By TRAVIS CLARK
The Coastal Cup concludes this weekend as the Tampa Bay Rowdies make the trip up to face Miami FC.
Much more is at stake when this rivalry resumes (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.), as the Rowdies are in need of a win to improve their playoff chances, while Miami has to find a way to get all three points to even begin thinking about the playoffs. Tampa is currently tied for eighth with Puerto Rico for the final playoff spot, while Miami have the worst point total in the league.
Things haven't been much better under new coach Daryl Shore, posting a 1-2-1 record through four games in charge. Each team has won once, and the other two games have been draws in the four prior meetings of the two sides.
Here's a look at the rest of this weekend's D-2 matches:
Carolina Railhawks vs. Crystal Palace Baltimore, 6:00 p.m.
The Railhawks, a successful road team that seems to thrive more away from WakeMed Soccer Park, travel up to Baltimore to take on struggling Crystal Palace. Carolina has the top spot in the NASL Conference in their sight — just seven points behind Conference leaders Vancouver, the Railhawks have three games in hand on the Whitecaps. They should have little problems taking care of Baltimore.
Montreal Impact vs. Rochester Rhinos, 7:00 p.m.
The red-hot Rhinos host Montreal, looking to keep pressure on the first-place Austin Aztex. Rochester has been hard to beat of late, winners of three straight, shutting out opponents in those wins. They should have no problem taking care of Montreal, a team still in search of some consistency.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. NSC Minnesota, 8:00 p.m.
It's been the same story, week-in and week-out for the Whitecaps. Trying to balance this season's demands with preparations for 2011 and MLS, Vancouver brought in four new players who will get a chance to prove they belong next year. At the same time, a trip to Minnesota is on the immediate future and a chance to climb towards the 40-point mark. The Stars don't have MLS on their minds, but rather need to stop a string of draws to improve their playoff chances.
Austin Aztex vs. Puerto Rico Islanders, 8:05 p.m.
The Austin Aztex put a nine-game league unbeaten streak on the line, traveling to Puerto Rico to take on the Islanders. Perhaps heading on the road will undo the Aztex, by far the hottest team in the league. Winners of seven of those last nine, Austin has dropped only two games all season, and should at least come away from Puerto Rico with a point.
Portland Timbers vs. A.C. St. Louis, 8:10 p.m.
Revenge has to be at the front of the Portland Timbers' minds, after losing to A.C. St. Louis 3-0 during their last trip to the Midwest. That, and they are coming off a mid-week draw against NSC Minnesota. The hosts aren't quite out of the playoff discussions in spite of a poor start to the season, and with another emphatic performance versus the Timbers could thrust themselves closer to the playoff picture.