NASL Fall Week 11 Preview: All Eyes on Cosmos, Minnesota

IMAGE, MINNESOTA UNITED FC

by JAKE NUTTING

Supporters across the league will have at least part of their attention focused on Saturday night’s clash between the New York Cosmos (27 pts Fall, 45 pts Combined) and Minnesota United FC (20 pts, 36 pts) as the match could have major implications for the postseason race throughout the table.

The Cosmos are at the top of the heap in both the Fall Season and combined standings, but they can ill afford to let points slip away at home given the fact FC Edmonton (24 pts, 41 pts) is still hot their tail with two games in hand.

Points are just as critical for Minnesota, though. A loss opens the door for the Carolina RailHawks (15 pts, 29 pts), Fort Lauderdale Strikers (13 pts, 28 pts) and Tampa Bay Rowdies (12 pts, 28 pts) to close the point gap in the race for the fourth and final postseason spot in the combined table. A win on the other hand would allow the Loons to maintain or extend their lead over the competition.

The Sunday afternoon meeting between Edmonton and Miami FC (19 pts, 26 pts) also deserves some attention. A win on the road for the resurgent Miami could lift them from fifth to third in the fall title race.

New York Cosmos host Minnesota United FC, Saturday September 10, 7 p.m. ET

Although neither New York nor Minnesota have clinched a spot in the postseason, both appear to be hitting their stride at the right time. The Cosmos are in the midst of a seven-game unbeaten streak, while the Loons have not lost in their last five outings.

Typically known for their high-powered attack, the Loons have found fine defensive form in recent weeks with only one goal conceded during their current unbeaten streak. They’ll have their work cut out for them on Saturday, though, as the Cosmos boast the league’s best attack. Raising the difficulty for the Loons even more so is that 30 of New York’s 44 league-leading goals have come at home.

Apart from serious playoff implications, Saturday’s match will also see two of the league’s contenders for the Golden Boot face off. Christian Ramirez currently leads the scoring title race with 14 goals, but Juan Arango is not too far off with 11 goals thanks to a productive few weeks.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers host Indy Eleven, Saturday September 10, 7 p.m. ET

The Strikers have held steady in their quest to reach the top four with a five-game unbeaten streak, but much of that success has come off the back of the defense and keeper Bruno Cardoso. After dispatching Ottawa with three goals, the Strikers have posted two straight scoreless draws.

Indy’s spot in the playoffs has already been locked up, but the Spring Season champions find themselves in a funk after going winless in their last four matches. With New York, Edmonton and Minnesota all clicking at the moment, Indy needs to get back in the win column sooner rather than later if they wish to secure home field advantage in the postseason.

Puerto Rico FC host Tampa Bay Rowdies, Saturday September 10, 7:30 p.m. ET

Puerto Rico FC has had a rough go so far in its inaugural campaign, registering only one win its first 13 matches. Hector Ramos has pulled his weight with seven goals and one assist, but he hasn’t had much help as the team has only managed to record one goal with zero involvement from the attacker. The lack of diversity in the attack has resulted in the Puerto Rico going scoreless in its last three matches.

The Rowdies will look to take full advantage of a vulnerable Puerto Rico squad. The club grabbed its first road point of the fall last week in a gritty draw with Indy, but it’ll have to start picking up points away from home more consistently in order to have a realistic shot at reaching the postseason.

Carolina RailHawks host Ottawa Fury FC, Saturday September 10, 7:30 p.m. ET

After recovering from their embarrassing loss to New York two weeks ago, the RailHawks find themselves well within reach of the fourth and final playoff spot. They trail the fourth-place Loons by seven points at the moment, but they also have two crucial games in hand to make up ground.

The RailHawks have an opportunity to gain ground against an injury-plagued Ottawa side. While Ottawa has managed to scrape together four straight draws, the Canadian side is also winless since July. Ottawa is also coming off short rest, having just played to a scoreless draw in Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

FC Edmonton host Miami FC, Sunday September 11, 4 p.m. ET

One of the league’s best home sides will square off with one of the best away performers this Sunday as Miami travels to Edmonton. The Eddies have recorded nine wins in 11 outings at home this year, but Miami’s road record is unblemished in the Fall Season thus far with three wins and three draws. If the expansion side can steal a win this weekend against the Eddies, it would be a huge statement on their fall championship prospects. Miami is currently fifth in the fall standings and trails the first-place Cosmos by eight points, but the South Florida club has two games in hand on New York.

Rayo OKC host Jacksonville Armada FC, Sunday September 11, 8 p.m. ET

Things are bleak for both of the squads that will close out the weekend on Sunday night. Rayo OKC has lost four straight and has yet to win since the coaching shakeup, while Jacksonville has managed just one win its last 10 matches. Rayo OKC’s playoff hopes are on life support thanks to their recent losing skid and Jacksonville is seeking any sign of consistency or promise under interim head coach Mark Lowry.

Red card suspension will keep Rayo OKCs leading scorer Michel out of action against Jacksonville.