By TRAVIS CLARK
For the Vancouver Whitecaps, the draw has been their best friend.
The NASL-leading Whitecaps got another point Thursday night, drawing 1-1 in Tampa Bay, and extending a road unbeaten streak to 10 games. A point isn't good enough for Tampa Bay at this point, badly in need of wins at this stage in the season.
Montreal and Crystal Palace Baltimore will look to take advantage of Tampa Bay's inability to win when the two sides meet (Saturday, 5:00 p.m.). The two clubs are certainly struggling — Montreal is winless in five and fading from the playoff picture, while Baltimore hasn't been much of a threat at home. Three valuable points will be on the line when the two kick off on Saturday. Only four teams out of 12 miss the playoffs, so everyone is still alive at this point.
Here is a look at the rest of this weekend's D-2 action:
Puerto Rico Islanders vs. A.C. St. Louis, 8:10 p.m.
This weekend will given an indicator of how well the Puerto Rico Islanders can compete on two fronts. The Islanders began their Champions League campaign with a draw earlier in the week, and will try to cling to a playoff spot in the second division when they travel to St. Louis. It's still feasible to mention playoffs and St. Louis in the same breath, although if they can't find a way to win this one, it might not be for much longer.
Miami FC vs. Rochester Rhinos, 7:00 p.m.
Is Miami the team to slow down the Rhinos? Rochester is on fire at the moment, and are currently at the top of D-2. Prior to the season, Rochester had scrapped their roster, rang a number of changes in an effort to improve. So far, things have worked out well, and the club has assembled a competent defense to go with an efficient attack. Their sixth win in a row is within reach as they host Miami.
Portland Timbers vs. NSC Minnesota, 8:00 p.m.
The Timbers took a page out of the Whitecaps' approach to 2010-11 by announcing the signing of Ghana U-20 youth international Kalif Alhassan on Thursday. And while he'll look to play a role in 2011, Portland is in good shape for the postseason, barring a major catastrophy. Perhaps the biggest question is how they'll look to prepare for next year while remaining competitive in 2010. Minnesota, meanwhile, haven't won a game in all of August and are tied for seventh overall.
Carolina Railhawks vs. Austin Aztex, 7:00 p.m.
A trip down to Puerto Rico ended Austin's winning streak, and a return to House Park gives them a chance to start anew. Austin has a ten point lead over the Railhawks in the standings, and will look to pick up where they left off before the blip against the Islanders. Carolina's defense has the ability to shut down the vaunted Aztex attack, but probably won't be able to keep up if Eddie Johnson and Maxwell Griffin get on track.