By TRAVIS CLARK
For the first time in a long time, all 12 USSF D-2 will be in action this weekend.
With the playoff race creating pressure in almost every match, eyes will be on Rochester as the Rhinos play host to the FC Tampa Bay Rowdies (7:00 p.m., Saturday).
A poor patch of form has consigned the Rowdies to a tie for the last spot in the USSF D-2 playoff race, and a difficult road test awaits. Rochester still has plenty to play with, battling it out with the Austin Aztex for the top spot in the league.
Here's a look at the rest of the weekend's D-2 action:
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Crystal Palace Baltimore, 5:00 p.m.
Vancouver makes the long flight out east to take on a slumping Palace Baltimore side in Maryland. The stats are grim for Baltimore — four straight losses, outscored 13-0 in those four. Perhaps the best outcome they can hope for is a 0-0 tie. With one of the league's best defenses coming to town, who also have an affinity for the draw, it could be worse.
Portland Timbers vs. Carolina Railhawks, 7:00 p.m.
The Timbers 2010 season will finish away from home, as work has begun on PGE Park in preparation for next year's MLS season. A trip to WakeMed Soccer Park, where the Railhawks have struggled to put up results, could be friendly enough for the Timbers. There's more at stake for the home side as well, well within range of Vancouver for first place in the NASL Conference.
Montreal Impact vs. Miami FC, 7:30 p.m.
Three straight wins by Montreal has put to bed any lingering concerns that the Impact might miss out on postseason play. A trip to Miami is as easy as they come, especially after the Blues sent out their best player, Paulo Araujo, Jr., on loan to Real Salt Lake. Ali Gerba will look to keep things rolling down in Florida.
Austin Aztex vs. Puerto Rico Islanders, 8:05 p.m.
The Aztex travel to Puerto Rico with revenge on their mind. Last time they lost was back on August 14, in Puerto Rico. Now riding another unbeaten streak — this time at just four — Austin will look maintain their slim lead at the top of USSF D-2. Islanders will turn to the Foley-Addlery combination to strike at the vulnerable Austin defense.
NSC Minnesota vs. A.C. St. Louis, 8:10 p.m.
The biggest stakes lie with this one. St. Louis plays host to Minnesota, and both have to win to keep hope alive. A St. Louis win would be massive — depending on the outcome of the Rochester-Tampa Bay match, could spring A.C. into a playoff spot. The good news for the Stars is that they've yet to lose to St. Louis this season, and hope that won't change this weekend.