in the final minutes. Still, six points from their first three games is a good place to be for Austin with the hot summer months approaching and the team making adjustments.
5. Carolina Railhawks (1-1)
Last Match– Lost to NSC Minnesota 1-0 on April 17.
Next Match– at Rochester on Saturday, May 1.
Outlook: A weekend off gave Carolina a chance to have a run out against Mexico's Olympic team — a team comprised of young and talented players from Mexico. Carolina takes to the road against Rochester, looking to bounce back from their loss to Minnesota in mid-April. Finding some offense is a priority at this early stage.
6. NSC Minnesota Stars (2-2)
Last Match– Won vs. Tampa Bay 1-0 on Saturday.
Next Match– vs. Rochester on April 28, vs. Austin on May 1.
Outlook: Another strong defensive effort — not to mention a solid performance from backup goalie Joe Warren — helped Minnesota bounce back in front of a home crowd against Tampa Bay. Making the win more impressive was their traveling arrangements, flying back after the mid-week loss to Puerto Rico and coming away with three points. Unfortunately a second consecutive week of two games awaits.
7. Rochester Rhinos (1-1-1)
Last Match– Won at Austin 2-1 on Sunday.
Next Match– at Minnesota on Wednesday, April 28, vs. Carolina on May 1.
Outlook: The end of Rochester's road travels is in sight, and with four points already in the bag, it's a positive start to the season after so many offseason changes. A second win of the year against Minnesota could happen tonight as Rochester settles into a consistent lineup.
8. Montreal Impact (0-1-1)
Last Match– Tied vs. Portland 1-1 on Sunday.
Next Match– vs. Puerto Rico on Saturday, May 1.
Outlook: Montreal's sluggish start to the season — thanks half in part to their play, half in part to the scheduling — continued with a 1-1 draw against Portland. With Puerto Rico visiting this weekend, getting that first win is almost a must.
9. Miami FC (0-0-2)
Last Match– Tied vs. Vancouver 1-1 on April 17.
Next Match– vs. Tampa Bay on Saturday, May 1.
Outlook: A week off gave Miami FC to flex build some confidence in a friendly against local amateur side Universitario de Uruguay. The 6-0 win kept the team sharp ahead of the Florida derby, as Tampa Bay visits on the weekend. Two draws in two isn't bad, but Miami hasn't shown the offensive flair that many suggested they might have after an offseason overhaul.
Last Match– Lost at NSC Minnesota 1-0 on Saturday.
Next Match– at Miami on Saturday, May 1.
Outlook: Losing against Minnesota could have been avoided — Tampa had the advantage in the run of play, but couldn't beat a stout defense. Finding that creative spark against Miami would help them get one over their in-state competition this weekend.
11. Crystal Palace Baltimore (0-2)
Last Match– Lost vs. Puerto Rico 3-1 on Sunday.
Next Match– at A.C. St. Louis on Saturday, May 1.
Outlook: Baltimore moves up a spot by virtue of having lost fewer games than A.C. St. Louis. The transition up a division continues to be a difficult task for Crystal Palace, and they now get the chance to visit St. Louis to try and grab that elusive first win.
12. A.C. St. Louis (0-4)
Last Match– Lost 2-1 vs. Austin on Saturday.
Next Match– vs. Crystal Palace Baltimore on Saturday, May 1.
Outlook: The losing streak continued, as St. Louis dropped two on a Northwest road trip. If St. Louis can't win against fellow newcomer Crystal Palace Baltimore at home, it's hard to imagine who they will beat this year.