NASL Fall Week 8 Recap: Loons, Cosmos Nab Crucial Road Victories, more

IMAGE, TAMPA BAY ROWDIES/MATT MAY

by JAKE NUTTING

Ottawa Fury FC’s idle week in the Fall Season afforded several clubs with the chance to gain ground in the Fall title race.

Minnesota United FC and the New York Cosmos handled their business admirably with convincing road wins. However, Ottawa’s only Canadian rival, FC Edmonton, failed to take advantage at home as they were blanked 2-0 by the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

Ottawa (19 pts) maintains their lead in the Fall standings and Minnesota, Edmonton, New York and Atlanta are all level on 15 points behind them after the weekend’s results. The Loons hold the second place spot over the other three by virtue of tiebreakers.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies received a shock to system with a loss to Indy and Minnesota, as well as the unexpected firing of Thomas Rongen and Farrukh Quraishi, but still end the week in a playoff spot thanks to Edmonton’s loss. New York (35 pts), Ottawa (30 pts), Minnesota (29 pts) and Tampa Bay Rowdies (26 pts) currently occupy the top four spots in the combined standings.

Atlanta Silverbacks 1-1 Indy Eleven

After snapping their month-long winless streak against Tampa Bay on Wednesday, Indy Eleven did not wait long to jump ahead of the Atlanta Silverbacks. The visitors took a lead only six minutes into the match when Atlanta was whistled for a handball in the penalty area. New York Red Bulls loanee Dane Richards converted the ensuing penalty for his second straight game with a goal.

Indy, though, would be unable to hold on to the early lead and earn their second straight victory. Keeper Kristian Nicht kept the Silverbacks attack at bay for the first half, but Indy received a major blow in the 50th minute when captain Erick Norales earned a straight red card for pulling forward Jaime Chavez down on a clear goal scoring opportunity. Chavez would not be denied in the 76th minute, equalizing on a shrewd flick over Nicht on a bouncing ball toward the endline.

The match pulled level on players shortly after the goal when Atlanta’s Simon Mensing received his second yellow. Neither side could grab a lead through the final stages and had to settle for the draw.

New York Cosmos 3-1 Carolina RailHawks

It appeared as if the Cosmos’  unfortunate luck against the Carolina RailHawks was set to continue on Saturday night. A corner kick goal from an unmarked Daniel Scott in the 16th minute and heroics from keeper Akira Fitzgerald left the Cosmos trailing yet again at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Cosmos received a reprieve, though, when Carolina’s most dangerous player, Tiyi Shipalane was taken down on a reckless tackle in the dying minutes of the half. Shipalane re-injured the same ankle that sidelined him earlier in the Fall and could not continue in the match.

The Cosmos took advantage only one minute into the second half through a Leo Fernandes toe-poke. The visitors then grabbed the lead and extended it in the 54th and 57th minutes. Lucky Mkosana struck first with a volley that blew past Fitzgerlad and then Adam Moffat followed that up with a simple finish from six yards out. Carolina’s bad fortune continued with defender Kuopono Low exiting with a knock, allowing the Cosmos to cruise to their first victory over the RailHawks.

Minnesota United FC 3-1 Tampa Bay Rowdies

Any signs of turmoil for the Rowdies after the shocking ousting of Head Coach Thomas Rongen and General Manager Farrukh Quraishi were hard to spot in the opening stages of Saturday’s crucial match. The Rowdies, led by interim Head Coach Stuart Campbell, looked lively against the talented Loons and were able to jump ahead in the 28th minute. After a poor turnover by the Loons, Georgi Hristov fed the ball into space for Juan Guerra and the midfielder took a touch before rifling it by the keeper from 18-yards out. It was Guerra’s first goal of the year and Hristov’s league-leading eighth assist.

The high-flying Loons attack would not be denied on the night, though, and responded with three unanswered goals. Midfielder Ibson notched the equalizer in the 36th minute with a powerful shot of his own from just inside the box. The transition defense that has plagued the Rowdies throughout the Fall Season was at fault again for the final two goals. The Rowdies were caught with too many men forward while deep in Minnesota’s territory and the Loons made them pay. Defender Justin Davis tallied the winner in the 65th minute to cap off a run 60 yard run and substitute Daniel Mendes added an insurance goal seconds into stoppage time through another breakaway.

The only bad news for the Loons is that Christian Ramirez failed to continue his impressive eight-game scoring streak. The striker beat the keeper with a near-perfect volley early in the match, but his effort was stymied by the post.

San Antonio Scorpions 1-0 Jacksonville Armada FC

Jacksonville will be ruing the way that Saturday’s contest with San Antonio finished. The expansion club produced the most chances on net, but was never able to find a way past keeper Daniel Fernandes. A 64th minute counter attack goal from second half substitute Billy Forbes was all that the Scorpions needed to snap their five-game winless streak. Outside of Forbes’ goal, San Antonio’s attack looked downright anemic throughout the match. But that fact didn’t matter as the killer instinct continues to elude Jacksonville in away games. The Armada are still looking for their first ever road victory. The best they have managed away from home this season is a 1-1 draw in Atlanta.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2-0 FC Edmonton

Both sides played to a punchless first half in the league’s lone Sunday match. The energy picked up after the second half whistle, but it was only the visiting Strikers who were able to get on the scoresheet. In the 58th minute, Stefano Pinho was taken down in the box by center back Kareem Moses and the forward clinically converted the ensuing penalty.

The momentum completely shifted in Fort Lauderdale’s  favor after the penalty and they continued to amp up the pressure as the Eddies attack looked surprisingly impotent. Pinho grabbed his second of the day in the 86th minute when he collected a pass back from the endline at the top of the six yard box and created space for himself to quickly fire off a low shot into the net.

The brace gives Pinho eight goals for the year, which places him alone in second place for goals scored, one behind San Antonio’s Omar Cummings. The performance also moves the Strikers into a tie for fifth place with Edmonton in the combined points standings. Both clubs are only two points back of fourth place Tampa Bay for the final postseason spot.