By TRAVIS CLARK
Two young teams have seized control early on in the USSF D-2 season. The Austin Aztex are joined at the top of the table by expansion club Tampa Bay Rowdies, a club that won twice in a three-day span last week.
Mid-week D-2 action saw Miami FC drop a second straight game, losing 4-2 against Puerto Rico. After the Blues jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first half, the Islanders hit back with four goals in the second half to ease past Miami. The loss leaves Miami buried in 10th place.
Here's a look at this week's USSF Division 2 Power Rankings:
SBI USSF DIVISION 2 POWER RANKINGS (Week 8)
1. Austin Aztex (6-1-2)
Last Match– Won 2-0 at Crystal Palace Baltimore on Saturday.
Next Match– vs. Puerto Rico on Saturday, June 5.
Outlook: The unbeaten streak reached seven over last weekend, as Austin posted a second consecutive win, this time over Crystal Palace Baltimore. Making life even better for the second-year club is the stretch of three straight games at home over the next few weeks.
Last Match– Won 2-1 vs. Puerto Rico Islands on Saturday.
Next Match– at Vancouver on Sunday, June 6.
Outlook: A brilliant stretch last week — two wins in three matches — catapulted the Rowdies up into second spot in the Power Rankings. A road trip up to Vancouver will be a massive test of Tampa Bay's ability to win on the road.
3. Vancouver Whitecaps (3-2-3)
Last Match– Lost 2-1 at Rochester Rhinos on Saturday.
Next Match– vs. Tampa Bay on Sunday, June 6.
Outlook: The Whitecaps were unable to make it two-from-two against Rochester, though making the loss encouraging was actually getting a late goal. As soon as the Whitecaps fix their goal-scoring woes, they'll be tough to deal with.
4. Montreal Impact (3-2-2)
Last Match– Lost 2-0 vs. Carolina Railhawks on Sunday.
Next Match– vs. Miami on Sunday, June 6.
Outlook: A couple of International friendlies — against Fiorentina and AC Milan — gave Montreal a chance to face foreign clubs, but it appeared to make little difference over the weekend, losing 2-0 at home against Carolina.
5. Rochester Rhinos (4-3-2)
Last Match– Won 2-1 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday
Next Match– vs. NSC Minnesota on Friday, June 4.
Outlook: Uneven performances are becoming a real trait for Rochester, with last weekend's win against Vancouver bringing a much-needed three points. After holding on against a tough Vancouver side, an easier matchup against Minnesota awaits. Rochester has a chance to improve their patchy home form with two straight at Marina Auto Stadium.
6. Carolina Railhawks (3-2-2)
Last Match– Won 2-0 at Montreal Impact on Sunday.
Next Match– at Portland on Sunday, June 6.
Outlook: Back-to-back road wins against Puerto Rico and Montreal show that Carolina is a dangerous club — when they can score. Their trip to Portland will be a third road straight road game (with one more remaining).
7. Portland Timbers (3-3-2)
Last Match– Lost at 2-1 Crystal Palace Baltimore on Saturday, May 22.
Next Match– vs. Carolina on Sunday, June 6.
Outlook: Portland gets back into league action after weekend off that saw them beat Boca Juniors 3-2. The narrow win should inspire confidence ahead of the visit of a tough Carolina team. Ryan Pore is still looking for someone to help him bear the scoring load, with Mandjou Keita getting off to a slow start after his return from India.
8. Puerto Rico Islanders (3-3)
Last Match– Won 4-2 vs. Miami FC on Wednesday.
Next Match– at Austin Aztex on Saturday, June 5.
Outlook: Wednesday's win against Miami saw Puerto Rico come back in a big way. The uneven scheduling hasn't helped, and another weekend off awaits the Islanders. As a result, Puerto Rico has only played six games at this early stage of the season, leaving them slightly behind some of the other clubs.
9. Crystal Palace Baltimore (3-5-1)
Last Match– Lost 2-0 vs. Austin Aztex on Saturday.
Next Match– at Miami on Wednesday, June 9.
Outlook: Austin put Baltimore's short, two game winning streak to bed, but with each passing week, Baltimore proves that they can hang with the new level. Financially, things may be another story, but for now life on the pitch if looking up, in particular with Evan Bush playing well in goal.
10. Miami FC (1-2-5)
Last Match– Lost 4-2 at Puerto Rico Islanders on Wednesday.
Next Match– at Montreal on Sunday, June 9.
Outlook: Miami's second loss in a row doesn't bode well, as winning remains elusive. Perhaps even more worrying is the goals conceded during that stretch — after only allowing four goals in their first six games of the season, Miami has now let in seven in their last two.
11. NSC Minnesota Stars (3-7-1)
Last Match– Won 3-2 vs. A.C. St. Louis on Saturday.
Next Match– at Rochester on Friday, June 4.
Outlook: Fighting back against St. Louis ought to bring some confidence into Friday's road matchup against Rochester. Defeating A.C. St. Louis and going up against the rest of the league are two different things, and a road win against Rochester would be provide an even bigger boost this weekend.
12. A.C. St. Louis (1-7-1)
Last Match– Lost 3-2 at NSC Minnesota on Saturday.
Next Match– at Puerto Rico on Saturday, June 12.
Outlook: Despite Steve Ralston starting and going 90 minutes, A.C. St. Louis couldn't protect a lead on the road, losing last weekend to NSC Minnesota. The club's future hangs in the balance, with financial problems already forcing the closure of the Athletica — it's uncertain if A.C. St. Louis will even last the entire 2010 season.