NASL Spring Week 9: Cosmos Could Clinch First Playoff Spot With a Win

IMAGE, NEW YORK COSMOS

by JAKE NUTTING
NASL Beat Writer

Week nine of the NASL Spring season will be the first time a team has the opportunity to clinch the Spring championship. If the New York Cosmos manage to beat Minnesota United FC on Saturday, and if the Tampa Bay Rowdies either lose or draw their match, then the Cosmos will win the title and claim the first available playoff spot of 2015.

Realistically, a Cosmos win in Minnesota will virtually guarantee the title for New York regardless of the outcome of the Rowdies match in Indianapolis. The Rowdies would technically be alive if they win, but the Cosmos goal differential would be seemingly insurmountable for Tampa Bay. The Spring title race only really remains interesting if the Loons are able to pull off a win or hold the Cosmos to a draw.

Ottawa Fury FC vs. FC Edmonton, Friday 7 p.m.

The Fury are hoping to turn the tide in this budding Canadian rivalry at home in a rare Friday night match. The two sides have met twice already this year in the Amway Canadian Championship, but they have yet to face off in league play. Edmonton were the victors in both of those earlier encounters, posting 3-1 results in both games.

After rough stretches in the Spring, both teams enter Friday’s match on high notes. Edmonton defeated the Atlanta Silverbacks in a 3-2 shootout last weekend, the club’s first victory since April 29. Ottawa ended an even longer winless streak, one that stretched back to April 18, when they scored a late goal to beat Indy Eleven 1-0.

Edmonton and Ottawa’s attacks have been polar opposites this year. Through seven matches, Edmonton has tallied a league-best 15 goals to Ottawa’s meager five. Working in the home side’s favor, though, is the fact that Edmonton’s defense ranks as the worst in the league, conceding an astounding 17 goals.

Indy Eleven vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies, Saturday 7:30 p.m.

Both the Rowdies and Indy Eleven fielded many regular starters in their disappointing U.S. Open Cup losses on Wednesday night. Indy had to run for an additional 30 minutes in their match due to extra time, but it’s hard to tell how much impact that will have on Saturday’s match.

Tampa Bay and Indy have struggled in their own way trying to find a consistent scoring identity so far. The Rowdies have a slight edge with two more goals scored this year, but they have failed to score multiple goals in a match since April 25.

Indy Eleven has a decided advantage over the Rowdies with the artificial turf at Carroll Stadium. Tampa Bay has failed to win or even impress in three matches on turf this year.

Fans are unlikely to see many fireworks. Combined with the struggling attacks, both teams also field competent back lines and keepers. All this adds up to closely contested match.

Jacksonville Armada FC vs. Carolina RailHawks, Saturday 7:30 p.m.

The Armada and RailHawks are tied at 10 points on the Spring table, but it is the Armada that sit one spot ahead and mathematically remains in the Spring title hunt because they have played one less game than Carolina. Jacksonville cannot afford to get anything less than three points if they want to stay in contention for the Spring. Perhaps head coach Guillermo Hoyos had this in mind on Wednesday when he was one of the rare NASL coaches to field a rotation squad in the Open Cup.

Carolina has been beleaguered with injuries this Spring and received a gigantic unwelcome distraction this week with the league severing business ties with Traffic Sports USA, the club’s sole owner. With funding issues for the club beginning to swirl, head coach Colin Clarke will need to keep his players focused as they head into Jacksonville to face the lively crowd and dynamic Armada attack.

Minnesota United FC vs. New York Cosmos, Saturday 8 p.m.

The Loons may be at home for their most important match of the season, but having played a full 120 minutes in their Open Cup penalty shootout loss to Saint Louis, they are at somewhat of a disadvantage against the relatively well rested New York Cosmos. Going up against an amateur side in their Open Cup match, Cosmos head coach Gio Savarese felt comfortable resting nearly half of his regular starters, including striker Raúl.

Minnesota only has one loss this year, a week three upset in Ottawa, but with the Cosmos still unblemished in the Spring, the defeat is enough to keep the Loons behind in the title race. The home side can stay alive with a draw, but a loss would eliminate them from the picture entirely.

The Cosmos would likely love to take another giant step toward clinching the Spring title with a win before they head to Cuba next week during their off week from NASL action. If the Cosmos are victorious on Saturday, and other results around the league fall their way, they could be celebrating a Spring title at the home venue of last year’s Spring champions. This is obviously something that the Loons and their supporters would not like to see transpire.

San Antonio Scorpions vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Saturday 8:30 pm

The Scorpions had all the wind taken out of their sails last weekend in New York when the Cosmos demolished them 3-0. The embarrassment ended the first positive streak that San Antonio had cobbled together in the Spring, where they beat the RailHawks and Eddies back to back.

With the Fort Lauderdale Strikers hobbling into town this weekend, the opposition for the Scorpions is a little less formidable. The Strikers have failed to win or notch a single goal in the last three league matches. A healthy Leo Moura and speedy PC should be looking forward to the match up this week, though. The Scorpions have allowed 14 goals this year, the second most in the NASL.