NASL Fall Wk. 15 Preview: Eddies have playoffs in their sights, more

IMAGE, NASL

by JAKE NUTTING

The Tampa Bay Rowdies (21 pts Fall, 37 pts Combined) were officially eliminated from the NASL’s Fall Season race after their 2-2 draw with Minnesota United FC (21 pts, 37 pts) on Wednesday, leaving just three teams chasing the New York Cosmos (37 pts, 55 pts) for the title. Breathing down New York’s neck in the final weeks of the season are FC Edmonton (30 pts, 47 pts), Miami FC (29 pts, 36 pts) and Indy Eleven (27 pts, 45 pts).

The Eddies could guarantee the third of four spots in the league’s postseason this weekend if they can secure a win over the Rowdies at home.

As for the fourth and final playoff spot, that remains very much up for grabs. Minnesota and the Rowdies are tied on points in the spot at the moment, but Miami are hot on their heels. Just below Miami are the Carolina RailHawks (20 pts, 34 pts), Rayo OKC (20 pts, 32 pts) and Fort Lauderdale Strikers (17 pts, 32 pts) are all capable of making a quick hop in the standings to make things even more interesting.

Indy and Jacksonville Armada FC will sit out the weekend after their scheduled match was pushed to Wednesday over concerns from Hurricane Matthew.

Puerto Rico FC host Minnesota United FC, Saturday October 8, 7:30 p.m. ET

While Minnesota managed to snap their four-game losing streak in Wednesday’s draw, they’ll still regret not coming away with all three points after allowing the Rowdies to score deep into stoppage time. Late collapses have been a serious concern for the Loons, who have now allowed six goals past the 80th minute in their last four matches. After scoring his league-leading 16th goal in Tampa Bay, Christian Ramirez will miss Saturday’s match with a high ankle sprain.

Minnesota will look get back to winning ways against a team that hasn’t been on the losing end of a result in six matches. Despite already being axed from the fall title race, expansion side Puerto Rico FC is on an impressive three-game winning streak. Puerto Rico will be without defender Rudy Dawson due to red card suspension.

Miami FC host Rayo OKC, Saturday October 8, 8 p.m. ET

Miami took a critical point on the road against the Rowdies on Saturday, but the expansion side will look to prevail with a win back at home. They will also hope to see October’s NASL Player of the Month Dario Cvitanich rebound after an woefully ineffective night against the Rowdies. With Minnesota and Tampa Bay taking a slim lead in the combined standings during the week, Miami can hardly afford to let points slip away at home.

Rayo OKC may be unbeaten in their last five, but it has been quite a while since they won a match outright. They’ve also left things late over the last few weeks, relying on goals in the final stages to level things up in their recent draws.

Carolina RailHawks host Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Sunday October 9, 1 p.m. ET

The numbers are quickly becoming unfavorable for both Carolina and Fort Lauderdale. While a loser in Sunday’s match wouldn’t be automatically eliminated from the chase for the fourth playoff spot, their odds of jumping the others already ahead of them would start to look might long.

Carolina’s steep decline in offensive production has held the team back over the last month. The RailHawks have only notched two goals in their last five matches, with forwards Matt Fondy and Omar Bravo hitting an unfortunate cold streak. With eight goals conceded in their last three outings, though, the Strikers are equally vulnerable heading into the weekend.

Ottawa Fury FC host New York Cosmos, Sunday October 9, 2 p.m. ET

Ottawa’s hot stretch came to an end last week with a pair of disappointing 2-1 losses. It’s a discouraging turn of events for the Canadian side given that the league’s pacesetters are coming to town hungry for the fall title and home field advantage in the postseason. The Cosmos locked up their spot in The Championship last week, but they won’t be able to rest until they clinch the top spot in the standings for the year, which they cannot do this weekend.

International duty will eliminate players from both sides. Ottawa will be without Jamar Dixon and Maxim Tissot, while World Cup Qualifiers will eliminate forward Yasmani Duk from consideration for the Cosmos. New York’s left back Ayoze will also miss the match due to yellow card accumulation.

FC Edmonton host Tampa Bay Rowdies, Sunday October 9, 4 p.m. ET

There’s a lot on the line for Edmonton on Sunday. A win over the visiting Rowdies would earn them their first postseason berth since 2011. The Rowdies should be just as motivated to earn a positive result north of the border after only coming away with two points in an underwhelming two-game homestand. Tampa Bay was the victim of a standout performance from Matt Van Oekel in a 1-0 loss to the Eddies back at Al Lang Stadium earlier in the Fall Season, but they have not dropped a match since August.