By TRAVIS CLARK
Crystal Palace Baltimore has finally won a match in second division soccer.
In the most unlikeliest of places, against an opponent that had yet to lose, Baltimore eked out a 1-0 win against heavy favorites Portland Timbers at PGE Park Thursday night. Cuban striker Yaikel Perez scored the game's only goal in the 29th minute, and Palace Baltimore was able to hold on for the club's first win of the season.
The return of Mandjou Keita couldn't provide the goal-scoring boost necessary, as Baltimore earned a second consecutive clean sheet. Both teams have a short rest, playing again this weekend.
Here's a look at this weekend's USSF D-2 action:
FC Tampa Bay Rowdies at Carolina Railhawks, 7:00pm
May is a cruel month for Carolina, at least schedule-wise. The Railhawks play four of five games away from WakeMed Park, returning home for the only game of the month in North Carolina Friday evening. Visiting Tampa Bay Rowdies are coming off back-to-back draws, and will look to deal Carolina another defeat at home. Carolina's road ahead is even more difficult, as they travel to Puerto Rico, Montreal, Portland and Vancouver, not returning to Cary until June 19 — making a win against Tampa Bay even more important.
Miami FC at NSC Minnesota Stars, 8:00pm
Miami FC hasn't been able to win at home, so perhaps a trip out of Florida will do them some good. Scoring has been their main problem, and they'll look to get going against the team that has conceded the most goals in the USSF second division. With Baltimore's win against Portland Thursday night, Miami remains the last winless team out there. On the flip side, Minnesota is hoping to put the skids on a losing streak that's seen them drop three in a row.
A.C. St. Louis at Portland Timbers, 10:00pm
The shock loss to Crystal Palace Baltimore should have both the Timbers' faithful and players fired up to quickly forget their first loss of the season. Next up is A.C. St. Louis, and while the rest is short, Gavin Wilkinson's erratic substitutions in Thursday night's loss will leave a couple of Timbers fresh and available. St. Louis will look to take advantage of that short rest and deal the Timbers a second straight loss in front of their home crowd.
Montreal Impact at Vancouver Whitecaps, 10:30pm
The Canadian rivalry begins for one more season in second division play, before going on a one-year hiatus. Each side brings their share of trouble to Saturday night's matchup: both clubs are finding goal-scoring difficult, as Vancouver failed to score against Baltimore last weekend, while Montreal needed two late goals to see off the upset bid of NSC Minnesota at home. Can either side find a way to breakthrough? A 0-0 draw could be the outcome in this one.
Crystal Palace Baltimore at Austin Aztex, 7:00pm
There's no rest for the weary as Crystal Palace Baltimore makes another long trip to Texas. With a win on Sunday, Austin can overtake Portland — depending on their result against St. Louis — with the highest point total in the league. The Aztex haven't spent a lot of time at home, and will look to get a second win on the season in front of a home crowd. The travel-weary visitors got their first win against Portland, but will be hard-pressed to get a second.