By TRAVIS CLARK
Three teams who sat out last weekend's Division 2 opening matches get their chances to debut in the 2010 second-division season in Week Two action.
Crystal Palace Baltimore and Tampa Bay both play their first-ever game at this level, squaring off in Maryland. Meanwhile, out west, last season's table-toppers Portland host Rochester. Puerto Rico remains the only Division 2 club yet to play, and won't open the 2010 season until Wednesday.
St. Louis soccer fans get to officially welcome their brand-new club when A.C. St. Louis hosts the Austin Aztex Saturday night. A 2-0 loss against Carolina
Here's a brief look at this weekend's match-ups:
FC Tampa Bay Rowdies at Crystal Palace Baltimore, 7pm
Tampa Bay makes the trip up to visit Baltimore as both clubs makes a debut of sorts. Crystal Palace made the transition from third division to second, while Tampa comes in as an expansion team. Expect the game to reflect the situation – two teams feeling each other out, trying to figure what it will take to succeed on this level. Baltimore had a shake up earlier this week, as co-head coach Pete Medd stepped down to focus on the club's overall business development. With Jim Cherneski still in charge, it likely won't have a negative impact on Baltimore.
Paul Dalglish will make his head coaching debut, looking to steer the expansion Rowdies to a playoff berth. He has some interesting assets at his disposal,
NSC Minnesota Stars at Carolina Railhawks, 7pm
Offensive struggles plagued Carolina in last week's home opener against A.C. St. Louis, but a formidable defense and brand new opponent translated into a 2-0 win. The Railhawks are hampered with a few injury issues, though Gregory Richardson and Floyd Franks near a comeback.
This week's match-up features yet another expansion team, as Minnesota will make the trip to WakeMed Park. With Louis Crayton on the sidelines, the Stats will either turn to Joe Warren, or new signing Matt Van Oekel in goal. It won't really matter who fills in — the Stars face a tough challenge against a solid Carolina team.
Rochester Rhinos at Portland Timbers, 7pm
The new and improved Rhinos make the trip out west to help the Timbers open a final season in Division 2 soccer. A disappointing end to what had been a successful 2009 season might still be lingering for Portland, but with the opener right around the corner last season will be a distant memory.
The Timbers welcome a Rochester team still in transition that drew Miami 1-1 last weekend. It's another tough trip for the Rhinos, who have to rebuild on the fly as they play a second straight game on the road. Even a draw would be a good result for Rochester.
Austin Aztex at A.C. St. Louis, 7:10pm
Soccer fans in St. Louis who have been clamoring for an MLS team will get their chance to show what kind of support can be mustered for a division 2 club as A.C. St. Louis hosts their inaugural opener. Austin visits Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park, fresh off a confidence-building 2-0 win against defending champions Montreal. Another positive performance out of Austin would really suggest the club has turned a corner.
St. Louis performed admirably against Carolina, though in the end weren't on the same level as the title contenders. Still in search of their first goal, they signed a 19-year-old Brazilian forward, Alex Titton, this week, in hopes to remedy that quickly.
Vancouver Whitecaps at Miami FC, 7:30pm
The Whitecaps make the long journey to Florida in search of a second straight win against Miami FC. Vancouver took a long time to get started offensively against Minnesota, and will need to perform better against a Miami side that had a uneven performance of their own last week. Christian Gomez remains the player to watch for Miami — if he can get things going, he'll be a headache for Vancouver to deal with.