NASL Spring Week 6 Recap: Cosmos get more Breathing Room, Minnesota & San Antonio get First Wins, & Jacksonville Jumps up the Table

IMAGE, MINNESOTA UNITED FC

by JAKE NUTTING
NASL Beat Writer

Week six of the NASL season wasn’t exactly a high scoring event. While there was only one draw on the weekend, three of the matches ended 1-0, with many teams failing to produce purposeful chances in the penalty area.

The only match that brought the fireworks was the Cosmos 4-2 attacking explosion on the Eddies. The Cosmos victory separates them even more from the pack as Tampa Bay, Indy, and Atlanta all dropped points.

New York sit atop the table with 14 points.

The biggest mover of the weekend was Jacksonville. With their third win at home this year, they moved into a tie for second place with the Rowdies at nine points.

It took five matches but Minnesota and San Antonio are finally in the win column in 2015. It’s likely too late for either team to make a run at the Spring title considering New York’s lead, however, they could be getting on the track to rise up the table for the full 2015 campaign.

Ottawa Fury FC 0-0 Tampa Bay Rowdies

The only NASL game played in Canada this weekend was a rather drab affair. Neither team produced much excitement or built any meaningful momentum with the ball.

In truth, the only real bit of excitement in the sloppy match was a controversial non-call in the 78th minute. Rowdies center back Stefan Antonijevic had a solid outing, but had a careless moment where he left his arms outstretched while stepping to close down a shooter. The shot attempt clearly deflected off Antonijevic’s arm and bounced straight down onto the turf. The referee had an unobstructed view of the sequence but made the baffling decision to swallow his whistle.

Ottawa couldn’t create much for themselves outside of the missed penalty call. In turn, with leading scorer Maicon Santos and playmaker Georgi Hristov unavailable for selection, The Rowdies were equally ineffectual. Their clearest chance on goal was a shot from Corey Hertzog that sailed well over the bar in the second half.

Jacksonville Armada FC 1-0 Indy Eleven

The Armada continued their winning streak at home, but it wasn’t the high-scoring show that their fans have grown accustomed to. Despite applying a fair amount of pressure on Indy keeper Keith Cardona in his first start, Jacksonville were unable to score in the first half.

In the 50th minute, Matt Bahner hustled down the right flank to catch up to a through-ball. Once Bahner controlled the ball he looked up and sent in a low cross that Cardona might have had covered if not for a deflection off a defender that helped the ball find the head of Bochy Hoyos. The midfielder adjusted well to the quick deflection and directed the ball just enough to put it on frame for the game winner.

Indy had a chance to equalize less than two minutes later when forward Wojciech Wojcik found himself with acres of space from just outside the penalty area. His shot, though, was easily punched away by keeper Miguel Gallardo.

Jacksonville flirted with another late defensive lapse in the this match. In the 87th minute, Indy volleyed the ball across the box a few time before finally sending a high-arching header slowly towards net. Gallardo was just able to recover in time for the punch-out and to secure the Armada’s first clean sheet in franchise history.

Minnesota United FC 1-0 Atlanta Silverbacks

The Loons made their fans wait a lot longer than any of them would have preferred, but after five matches played they finally secured a full three points. After holding New York and Fort Lauderdale scoreless in their previous two matches, Atlanta put in another commendable defensive performance, but it wasn’t enough to get a result.

Minnesota held the ball throughout the first but failed to produce many quality chances on net. The Silverbacks looked liked they would coast to another scoreless half of soccer until Miguel Ibarra and Pablo Campos combined for the second time in a home game this. The goal, in the 43rd minute, was very similar to one scored against San Antonio in week four. Ibarra cound space on the edge of the box and delivered a cross to Campos in front of net. While Campos scored that first goal against the Scorpions with his head, this one required him to utilize his heel to beat the keeper. The first goal allowed by Atlanta in 230 minutes.

Atlanta didn’t shrink from the challenge and came out swinging in the second half. With possession swinging in their favor, the visitors put the Loons on their back heel a little bit. Hans Denissen came off the bench and made his biggest impact of the season so far. After a flurry on consecutive corners for Atlanta midway through the half, forward Shaka Bangura volleyed a shot on frame that was required a goal-line clearance from center back Tiago Calvano.

Unfortunately for the Silverbacks, Bangura’s volley was the only serious effort on goal they could muster and they were handed their first loss of the season.

San Antonio Scorpions 1-0 Carolina Railhawks

The Railhawks get the undesirable honor of being the first club to give the Scorpions their first victory of 2015.

The injury bug that has bitten Carolina in recent weeks may have severely damaged any chance for the visitors before the match even started. Leading scorer Nacho Novo, Futty Danso, Simone Bracalello, and Nazmi Albadawi did not even make the trip to the Alamo City.

With so many injuries and San Antonio’s undeniable pace in the attack, Colin Clarke conservative approach was evident from the outset. Defensive midfielders Leo Osaki, Chris Nurse, and Neil Hlavaty got the starting nods while Mark Anderson and Wells Thompson started on the bench.

The Scorpions exploited the decided advantage and outshot the Railhawks 7-1 while thoroughly commanding possession. For all their dominance, San Antonio wasn’t able to break through until the 79th minute. Midfielder Rafael Castillo played a ball to an on-running Billy Forbes that had the entire Railhawks back line looking for an offside flag that would never come. Forbes capitalized on the hesitation from the defenders and played the ball to loanee Bright Dike for an easy finish.

Carolina’s did not produce a single shot on goal in the match. That offensive ineptitude and the return of Scopions center back Adrian Cann helped lead the team with the most goals conceded to their first shutout of the year.

 New York Cosmos 4-2 FC Edmonton

NASL followers hoping for some scoring excitement got their fill in the Mother’s Day Matinee on Long Island. The flood gates opened for a Cosmos side that had struggled to net multiple goals in matches this year and it was Captain Carlos Mendes with the unlikely brace.

Off a short corner in only the 2nd minute, Raul found the ball at his feet in the box and lofted a cross to Lucky Mkosana on the back post. The forward headed the ball on net but was denied by keeper Matt Van Oekel. The keeper’s block fell directly to Mendes for the easy tap in.

Early defensive breakdowns have become an unfortunate trend for an otherwise well-organized club. Including Canadian Championship matches, the Eddies have now conceded goals in the first two minutes of four of seven competitive matches in 2015.

The visitors rebounded and in the 17th minute they earned a penalty after the Cosmos were whistled for obstruction on a free kick into the box. Tomi Ameobi buried the equalizer with pace into the top right corner.

The Cosmos rallied back, though, and took control of the match with two more goals before the end of the half. In the 23rd minute Mkosana sent a cross into the box Danny Szetela and the midfielder made two attempts on net but was denied by the crossbar both times. On the second attempt the ball dropped to Raul, who had no issue calmly finishing the sequence to take the lead.

Mendes tallied his second in the 36th minute on brilliantly flicked header into the top corner over a diving Van Oekel off a hopeful cross from Ayoze.

Mkosana extended the lead in the 49th minute when Leo Fernandes played a perfectly timed ball to catch the back line off guard and leave the forward one on one with the keeper for a simple finish.

The Eddies pulled one back on a counter in the 75th minute when Ameobi raced down the right wing. Ameobio and Hanson Boakai drew the Cosmos back line towards the endline, leaving Ritchie Jones open at the top of the box. Ameobi wisely picked Jones out and the midfielder made the easy finish. The goal deficit as too much for the Eddies to overcome, though, and the Cosmso widened the gap between themselves and the rest of the league in the Spring title race.