NASL Fall Finale Recap: Championship Field Set

IMAGE, ROB KINNAN/CAROLINA RAILHAWKS

by JAKE NUTTING

After a contentious race for the fourth and final spot in The Championship, Rayo OKC was finally declared the winner after the New York Cosmos eliminated Minnesota United FC Saturday night with a 1-0 win.

The top-seeded Cosmos will now host Rayo OKC in the semifinal round of the postseason on Saturday November at 7 p.m. ET, while the Spring Season winners Indy Eleven will square off with number three seed FC Edmonton at 3 p.m. that same day in Indianapolis.

With the conclusion of the regular season, the NASL officially said goodbye to three of their teams. The MLS-bound Minnesota and USL-bound Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury FC all closed out their time in the NASL with a loss.

Miami FC 1-0 FC Edmonton

Miami peppered the visiting Eddies with a number of shots and were only denied by the woodwork in the first hour of Friday’s match, but they finally found what they were looking for in the 64th minute. Blake Smith poked a ball into space for Ariel Martinez just inside the box and the midfielder rifled a shot inside the far post to seal all three points in their finale. With the result, the Eddies enter the postseason having lost three of their last four matches.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1-0 Ottawa Fury FC

Fort Lauderdale closed out their year with a gritty road result in the Canadian capital off the back of Italian striker Amauri. Kleberson delivered a free kick into the center of the box and the looming Amauri rose to redirect the ball past a helpless Romuald Peiser.

Puerto Rico FC 2-1 Carolina RailHawks

It took just six minutes for Puerto Rico to end a three-game scoreless drought and pull ahead of the RailHawks, finding the back of the net through the head of forward Sidney Rivera. Carolina knotted the match at one with their own header in the 32nd minute. Steven Miller lofted a cross toward the far post and defender Karem Moses was in position to power the ball across the line. Puerto Rico was in the lead again before the first half came to a close, though. Hector Ramos maneuvered around keeper Akira Fitzgerald in a breakaway chance and deposited the ball into the empty net for his eighth goal of the year.

New York Cosmos 1-0 Minnesota United FC

The Cosmos had next to nothing on the line in their regular season finale, but they still came out with more energy than their hosts. After failing to grab a lead in the first 45 minutes, the Cosmos broke the deadlock in the 49th minute when Eric Calvillo notched his first goal with a header off a cross from Ayoze. The concession woke up the Loons, who began to push for a goal to keep their postseason hopes alive but were denied at every outset. Defender Jimmy Mulligan cleared a ball off the line for New York after a scramble off a corner kick and keeper Jimmy Maurer made four crucial saves in the second half to preserve the lead.

Jacksonville Armada FC 3-2 Tampa Bay Rowdies

A Joe Cole-less Rowdies jumped out to a tw0-goal lead in their final match in the NASL only to see their lead evaporate in a disastrous two-minute sequence. From 40 yards out, midfielder Martin Vingaard spotted Jakcsonville’s Miguel Gallardo off his line and elected to rip an arching shot that sailed over the keeper and into the goal in the fourth minute. Keith Savage doubled the lead in the 19th minute when he got his head on a free kick from Michael Nanchoff.

Jacksonville pulled one back ten minutes later with an assist and finish from Zach Steinberger and Alhassane Keita, but didn’t complete the comeback with a quick two-goal swing in the 83rd and 84th minute. Jemal Johnson evened things out when he collected a poor clearance off a corner kick and chipped keeper Chris Glodack. Steinberg then capped the rally after cutting inside the box a minute later and slotting a shot into the bottom left corner of the net.

Rayo OKC 2-1 Indy Eleven

If Rayo OKC needed any more confidence heading into the postseason, they picked it up with an impressive 2-1 win over the second-seeded Indy Eleven. Nicki Paterson put Indy up seven minutes into the second half when he converted a penalty after Rayo OKC was whistled for a handball. Sebastian Velasquez leveled the match only eight minutes later with a right-footed blast into the upper 90 and Moises Hernandez took the lead with a header in the 85th minute. The victory is Rayo OKC’s fifth straight and ensured they finished the regular season on a ten-game unbeaten streak.