NASL Fall Week 10 Preview: Loons Looking at Possible Standings Leap, More

IMAGE, MINNESOTA UNITED FC

by JAKE NUTTING

Minnesota United FC could be set to make a huge jump up the standings of both point tables this weekend. All the Loons need to do is handle their business at home against Indy Eleven on Wednesday and then at Edmonton on Sunday.

That second task is a tougher ask as Minnesota has failed to defeat the Eddies in two tries this season, but if they can pull off the six-point week they have a chance to match Ottawa in the Fall Season standings and overtake them for second place in the overall table. Ottawa has failed to impress in their last three matches, one loss and two draws.

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers, the team that nobody in the NASL wants to face at the moment, will sit out this round of action with an off week.

Minnesota United FC vs. Indy Eleven, Wednesday 8 p.m. ET

The Loons head into Wednesday’s match as one of the hottest teams in the league, having lost only once in their last eight matches. Meanwhile, saying Indy has hit a rough spot in the Fall Season would be putting their situation in the mildest of terms. The second year club took only four points from six matches in August and was on the losing end of the most lopsided result of the year so far.

Interim coach Tim Regan’s squad was stomped 7-1 by Fort Lauderdale and had its fourth player of the Fall Season receive a red card when Marco Franco committed a lunging tackle in the second half. The only glimmer of hope for Indy is that loanee Dane Richards has hit his stride, netting a goal in three straight matches. Indy will need to regroup defensively to shut down Christian Ramirez, one of the most productive attackers of the Fall. Captain Erik Norales’ return from suspension could shore up the back line at least a little.

Carolina RailHawks vs. Atlanta Silverbacks, Friday 7:30 p.m. ET

The RailHawks are flying home with wounded wings after giving up halftime leads to the Cosmos in back to back weeks. The club has also lost four straight matches and conceded three goals in each of those results. The attack has shown up for Carolina, with Tiyi Shipalane, Nacho Novo and even forward Nazmi Albadawi producing serious chances last week. The defense on the other hand has been a major disappointment since the retirement of right back Wes Knight a month ago. Head coach Colin Clarke will be forced to start a new back line combination on Friday as defender Daniel Scott is unavailable due to his red card last week.

Atlanta’s Fall Season is another story. After yielding only seven goals in the 10-game Spring, the Silverbacks have already scored 16 goals through 11 matches in the Fall. Atlanta suddenly has multiple scoring threats after failing to find a single consistent one earlier in the year. Jaime Chavez, Junior Burgos and Pedro Mendes have all been significant contributors to the club’s rise up the standings.

Indy Eleven vs. Jacksonville Armada FC, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

If ever there was a weekend for Jacksonville to earn its first road win, Saturday’s match in Indianapolis has to be it.

The expansion side is winless in nine away fixtures so far this year and is coming off two straight scoreless efforts against the San Antonio Scorpions. Leading scorer Alhassane Keita missed the most recent match, but the Armada boasts enough speed and technical ability to exploit Indy’s vulnerable defense — if they play to their potential. Attacker Pascal Millien has been virtually invisible for much of the Fall Season since returning from the Gold Cup in July. The club’s highest-profile signing, Marcos Flores has also been a non-factor while dealing with injury for much of the Fall and only returned to the field last week.

Someone will need to step and take lead of the attack if Jacksonville hopes to shock the league and make the postseason in its first try.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. New York Cosmos, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

The Spring runner-ups have found themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Cosmos, who have continued their good run of form from the Spring. The Rowdies find themselves dead last in the Fall standings and on the outside of the playoff picture for the first time since the opening weeks of the season. On the bright side, the club secured its first point of newly installed coach Stuart Campbell’s tenure in promising fashion by erasing a two-goal deficit to Ottawa. Unfortunately, they will be without midfielder Richard Menjivar while he represent El Salavador. The Cosmos will also lose midfielder Andres Flores to El Salvador for the weekend.

Saturday would be a good time for Campbell to earn his first win as the Rowdies are still searching for their first win over the Cosmos in the modern NASL era. New York trounced the Rowdies 2-0 earlier this year at Hofstra.

Tampa Bay will need to halt familiar face Lucky Mkosana if they want to gain a positive result. After a frustrating season in Tampa Bay last year, the forward has become entrenched in the Cosmos starting lineup, with five goals to his name so far.

San Antonio Scorpions vs. Ottawa Fury FC, Saturday 8:30 p.m. ET

The Fury may be in danger of losing their status as Fall Season darlings if they cannot turn things around in the Lone Star State this weekend. After starting the Fall with a seven-game unbeaten streak, the club has only taken four points from their last three matches. Ottawa’s 21 points in the Fall standings are only two better than New York and three better than Atlanta. The absence of a steadying force like the injured Julian de Guzman was felt as the Fury blew a two-goal lead to the struggling Rowdies in the last match.

The Scorpions are a difficult team to pin down. They occupy the bottom spot of the overall standings, but are only six points back from the final playoff spot. The club also fields Omar Cummings and Billy Forbes, the league’s second highest scorer and one of the most dynamic midfielders in the league. That dynamism has been left on the bench a few times in the Fall, though. Head coach Alen Marcina has recently used Forbes as second half substitute even though the club always feels more threatening when he takes the field.

FC Edmonton vs. Minnesota United FC, Sunday 4 p.m. ET

The final leg of the Flyover Cup, the annual supporters competition between Minnesota and Edmonton, will occupy the NASL Sunday matinee slot. The sides played to draws in their previous two encounters this season and are also even on 15 points in the Fall standings. They may be even in the standings, but Minnesota has looked like the better team based on recent form. Lance Laing, the Eddies best attacker, and possibly the league’s as well, has been oddly silent since returning from the Gold Cup. The winger has knocked on the door a few times, but has been kept at bay in the club’s two precious losses.