Anthony Vasquez headed home a free kick in the 21st minute to put Puerto Rico in front 1-0, and David Foley sealed the match for the Islanders with five minutes to go, sending the Minnesota Stars to a 2-0 defeat in Puerto Rico on Saturday night. The loss was Minnesota's first in six matches, and ensures that the team remains in sixth place in the standings, able to finish no higher than fourth - and fourth-place Carolina, currently sitting on a one-point lead over the Stars, has two games in hand this week to take even that out of reach.
The NASL's playoff format, in which six of the league's eight teams qualify for the post-season, makes things difficult on the lower seeds. The #1 and #2 seeds get byes directly to the semifinals, which are two-game, home-and-home, total-goals affairs - but the first-round games, between the third and sixth seeds and fourth and fifth seeds, are single-game affairs, with the higher-seeded team hosting. Minnesota managed to win the league title despite being the sixth seed last year, but even getting out of the first round as a road team - in a league where home teams lost only 23 of 104 matches so far this season - is difficult.
Carolina plays both Sunday and Wednesday matches, so by later in the week, the Stars will know much more about the possibilities for their playoff fate. Minnesota would certainly rather avoid another trip to Puerto Rico - the Stars have never won there, and never looked like doing so in this match.