NASL Fall Opening Week Recap: Puerto Rico Debuts, More

IMAGE, MINNESOTA UNITED FC

by JAKE NUTTING

Only two teams were able to post winning results in the opening round of the NASL Fall Season.

Minnesota United FC were by far the more convincing of the two, shellacking the visiting Carolina RailHawks 5-1. Striker Christian Ramirez recorded a hat trick in the win, placing him firmly above the rest of the league’s leading scorers. The New York Cosmos were the other winning team of the bunch, although their 2-1 win over a 10-man Ottawa Fury FC was much less emphatic.

The league’s four other contests all ended in identical 1-1 draws. Puerto Rico FC saw 6,474 fans show up to see the expansion side come seconds away from clinching its first win, but Indy Eleven did what they do best and tallied a stoppage time goal to remain unbeaten.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1-1 Miami FC

It’s still early days in the history of Miami FC and the Strikers, but penalties are quickly becoming a tradition between the two. After Fort Lauderdale jumped out to an early lead in the Spring Season matchup with a penalty, it was now Miami’s turn to do the same. Jean-Marc Alexandre was whistled for tripping up Miami’s Ariel Martinez on a run into the box and Dario Cvitanich converted from the spot for his fourth goal of the year. The home side equalized straight out of an extended weather delay and the halftime break, with center back Gale Agbossoumonde rising to head home a corner kick from Gabriel.

New York Cosmos 2-1 Ottawa Fury FC

Coming off the team’s disappointing exit from the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night, Cosmos Head Coach Gio Savarese gambled with a rotation squad for the team’s Fall Season opener. It didn’t take long for the lineup full of fresh faces to gain the advantage over the visitors. Ottawa’s keeper Romuald Peiser was shown a straight red card in the fifth minute for a dangerous studs-up tackle on Lucky Mkosana to stop a break in the penalty area. Ottawa was quickly reduced to nine outfield players and down a goal after Adam Moffat converted the ensuing penalty. The Cosmos used the fortunate turn of events to control the match but could only find the back of the net one more time. Mkosana expertly picked the ball out of the air with the outside of his right foot to double the lead shortly before the halftime break.

Mkosana’s brilliant strike proved crucial as Ottawa managed to finally produce a quality look on goal in the 90th minute and Paulo Junior capitalized on a rebound opportunity to keep the Cosmos honest in the final minutes.

Puerto Rico FC 1-1 Indy Eleven

After playing to a scoreless first hour, Puerto Rico and Indy gave the 6,474 fans in attendance plenty of dramatics in the final stages. The NASL newcomer finally broke through to grab a go-ahead goal in the 74th minute. Substitute Kyle Culbertson provided a teasing cross in front of the net on a counter attack and Hector Ramos flicked it past the keeper before slamming the ball into the back of the net. Ramos’ tally set up a potential dream finish for Puerto Rico, but the young club soon discovered why Indy Eleven were crowned the league’s Spring Season champions. Deep into stoppage time, Indy’s Nemanja Vukovic whipped in a free kick from the left flank and recent signee Souleymane Youla elevated to guide a header into the back of the net. The last-gasp goal extended Indy’s unbeaten streak to 11 games.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-1 Jacksonville Armada FC

The Rowdies packed Al Lang Stadium for the July Fourth weekend, but the visiting Armada FC stung the energized home crowd with a goal in the 12th minute from recent acquisition Zach Steinberger. Jacksonville’s Mechack Jerome was left unmarked on the right flank to deliver a cross toward the near post and Steinberger deftly flicked it past keeper Matt Pickens. Jacksonville’s celebration was short-lived, though, as the Rowdies charged down the field and equalized less than a minute later. Right back Darnell King delivered a cross behind the back line and forward Georgi Hristov accelerated into the area to slide in and bang the ball across the line. After Hristov’s strike the Rowdies took control of the momentum but failed to find a go-ahead goal. In his first start since signing in the offseason, keeper Sean Lewis came up huge for Jacksonville with 10 saves to thwart the onslaught of scoring chances produced by the Rowdies.

Minnesota United FC 5-1 Carolina RailHawks

Minnesota did a good job exorcizing their Spring Season demons on Saturday by knocking off the team that handed them a defeat in their spring opener. Christian Ramirez put in his best shift of the year, starting with a stellar 22-yard strike to put his side ahead in the 20th minute. Ramirez then bagged his second of the night four minutes later thanks to a horrendous mishap from the RailHawks. Ramirez intercepted an errant back pass and easily slotted the ball past Akira Fitzgerald. Stefano Pinho and Tiago Calvano piled on with one each around the halfway mark of the match, but Ramirez completed the hat trick and buried the visitors with a slick redirection into the net in the 75th minute.

Carolina’s Matt Watson scored in the 90th minute on an assist from Nazmi Albadawi; giving the RailHawks at least one positive note to distract them on what will undoubtedly be a long trip home.

Rayo OKC 1-1 FC Edmonton

Carrying several injuries and suspensions, the Eddies went into Oklahoma City with only 15 players available for selection. The visitors found themselves in a one-goal hole in the 33th minute mark after Robbie Findley tapped in a cross from Jared Van Schaik. A shift in momentum in the final stages of the match left the Eddies with a reasonable shot at stealing a point on the road. Desperate for an equalizer, they finally found it deep into stoppage time through a glorious long-distance strike from Gustavo that sailed into the back of the net.

  • Larry\’s a Simpleton

    http://fiftyfive.one/2016/07/turmoil-fort-lauderdale-strikers-players-staff-checks-bounce-players-leave/

    Strikers bouncing paychecks. Independent soccer clubs just aint what they used to be.

    Maybe they should sell $5 tickets and block off half the stadium. if its good enuf for the world famous f.cosmos its good enuf for the Strikeouts.

    #RIPNASL

    • james w

      the sooner the nasl folds the less embarrassing it will be for US soccer as a whole, how bad is this where they can’t even pay their people, or garner more than a thousand fans to a game -pathetic!, the nasl is dragging the whole country’s soccer reputation down – cut them loose soon please!

      • Dr. Freud

        Larry – we have talked about this. Stop posting under multiple names and start taking your bi polar meds.