By TRAVIS CLARK
The USSF Second Division entered its final full month of play with the two-way race for the top as tight as ever.
Top spot in the second division will likely go to either Rochester Rhinos or Austin Aztex, with the Texan club holding an advantage of having two games in hand. Ausin jumped back into first place in both the USL Conference and the overall standings with a 2-0 win over NSC Minnesota at House Park over the weekend, while the Rhinos had a weekend off.
A brace from Eddie Johnson — with both goals set up by strike partner Jamie Watson — were enough as Austin's strong season continued. Johnson sits two goals behind Ryan Pore for the USSF D-2 goal-scoring title.
Here's a look at the rest of last weekend's USSF D-2 action:
ST. LOUIS STAYS ALIVE
To say that it's been a rocky first season for A.C. St. Louis seems like an understatement. The results on the pitch have been inconsistent, but slim playoff hopes were given a shot in the arm after a 3-1 win over bottom of the table Miami FC. Luke Kreamalmeyer and Mike Ambersley grabbed a goal apiece as St. Louis reduced the gap for a playoff spot to two points. The battle for the last playoff spot looks set to come down to either St. Louis, Minnesota or Tampa Bay.
RAILHAWKS CRUISE AT HOME
Winning at home in 2010 has proved to be a tricky task for Carolina in league play, but the visit of Crystal Palace Baltimore, and an emphatic 3-0 win should help exercise some of those demons. Three second half goals by Daniel Paladini, Allan Russell and Tom Heinemann — on loan from the Charleston Battery in USL-2 — were plenty as Nic Platter posted a shutout.
WHITECAPS DRAW AGAINST PUERTO RICO
No team in the USSF D-2 knows how to draw quite like the Vancouver Whitecaps. The MLS-bound side had quite a busy week as far as 2011 plans are concerned, but as far as this season goes couldn't score against Puerto Rico at home, tying 0-0. It was much of the same story for Vancouver as it has been all year — holding steady at the back, while unable to capitalize on opportunities created up front. The Islanders head home after a two-game swing in the Northwest, coming away with just one point from that stretch.