MLS connections abound in final eight

[D-2 PRO LEAGUE] The first-year D-2 Pro League begins its playoffs on Wednesday with two games. The eight quarterfinals all feature players with MLS links. For a look at the eight teams and some of the MLS connections ...

(Click here for quarterfinal schedule.)

Rochester Rhinos (No. 1 seed)
Record: 16-8-6. Goals: 38/24 (rank: 4th/3rd). Average Att.: 6,464 (3rd).
Leading scorer: Isaac Kissi (8 goals).
MLS connection: Aaron Pitchkolan played 77 games for Dallas and San Jose before joining the Rhinos in 2010. Other MLS alums: Troy Roberts and Anthony Hamilton.

Carolina RailHawks
(No. 2 seed)
Record: 13-9-8. Goals: 44/32 (2nd/5th). Average Att.: 2,212 (9th).
Leading scorer: Etienne Barbara (8 goals)
MLS connection: David Hayes began his pro career in 1999 with D.C. United. He played 18 games with D.C. United and Chicago but has spent the majority of his career at the Division 2 level (250 games with eight different teams). Other MLS alums include Mark Schulte and Guyanese striker Gregory Richardson.

Austin Aztex (No. 3 seed)
Record: 15-7-8. Goals: 53/40 (1st/8th). Average Att.: 3,733 (6th).
Leading scorer: Eddie Johnson (14 goals), Maxwell Griffin (10 goals).
MLS connection: Jamie Watson, a first-round MLS pick in 2005, played 39 games for Real Salt Lake and Dallas. After being named the 2009 USL-2 MVP with the Wilmington Hammerheads, he signed a two-year deal with Austin. Another MLS alum: Leonard Griffin, Maxwell's brother, who played for Los Angeles and Chicago.

Portland Timbers (No. 4 seed)
Record: 13-7-10. Goals: 34/23 (8th/2nd). Average Att.: 10,727 (2nd).
Leading scorer: Ryan Pore (15 goals), Bright Dike (10).
MLS connection: Steve Cronin was the Los Angeles Galaxy's starting goalie in 2008 but joined the Timbers when the Galaxy signed Jamaican Donovan Ricketts. Other MLS alums include Ian Joy, Rodrigo Lopez, Quavas Kirk, Steve Purdy and Alex Nimo (on loan from Real Salt Lake).

Vancouver Whitecaps (No. 5 seed)
Record: 10-5-115. Goals: 32/24 (9th/1st). Average Att.: 5,149 (1st).
Leading scorer: Greg Janicki, Martin Nash, Blake Wagner (all 4 goals).
MLS connection: Nelson Akwari, who captained the U.S. under-17 national that included Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onyewu and Bobby Convey, played 78 games with the MetroStars, Columbus and Real Salt Lake  before moving to the USL-2 in 2007. Other MLS alums include Willis Forko, Jay Nolly, Janicki and Wagner.

Montreal Impact (No. 6 seed)
Record: 12-7-11. Goals: 36/30 (7th/4th). Average Att.: 12,397 (1st).
Leading scorer: Ali Gerba (9 goals).
MLS connection: Matt Jordan played 115 games for Dallas and Colorado. After a short stint in Denmark, he settled in Montreal three years ago. Other MLS alums include Stephen deRoux, David Testo and Gerba, the Cameroonian-born Canadian international released by Toronto FC on the eve of the 2010 season.

NSC Minnesota Stars (No. 7 seed)
Record: 11-12-7 Goals: 32/36 (9th/7th). Average Att.: 1,374 (10th).
Leading scorer: Simone Bracalello, Brian Cvilikas (5 goals apiece).
MLS connection: Ely Allen played 10 games in 2008 with the Los Angeles Galaxy. He spent 2009 in the PDL before moving to Minnesota in 2010. Another MLS alum: Longtime Minnesota Thunder forward Melvin Tarley, who played briefly for Real Salt Lake and Colorado.

Puerto Rico Islanders
(No. 8 seed)
Record: 9-11-10. Goals: 37/35 (5th/6th). Average Att.: 2,358 (8th).
Leading scorer: David Foley (8  goals)
MLS connection: David Horst is loan from Real Salt Lake. Other MLS alums: Nicholas Addlery, Bill Gaudette and Marco Velez.

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