By TRAVIS CLARK
While second division soccer appears to be headed towards another tumultuous offseason, a few more weeks remain of regular season action in 2010.
The race for eight playoff spots is heating up, and even the bottom clubs like Miami and Baltimore maintain ever so small hopes to qualify for postseason play.
Up at the top, Austin continues to lead the way, racking up a 14th win of the season over last weekend. Rochester is keeping up, but the Aztex certainly look capable of locking up the top spot in USSF D-2.
Here's a look at this week's power rankings:
1. Austin Aztex (14-3-7)
Last Match– Won 2-0 vs. NSC Minnesota on September 4.
Next Match– at Puerto Rico September 11.
Outlook: The Aztex kept on rolling through D-2 opposition, besting Minnesota this last weekend. Next up? A trip to Puerto Rico, site of one of their three losses on the year.
2. Rochester Rhinos (14-6-6)
Last Match– Lost 2-0 at Montreal Impact on August 27.
Next Match– vs. Tampa Bay on September 11.
Outlook: A weekend off will be helpful for Rochester as they get set to play their final four regular season games.
3. Vancouver Whitecaps (9-3-14)
Last Match– Tied 0-0 vs. Puerto Rico Islanders on September 5.
Next Match– at Baltimore on September 11.
Outlook: Whitecaps have the defense to contend, but will they find the goals?
4. Portland Timbers (11-7-8)
Last Match– Won 1-0 vs. Puerto Rico Islanders on September 2.
Next Match– at Carolina on September 11.
Outlook: Bright Dike's emergence as a second scoring option to Ryan Pore could prove to be a difference-maker in the playoffs.
5. Carolina Railhawks (10-7-7)
Last Match– Won 3-0 vs. Crystal Palace Baltimore on September 3.
Next Match– vs. Portland on September 11.
Outlook: The Railhawks can't be counted out as championship contenders, and appear to be putting it together at the right time.
6. Montreal Impact (8-10-7)
Last Match– Won 2-0 vs. Rochester Rhinos on August 27.
Next Match– at Puerto Rico on September 8.
Outlook: A road swing to Miami and Puerto Rico are tricky, but certainly winnable.
7. Puerto Rico Islanders (8-8-9)
Last Match– Tied 0-0 at Vancouver Whitecaps on September 5.
Next Match– vs. Montreal on September 8.
Outlook: The Islanders only managed one point from two Northwest games, but are in good shape for the playoffs.
Last Match– Tied 2-2 at A.C. St. Louis on August 29.
Next Match– at Rochester on September 11.
Outlook: Three big points are at stake when Tampa takes a trip to New York. The Rowdies haven't won much all summer, but can still qualify for postseason play with a strong finish.
9. A.C. St. Louis (6-11-8)
Last Match– Won 3-1 vs. Miami FC on September 5.
Next Match– vs. NSC Minnesota on September 11.
Outlook: A big win over Miami has St. Louis in contention for a rather unlikely playoff spot. Their keys? Mike Ambersley and Luke Kreamalmeyer.
10. NSC Minnesota Stars (7-12-7)
Last Match– Lost 2-0 at Austin on September 4.
Next Match– at St. Louis on September 11.
Outlook: Tied with Tampa, Minnesota has played one more game and based on current form look set to miss out on a playoff spot.
11. Crystal Palace Baltimore (6-14-6)
Last Match– Lost 3-0 at Carolina on September 3.
Next Match– vs. Vancouver on September 11.
Outlook: No goals in four games is not the right formula to make the postseason. Unsurprisingly, those four games have all been losses.
12. Miami FC (3-11-11)
Last Match– Lost 3-1 at St. Louis on September 5.
Next Match– vs. Montreal on September 11.
Outlook: While not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, anything of five straight wins and Miami is done for.