NASL Spring Week 5 Recap, Highlights: Early Lapses Cost San Antonio, Tampa Bay, Edmonton

IMAGE, JACKSONVILLE ARMADA FC

by JAKE NUTTING
NASL Beat Writer

Week five of the NASL Spring season saw a flurry of early goals across the league. Despite not putting enough shots on net, New York did enough against Ottawa to gain two points on second place Tampa Bay. The Strikers and Silverbacks draw in South Florida meaning the two sides remain tied in third on the Spring table with seven points. Jacksonville’s stoppage time win at home jumps them to six points and a fourth place tie with Carolina and Indy. After four games played for each, Minnesota and San Antonio continue to disappoint and occupy the last two spots on the table.

Jacksonville Armada FC 2-1 San Antonio Scorpions

Jacksonville scoring early goals at home is the type of tradition that their fans can get used to. After scoring 12 seconds into their home opener, it took the team only four minutes to notch a goal in their second match at home. Captain Marcos Flores played the ball into the center of the penalty area for a streaking Pascal Millien. The Hatitian international took a couple small touches to control and then guided his shot over the diving keeper for the go ahead goal.

The Scorpions answered quickly. In the 8th minute, Jacksonville failed to clear a free kick into the box and the rebound sailed high into the air. Veteran forward Omar Cummings patiently waited for the ball to fall and delivered a stunning scissor kick to equalize the match.

The two attack-minded teams played to their strength and provided a frenetic show for the crowd of 8,143, but were unable to yield another goal until stoppage time.  Substitute Akeli Barrett played a through ball to forward Alhassane Keita in the box. On his first touch, Keita cut the ball back across net to beat keeper Daryl Sattler for the winnner.

FC Edmonton 2-2 Minnesota United FC

Another slow defensive start for Edmonton left them with a hole to dig out of. In the 2nd minute midfielder Miguel Ibarra looked to cross to forward Christian Ramirez, who was running hard toward the net. The cross was blocked and bounced straight back to Ibarra, who eked a shot past keeper Matt Van Oekel. The early error would haunt the Eddies in a match that they otherwise dominated.

Edmonton’s speed was too much for the much slower Minnesota center backs and it lead to several close chances that the Eddies could not capitalize on in the first half. Speedy Lance Laing was finally able to equalize in the 51st minute on a free kick from outside the penalty area. Laing placed his powerful curling shot into the top corner, well out keeper Mitch Hildebrandt’s reach.

Laing was a pest for the Minnesota defense all match and was involved in the Eddies second goal in the 70th minute. Moving down the left side of the box, Laing slid the ball across the face of goal to find an unmarked Tomi Ameobi for a sliding tap in.

A controversial penalty in the 85th minute would bring Minnesota back into the match when Edmonton’s Michael Nonni was whistled for bringing down defender Justin Davis. Jamie Watson finished the penalty with ease and the Loons escaped with a point despite looking exposed for the bulk of the match.

New York Cosmos 1-0 Ottawa Fury FC

There weren’t many fireworks in the Cosmos Coney Island debut on Saturday, but there was just enough to keep New York atop the Spring table. Forward Lucky Mkosana’s first league goal in a Cosmos shirt was the difference maker.

In the 14th minute, midfielder Leo Fernandes played a brilliant ball into space from the left wing for Mkosana. The forward’s first touch popped the ball off the turf, with his second touch he blasted the ball out of the air and past keeper Romuald Peiser.

The Cosmos dominated the rest of the half, but could not manage to put Peiser in more difficult situations. At the end of the match, they had only forced the keeper into two saves.

The Fury were able to assert themselves more in the second half, but the Cosmos back line, led by Samuel Caceres in his Cosmos debut, held firm and broke up most chances in the penalty area. Ottawa’s best shot came late into the second half when Tom Heinemann snuck past Carlos Mendes on the left flank and delivered a powerful shot to the near post that keeper Jimmy Maurer stopped with his knee.

In the 85th minute, everyone in the stadium except for the referees thought New York had another goal. Raúl fought past the Fury back line to get in a one on one with Peiser, but the veteran made the wise decision to play the ball to an unmarked Walter Restrepo, who calmy finished the chance. The Assistant Referee, though, raised his flag in a baffling offside call and the goal was waived off.

The first place Cosmos would have to settle for one goal.

Carolina Railhawks 1-1 Tampa Bay Rowdies

The Rowdies will be kicking themselves when they look at film of this draw against a hobbled Carolina Railhakws squad.

It took only six minutes for Carolina’s two most dangerous players to combine for a goal. Right winger Ty Shipalane squared up with Rowdies left back Ben Sweat and slid the ball past the defender toward the endline. Shipalanes’ was too much for Sweat and the midfielder sent in a low cross just before the ball rolled out. The cross found a completely unmarked Nacho Novo for an uncontested finish.

The Rowdies took control of the match after the early goal, pressing the Railhawks back line and midfield into difficult situations. They equalized in the 19th minute when midfielder Martín Núñez volleyed Georgi Hristov’s bouncing cross in to the net with conviction.

Tampa Bay continued pressing, had three chances thwarted at the last minute in the 33rd minute by keeper Hunter Gilstrap and midfielder Leo Osaki. The visitors were forced to take their foot of the gas when Hristov was ejected for bringing his boot down on the head of a Carolina player.

After the red card, Carolina was only able to fire off one threatening shot. In stoppage time, forward Wells Thompson sent in a low-driven shot from outside the box that Matt Pickens was just able to deflect away.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 0-0 Atlanta Silverbacks

Atlanta’s defense has answered the call and then some these past weeks. The back line and keeper Steward Ceus kept the Cosmos off the board last week and this week did the same to the even more potent Fort Lauderdale attack.

The Silverbacks managed to stay compact and organized throughout the entire match despite the superior speed and technical ability from the home side. The Strikers failed to stretch out the back line. Center backs Simon Mensing and Rauwshan McKenzie kept their squad in check and held the Strikers to only four shots on goal.

Ceus made all the necessary saves to secure the road point for his team. He was only beat in the 71st minute, when forward Stefan Pinho’s header clanged off the post. Altanta’s defense cleared the ball away before anything could come of the situation, though.