By TRAVIS CLARK
Once again, the Portland Timbers couldn't hold on to a lead. After coming from behind to take the lead on visiting NSC Minnesota, the Timbers defense conceded again, tying 2-2 as a result.
Granted, they were down a man, but in front of a boisterous crowd at PGE Park, the Timbers should hope to achieve a better result. Elsewhere in USSF D-2 mid-week action, Rochester beat Carolina 2-0 at WakeMed Soccer Park, Crystal Palace Baltimore and Montreal battled to a scoreless tie, and Tampa Bay took a trip to Puerto Rico and drew 1-1.
The resulting implications can be seen in this week's power rankings. Austin and Rochester stay on top, with the Rhinos breathing down Austin's neck. Despite Carolina's loss, they jump over Portland into fourth, while the stars are slowly keeping pace.
Here's a look at this week's power rankings:
1. Austin Aztex (12-2-5)
Last Match– Won 4-2 vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies on August 7.
Next Match– at Puerto Rico on Saturday, August 14.
Outlook: Rochester may be close points-wise, but a lot of that can be chalked up to the Rhinos having played more games. A trip to Puerto Rico will be a stern test this weekend.
2. Rochester Rhinos (11-5-6)
Last Match– Won 2-0 at Carolina Railhawks on August 11.
Next Match– vs. Montreal Impact on Saturday, August 14.
Outlook: A short week will stretch Rochester's depth, but at this point there's no reason to believe their impressive run won't continue.
3. Vancouver Whitecaps (8-3-11)
Last Match– Tied 0-0 at A.C. St. Louis on August 6.
Next Match– at NSC Minnesota on Saturday, August 14.
Outlook: A draw on the road is never a bad result, though Vancouver should hope for more against St. Louis. Again, keep an eye on their goal-scoring ability. Maybe Omar Salgado can see some playing time and help rectify that.
4. Carolina Railhawks (7-5-7)
Last Match– Lost 2-0 vs. Carolina Railhawks on August 11.
Next Match– at Crystal Palace Baltimore on Saturday, August 14.
Outlook: While the Railhawks are in good shape in terms of the playoff race, they can't seem to win on a regular basis at home. This could catch up to them by playoff time.
5. Portland Timbers (7-7-7)
Last Match– Tied 2-2 vs. NSC Minnesota on August 11.
Next Match– at A.C. St. Louis on Saturday, August 14.
Outlook: Portland has hit another rough patch, going four games without a win. Even returning to PGE Park didn't alleviate the woes, once again failing to hold a lead. Ryan Pore is hungry to prove he should be kept around when the Timbers make the jump to MLS.
6. NSC Minnesota Stars (7-9-7)
Last Match– Tied 2-2 at Portland Timbers on August 11.
Next Match– vs. Vancouver on Saturday, August 14.
Outlook: Every point is valuable for the Stars, and snatching a point in Portland is a big result. Carrying that home to this weekend against the Whitecaps is a chance to keep things going.
7. Montreal Impact (6-9-7)
Last Match– Tied 0-0 vs. Crystal Palace Baltimore on August 11.
Next Match– at Rochester on Saturday, August 14.
Outlook: Even the visit of Crystal Palace Baltimore couldn't solve Montreal's problems, and they need to turn things around quickly to ensure they don't miss out on the playoffs.
Last Match– Tied 1-1 at Puerto Rico Islanders on August 11.
Next Match– at Miami on Saturday, August 14.
Outlook: The Rowdies are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot, and travel to Miami for the Coastal Cup this weekend. One win in the last 13 games isn't going to cut it.
9. Puerto Rico Islanders (6-7-7)
Last Match– Tied 1-1 vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies on August 11.
Next Match– vs. Austin on Saturday, August 14.
Outlook: Things are about to get mighty busy for Puerto Rico, with the CONCACAF Champions League on the horizon. Winning at home is essential if they hope to make the playoffs.
10. A.C. St. Louis (5-10-6)
Last Match– Tied 0-0 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps on August 6.
Next Match– vs. Portland on Saturday, August 14.
Outlook: A home draw against Vancouver is nothing to be ashamed about, and St. Louis will look to defeat Portland for the second straight time at home this weekend.
11. Miami FC (3-8-10)
Last Match– Tied 1-1 at Puerto Rico Islanders on August 7.
Next Match– vs. Tampa Bay on Saturday, August 14.
Outlook: The Blues are badly in need of a turnaround if they hope to actually make the playoffs. Worst in points, inter-state rival Tampa Bay visits on the weekend, and if they aren't fired up for that, there's not much else to be positive about.
12. Crystal Palace Baltimore (5-10-6)
Last Match– Tied 0-0 at Montreal on August 11.
Next Match– vs. Carolina on Saturday, August 14.
Outlook: While Baltimore is hanging on in both the league and off the field, ties at this point are little help.