By TRAVIS CLARK
Just two months into the USSF Division 2 season, and off the field distractions hang over the head of new club St. Louis.
Ahead of a scheduled meeting with FC Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday evening, reports have emerged from St. Louis casting doubts on the future of A.C. St. Louis, and fellow WPS club the Athletica. Overseas funding that was supposed to keep the club afloat through 2011 is uncertain, leaving league officials scrambling to fix the situation.
For the players, it's business as usual, with Saturday evening's meeting against the Rowdies set to go ahead as scheduled. Steve Ralston is cleared to play barring any late setbacks, and will debut in front of a home crowd. His return can only improve a struggling St. Louis side that sits at 1-5-1 on the year.
Here's a look at the rest of this weekend's action:
Portland Timbers at Crystal Palace Baltimore, 7:00pm
Two sides that squared off just one week ago, Portland will be in search of revenge after Palace Baltimore dealt the Timbers their first loss of the season at PGE Park. Ryan Pore, who opened the season on fire, will look to get back on track against Baltimore, who have yet to win a game at home this year. Evan Bush has been solid in goal for the home side, and might find himself under siege as Portland looks to fix its attacking troubles.
NSC Minnesota at Miami FC, 7:30pm
Miami's bizarre season start continues — they are the only winless team in the league, while simultaneously the lone undefeated team in USSF D-2. Thanks to a string of five draws, Miami is in a unique position as Minnesota comes to Florida, one week after the two sides met up north. Four games have been decided by a 1-1 result, with the fifth a 0-0 draw — it's hard to see a different result in this coming out of this one.
Rochester Rhinos at Vancouver Whitecaps, 10:10pm
The Vancouver Whitecaps have set the bar high in terms of struggling to score — four goals in six games says it all. But thanks to a monster defense, conceded just two in that span, Vancouver remains a legitimate threat and sits in second place in the USL Conference. Their last league goal came on April 29 when Nelson Akwari scored against the Portland Timbers. Since then, the Whitecaps played out two scoreless draws in a row. With Rochester arriving to town, Vancouver is waiting to hear if Jonny Steele and Marcus Nash will be available, and if either can engineer a successful attack.