NASL Fall Season Week 1: What to Watch For

Justin Braun has tallied seven goals for for Indy Eleven, which has risen in the standings in the final weeks of the Spring Season. Image, Indy Eleven

By JAKE NUTTING

nasl logoThe 16-match race to see which three teams will join Spring Season champion, Miami FC, in the postseason commences this weekend with the start of the North American Soccer League’s Fall Season.

With a 10-point lead on the second-place San Francisco Deltas at the midway mark of the season, Miami (which is in the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup) has understandably stood pat with its roster. Virtually every other team, though, has made at least one move in hopes of building a team capable of reaching the postseason.

New York Aiming to Fix Home Woes

The New York Cosmos are hoping their Fall Season home opener is smoother than their spring opener. Once again, the Cosmos host Miami, which trounced the Cosmos at MCU Park to kick of their spring title run. New York went on to notch only two home wins, both of which were against last-place Puerto Rico. Defensive midfielder Kobi Moyal and forward Lucky Mkosana could be in line for their debuts. The 2016 NASL MVP Juan Arango has also been brought back in to improve the team’s scoring consistency, though it’s still unknown if he will be available against Miami.

Also up in the air is the health of the veterans Carlos Mendes and Ayoze. Mendes especially would offer a calming presence in central defense, an area Miami exploited well in its 2-1 win over the Cosmos on June 24.

Puerto Rico Trying to Claw Out from the Bottom

After a disastrous spring, Puerto Rico cannot afford a sluggish start in the Fall Season. The attacking midfielder Mario Martínez Rubio, 32, was recently added to the mix, though Puerto Rico might be keeping  an eye on the status of another midfielder. Puerto Rico finished the Spring Season on a six-match winless streak, partly hastened by a hamstring injury that eliminated Yuma from the last four matches. With Yuma organizing the midfield, Puerto Rico is unquestionably a more formidable team.

North Carolina has not made any drastic roster moves after finishing outside the top four. The team’s biggest move was extending the contract of winger Lance Laing, who has already bagged six goals and three assists. Instead of making splashy signings, Coach Colin Clarke added defensive depth with the signing of right back D.J. Taylor, a former Capital Area RailHawks Academy player who spent the last two years in Spain’s lower leagues. North Carolina is tied with Indy for the second most goals allowed (22).

Edmonton Hopes for Fruitful Fordyce Reunion

The Eddies are leaning on the past to dig themselves out of their current hole. After scoring only 11 goals through their first 16 matches, they’ve brought back the club’s career-leading scorer Daryl Fordyce. Fordyce, 30, should be eager to prove his best days aren’t behind him. During his short stint with Cincinnati in the United Soccer League, Fordyce struggled to get on the field.

Indy was quiet during the short break, though it has just cause to be confident in its roster after notching four wins in its last five matches. With its early-season injuries problems in the past, Indy is turning into one of the most complete teams in the league. Jon Busch is at the top of his game in net, Ben Speas and Don Smart are slowly but surely filling the creative gap left by Dylan Mares in midfield, while Justin Braun‘s seven goals only trails Miami’s Stefano Pinho and Vincenzo Rennella.

Armada and Deltas Both Need a Scoring Threat

The San Francisco Deltas closed the Spring Season second in the standings, though many were left wondering how strong their grip on the spot was after two lopsided losses. San Francisco’s defense had held firm with just 10 goals allowed in its first 14 matches before equaling that total in only two matches against Miami in the end. The Deltas will have to get by in the opener without Coach Marc Dos Santos, forward Pablo Dyego and midfielder Kyle Bekker, all of whom are suspended.

San Francisco is in a similar boat as Jacksonville. Both teams finished the Spring Season in prime position to make a run at the postseason, but neither showcased much attacking firepower. Only Edmonton scored fewer goals than Jacksonville and San Francisco, both recorded 17 goals. The Deltas have signed Brazilian Dagoberto in hopes of igniting the attack, while Jacksonville has yet to make a move.