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United States Soccer Federation Division 2 Playoff Preview And Picks

Benjamin Massey of the Vancouver Whitecaps blog 86 Forever gives us his preview on the USSFD2 playoffs. Mostly, he's going with the chalk, with his one upset being the Montreal Impact over the Austin Aztex.

Timbers Army was out in full force during the Whitecaps' final home game. It could get even crazier not that its playoff time.
Timbers Army was out in full force during the Whitecaps' final home game. It could get even crazier not that its playoff time.

by Benjamin Massey

#1 Rochester Rhinos (1st USL Conference, 16-8-6) v. #8 Puerto Rico Islanders (5th USL Conference, 9-11-10)

This matchup is closer than it looks on paper, with the Islanders suffering from bad luck and a few key injuries that meant their record doesn't fully reflect the quality of their team. But the Islanders have struggled with team defense (even former MLSer Marco Velez has struggled) and Rochester has the league's best scoring depth to vex the unfortunate Puerto Ricans. Nine Rhinos have scored at least two goals in the regular season, but Puerto Rico's best threats by far are journeymen strikers David Foley and Nicholas Addlery. It's an unlucky draw for the Islanders, who probably would have done well against any team but Rochester. Rochester 3 - 1 Puerto Rico

#2 Carolina Railhawks (1st NASL Conference, 13-9-8) v. #7 NSC Minnesota Stars (4th USL Conference, 11-12-7)

The Railhawks take the second seed by winning the weaker NASL Conference, but in spite of their good record there are questions of how strong the Railhawks are: Leading scorer Etienne Barbara, a member of the Maltese national team, had never been a serious professional scorer before this season, and goaltender Eric Reed has been suspect. But the Stars, with a weak defense and not enough scoring punch to make up for it, shouldn't be a serious obstacle. With no ownership for next season, Minnesota may be playing their last games but it's unlikely they'll give their fans a farewell to remember. Carolina 3 - 0 Minnesota.

#3 Austin Aztex (2nd USL Conference, 15-7-8) v. #6 Montreal Impact (3rd NASL Conference, 12-11-7)

This series promises to be the most entertaining for the neutral. Montreal is on a staggering 6-1-0 run that includes a 2-0 victory over these very Austin Aztex, and with nine goals in 13 games leading scorer Ali Gerba might be the most dangerous player in the league. But Austin can't be underestimated: Leading scorers Edward Johnson and Maxwell Griffin both broke the ten goal milestone and their veteran-laden midfield has led them to success. Goaltender Miguel Gallardo is a serious weakness for Austin and their defense is only average, meaning that Montreal's scorers should get their chances. Austin 3 - 4 Montreal.

#4 Portland Timbers (3rd USL Conference, 13-7-10) v. #5 Vancouver Whitecaps (2nd NASL Conference, 10-5-15)

Two blood rivals, both moving to Major League Soccer next season, with evenly matched teams and one of the few rivalries that the players feel as intensely as the fans. Last Saturday Vancouver and Portland warred to a 2-2 draw in one of the best-played games of the season and there's no reason to believe the two won't play as even the rest of the way. Vancouver is the league's best defensive team, but Portland is very nearly as good and can score once in a while, boasting probable league MVP Ryan Pore as their star striker. The Timbers should have the advantage but it could swing either way in a heartbeat. Portland 2 - 1 Vancouver.