NASL Fall Season Week 13: What to Watch For

Nazmi Albadawi Image, Rob Kinnan/NCFC

Cosmos logoMiami (8-3-3, 27 Fall; 19-5-6, 63 Combined) and the San Francisco Deltas (7-1-6, 27 Fall; 14-5-11, 53 Combined) remain locked in a battle for the Fall Season crown heading into the second-to-last weekend of the North American Soccer League regular season. The two sides finished deadlocked at 2-2 in their final head-to-head meeting of the year, keeping them even on points but with the Deltas holding the slight edge thanks to goal differential. With two matches left, the Deltas have a plus-3 advantage over Miami in goal differential.

Wednesday’s other matches had serious playoff implications. The Jacksonville Armada (3-5-6, 15 Fall, 9-9-12, 39 Combined) settled for a single point against Edmonton (3-5-5, 14 Fall; 7-16-6, 27 Combined) at home, putting the New York Cosmos (3-3-8, 17 Fall; 9-7-14, 41 Combined) into the driver’s seat for the fourth postseason spot as they came away with a convincing win over Puerto Rico (2-7-4, 10 Fall; 3-16-10, 19 Combined).

Indy, Puerto Rico Looking for Some Positives

With two weeks left to go, Indy Eleven (3-8-3, 12 Fall; 7-12-11, 32 Combined) and Puerto Rico have been knocked out of playoff contention. Both sides are coming off lopsided losses in their last outings, but Puerto Rico is experiencing the worse run. Puerto Rico has gone winless since Aug. 16 and has lost all five of its matches since returning to field after Hurricane Maria. The blame for Indy falling short of the postseason a year removed from its run to the championship final can’t fall on Jon Busch‘s shoulders. The veteran keeper leads the league with 103 saves, three short of Miami’s Daniel Vega‘s record from 2016.

North Carolina Eyeing Postseason Return

North Carolina (5-2-7, 22 Fall; 11-9-10, 43 Combined) is aiming to lock its first postseason berth since 2012 and play spoiler as it hosts the San Francisco Deltas on Saturday. North Carolina and San Francisco are currently on the best run of form in the NASL. The Deltas have not dropped a match in nine outings, while North Carolina has remained unbeaten in its last five matches. A win this weekend would secure North Carolina’s spot in the postseason, but it would also endanger San Francisco’s plans for the Fall Season title. San Francisco does not want to be in the position of needing Miami to drop points in these final weeks.

Miami Has Lost Some Luster

Miami has work to do if it hopes to regain its unstoppable reputations. Although Miami dispatched Indy easily last week, Alessandro Nesta’s side has been brought down to earth by San Francisco. In the last two weeks, Miami fell to the Deltas once and tied with them twice. Miami will hope to start rebuilding its reputation before the postseason kicks off with a home match against the struggling Eddies, who are on a five-match winless streak.

Marquee Matchup in Jacksonville

All eyes will be on the Cosmos and the Armada on Sunday in North Florida. Midweek action put the Cosmos out in front in the postseason race, but the matter is not settled. The Cosmos still have much to prove as two of their three wins in the fall have been against last-place Puerto Rico. If they want to show they’re worthy of a postseason spot, claiming a win this week would help. A win locks the Cosmos in the postseason, while a draw would extend the race until the fall finale next week. Falling to Jacksonville, though, would force the Cosmos to chase a win in the finale and pray that Jacksonville slips up. The Cosmos have yet to beat the Armada in four meetings this year (1 loss, 3 draws).