NASL Fall Week 7 Recap: Ottawa, Atlanta Stumbles Tighten Fall Field

OTTAWA FURY FC

by JAKE NUTTING
NASL Beat Writer

Ottawa Fury FC’s first loss since the opening week of May and a close-fought road loss for Atlanta at Jacksonville have significantly tightened the Fall Season race. Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, New York and Edmonton were all victorious this week, which means that only nine points now separate first place Ottawa and seventh place Jacksonville.

By virtue of being the first team to defeat Ottawa since May, Minnesota has now pulled even with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the combined points standings. The Loons are in third thanks to tiebreakers and the Rowdies now occupy the final playoff spot after losing out to Fort Lauderdale in Coastal Cup action. However, Edmonton is only two points behind Minnesota and Tampa Bay in the combined points standings, with many more games to come in the Fall Season.

Breathing room in the standings is only becoming more difficult to come by as the season wears on.

New York Cosmos 2-1 San Antonio Scorpions

It has become blatantly clear after more than half of the 2015 season that this year’s Cosmos are at their best directly before or after a whistle. The visiting Scorpions took a surprising lead in the 45th minute through a Milton Palacios first half time stoppage time score. New York though was nonplussed and equalized moments later when winger Leo Fernandes buried a rebound opportunity with his head.

New York did not wait long to overtake San Antonio with an assist from the visitors. Defender Hunter Freeman’s service has been excellent for the Cosmos most recent stretch of matches and it was his free kick delivery into the box that Scorpions defender Brad Rusin managed to tap into his own net for the winner. New York was assured another home victory when former Cosmo Joseph Nane was shown a red for a reckless tackle on Marcos Senna in the 84th minute.

Minnesota United FC 2-1 Ottawa Fury FC

It is only fitting that Ottawa’s outstanding 12-game unbeaten run that started on May 2 would be halted by a heroic stoppage time effort from an opponent. Perhaps the hottest striker in all of North America Christian Ramirez got the visiting Loons on the board with a terrific individual play. In the 17th minute Ramirez picked the pocket of defender Rafael Alves around midfield and attacked straight at goal. He looked to a teammate on the right flank but elected to slot it home himself for his seventh straight match with a goal.

Ottawa refused to wilt after falling behind and ramped up their attacking effort in the second half. The Loons were pinned down for much of the final 45 minutes and finally broke down in the 74th minute when Andrew Wiedeman capitalized on a deflection to slot the ball between the legs of keeper Mitch Hildebrandt.

The equalizer reenergized Minnesota for the final stages of the match and pressing forward in stoppage time led to a free kick from 25 yards out in the center of the field. Second half substitute Daniel Mendes stepped up and delivered a beautiful curling shot that just snugly fit between the inside post and the outstretched fingers of keeper Romuald Peiser.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2-1 Tampa Bay Rowdies

Fort Lauderdale’s leading scorer Stefano Pinho wasted no time bringing some excitement to Saturday’s Coastal Cup match between the two NASL heritage sides. After only four minutes, the forward found some space after a turnover well outside the box and blasted a shot on a rope to the top right corner that keeper Kamil Contofalsky never came close to.

The Rowdies settled into the match after the early theatrics from Pinho and began to assert themselves in the final third. Georgi Hristov combined with Maicon Santos for his league-leading seventh assist of the year in the 19th minute. Hristov sent in a clever bending ball to an unmarked Santos and the Brazilian flicked it past the unsuspecting keeper with his heel.

The Strikers snuck in the eventual winner in the 43rd minute when Contofalsky bobbled a free kick opportunity on goal and James Marcelin swooped in to poke the ball past the keeper. The late first half tally was all the Strikers would need as both clubs failed to produce much in the final third in the closing 45 minutes. The victory levels the Strikers and Rowdies on points in the Coastal Cup standings (9), but the South Florida side is ahead on tiebreakers.

Jacksonville Armada FC 1-0 Atlanta Silverbacks

Jacksonville struggled out of the gate in the Fall Season, but a busy week with back-to-back wins has helped them stay alive in the playoff hunt. Jaime Castrillon liked opening up the scoring for his club in the 3-0 thrashing of Carolina on Wednesday that he decided to do it again on Saturday. In the 11th minute defender Shawn Nicklaw received a smart ball down the right side of the box from Pascal Milien and sent in a teasing cross that keeper Steward Ceus punched directly to the feet of Castrillon. The attacker instantly rifled the ball into the back of the net for the only goal of the match.

In a near repeat of the Armada’s recent 3-3 draw with Minnesota, the expansion side nearly let Saturday’s lead slip away in the dying moments. Center back Lucas Trejo had his penalty kick saved in the 90th minute and shortly after Atlanta’s Mohammed Issahaku got tripped up with his feet and squandered a golden open run on net.

FC Edmonton 3-0 Carolina RailHawks

The two-game week was not very kind to the Carolina RailHawks. After falling 3-0 to the reeling Jacksonville Armada on Wednesday, Carolina had the unenviable task of hitting the road for Edmonton, where the club has historically rarely found success. That poor track record of results continued on Sunday when the Eddies stomped over the RailHawks for a quick three-goal lead in the first half and coasted to victory after that.

A makeshift Carolina back line was no match for Edmonton’s co-leading scorers Tomi Ameobi and Lance Laing. Ameobi struck in the 11th minute when a Carolina turnover resulted in a fast break. Laing notched his seventh of the year on a brilliant one-man counter attack after an unsuccessful Carolina free kick. For good measure, Dustin Corea scored the third goal in the 36th minute.