NASL Fall Week 3 Recap: Edmonton, Jacksonville Knock Off League Leaders, More

IMAGE, RICHARD A. WHITTAKER/OTTAWA FURY FC

by JAKE NUTTING
NASL Beat Writer

After three weeks of Fall NASL action, it’s impossible to deny that the league’s only two Canadian teams have drastically turned their fortunes around after underwhelming Spring outings.

FC Edmonton holds a slim one point lead over Ottawa Fury FC in the Fall Season standings after facing possibly the most difficult challenge in the opening weeks. Hampered by injuries and international absences, Edmonton escaped with a victory over the combined-standings leader Tampa Bay Rowdies to cap a brutal three game road trip in which they earned five points.

Ottawa may be behind the Eddies in the Fall standing, but that does not diminish their current run of form in the slightest. This weekend’s 4-2 rout of Indy Eleven extends the Fury’s unbeaten streak to eight and levels them with fourth place Minnesota United FC on 18 points in the combined standings.

The New York Cosmos were unable to take advantage of Tampa Bay’s second straight stumble and lost their first match of the year in unlikely fashion to a hobbled Jacksonville Armada FC.

The Carolina RailHawks, meanwhile, were able to exploit the struggles of New York and Tampa Bay by dispatching San Antonio. Carolina is now even with the Cosmos on 21 points, only one behind Tampa Bay.

Carolina RailHawks 3-2 San Antonio Scorpions

Both Carolina and San Antonio were missing vital contributors to their attack on Saturday night. The RailHawks were without Ty Shipalane for the first time this year after the star winger sprained his ankle in last week’s loss. The Scorpions, in turn, were without the league’s leading scorer Omar Cummings due to a training injury.

Nacho Novo more than adequately filled any possible void for the RailHawks. He provided the assist on Neil Hlavaty’s goal in the 22nd minute and scored one of his own two minutes later by finishing off his own rebound. Novo tallied his second in the 66th minute through a penalty that he drew himself.

The Scorpions scored both their goals from dead ball opportunities. First was César Elizondo, who got his head on the end of a Rafael Castillo free kick in the final minutes of the opening half. Forward Giuseppe Gentile then converted a penalty in the 75th minute. The visitors continued to apply pressure, but they were unable to net an equalizer. Castillo nearly stuck a free kick in himself from 25 yards in stoppage time, but he was denied by a diving Akira Fitzgerald.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2-2 Atlanta Silverbacks

After a drab opening 45 minutes, the floodgates opened for both sides in South Florida on Saturday night. Fort Lauderdale kicked things off in the 55th minute when PC was left with ample time and space on the right side of the box to pick out Marlon Freitas for a powerful volley finish.

The visitors then stormed back to score two unanswered goals. In the 64th minute, Simon Mensing redirected a corner kick to Jaime Chavez and the forward executed a brilliant overhead kick to find the net. Second half substitutes Junior Burgos and Pedro Mendes connected in the 76th minute to take the lead.

The Silverbacks appeared on the doorstep of capturing their second straight victory until Kosuke Kimura was whistled for tripping up Walter Ramirez just inside the penalty area. Ramirez converted the penalty himself to secure his club’s third straight draw.

Jacksonville Armada 1-0 New York Cosmos

The late game heroics that kept the Cosmos unbeaten streak alive throughout the Spring Season alluded them in Jacksonville this weekend.

After being the goat in his club’s 4-0 loss to Minnesota earlier in the week, Armada keeper David Sierra was the undeniable hero on Saturday. Sierra snuffed out a one-on-one with Raul and made a point blank save to deny several Cosmos players, including a blast from Walter Restrepo in the 88th minute.

Sierra finished the match with seven saves.

Jacksonville only produced one clear chance on net in the match, but it was all the expansion side needed to edge out the heavily favored Cosmos. In the 54th minute, keeper Jimmy Maurer came off his line to handle a hopeful long ball into the penalty area and was disrupted by Jaime Castrillon. The attacker managed to get enough contact on the 50-50 ball to pop it over Maurer where hometown forward Tommy Krizanovic was waiting for the tap in finish.

FC Edmonton 1-0 Tampa Bay Rowdies

Edmonton managed to hand the Rowdies their first home defeat of the season despite playing with a severely limited roster for the third time in eight days. Much like Tampa Bay’s loss in San Antonio last weekend, the Rowdies held the edge in nearly every statistical category, but failed to translate any of that dominance into goal. Edmonton’s keeper Matt Van Oekel was not troubled once in the opening half, even though the ball was constantly in Edmonton’s end of the field.

The Eddies came out motivated in the second half and snagged a goal on a bizarre sequence in the 56th minute. On Edmonton’s only corner kick of the match, defender Mallan Roberts got a step ahead of center back Stefan Antonijevic and headed the ball onto frame. Keeper Matt Pickens made the reflex kick save, but the ball rebounded directly in front of the unwitting Antonijevic and back into the net. The goal is Antonijevic’s second own goal of the young Fall Season.

Thomas Rongen inserted Georgi Hristov and Maicon Santos into the match shortly after his team fell behind. The changes made a positive impact, but Edmonton dutifully weathered the storm by crowding the box and maintained its shape throughout the barrage of attacks.

Ottawa Fury FC 4-2 Indy Eleven

Ottawa has established itself as one of the stoutest defenses in the league this year, but it was the club’s offensive output this week that extended its unbeaten streak to eight games and handed Indy’s head coach Tim Regan his first loss since taking over in the Spring Season.

Heading into Sunday’s match, Ottawa had only scored eight goals in league play. They were able to increase that total by 50 percent mostly through set pieces. Three of their four goals in the match were scored from dead ball opportunities. First Rafael Alves connected with a free kick from Sinisa Ubiparipovic in the 13th minute. Ritchie Ryan was able to bury two excellent free kicks past Kristian Nicht in both halves for a brace. Tom Heinemann caught Nicht flat footed again in the 56th minute for Ottawa’s other tally.

Indy held control a significant chunk of the first half, but were unable to stay in the match after initially equalizing through a superb individual strike from Don Smart in the 33rd minute. Judson McKinney finished off a corner kick opportunity in stoppage time to cut the lead in half and reduce the sting somewhat.