NASL Fall Week 12 Preview: Minnesota Look to Hold Off the Pack, more

IMAGE, MINNESOTA UNITED FC

by JAKE NUTTING

The New York Cosmos (30 pts Fall, 48 pts Combined) will look to maintain their year-long unbeaten run at home going this weekend as they host second-place FC Edmonton (25 pts, 42 pts). A win for either side would likely prove crucial in the tight Fall Season title race.

After picking up only one win in its last five matches, Minnesota United FC’s (20 pts, 36 pts) grip on the fourth and final playoff spot in the league’s combined standings is loosening. If the Loons do not pick up three points this weekend, they risk seeing teams like the Carolina RailHawks (16 pts, 30 pts), Fort Lauderdale Strikers (16 pts, 31 pts) or Miami FC (25 pts, 32 pts) jump to within spitting distance of the fourth spot.

New York Cosmos host FC Edmonton, Saturday September 17, 7 p.m. ET

The Cosmos are the front runners in the NASL standings thanks to a superb eight-match unbeaten streak, but they’ll put their form to the test this weekend against the only team that has beaten them twice this year. In their two encounters with the Eddies north of the border this season, the Cosmos jumped out to a lead only to eventually lose 2-1.

Edmonton has also been one of the more quality sides in the NASL during the fall campaign and sit second behind the Cosmos on both tables as a result. After coming up with a scoreless draw against Rayo OKC on Wednesday, their final regular season meeting with the Cosmos is even more critical. A win would leave them just two points back on the fall table and three behind in the combined standings with a game in hand on the Cosmos.

Indy Eleven host Miami FC, Saturday September 17, 7:30 p.m. ET

Unlike the rest of the teams battling it out for a spot The Championship, Indy’s place in the postseason is already locked up. Nonetheless, the team’s five-match winless streak must be cause for concern for the club as others are rounding into form. Regaining composure on defense should be a top priority. Indy’s defense has allowed ten goals during the recent skid after allowing only 16 goals in their previous 16 matches.

While Indy has been floundering, Miami has been soaring up the standings and is now tied for second with Edmonton in the fall standings after winning three straight without allowing a single goal.¬† The expansion side is also unlikely to be flustered by Indy’s unblemished record at home considering it has recorded four wins and three draws away from home in the fall campaign.

Puerto Rico FC host Jacksonville Armada FC, Saturday September 17, 7:30 p.m. ET

Puerto Rico and Jacksonville should both view Saturday’s match as an excellent chance to pick up a win in the midst of a bad stretch. Neither side has a realistic shot at reaching the postseason anymore, but there is still plenty of time to forge a strong base to build off of heading into the offseason.

For Puerto Rico, the match is a chance to take something positive from a four-match homestand that has thus far produced one loss and two draws. With zero goals in their last four outings, the expansion side’s attack has been devastatingly impotent.¬†Jacksonville has been equally ineffective in losing their last two matches. Interim head coach Mark Lowry has yet to establish consistency in results since taking control last month.

Tampa Bay Rowdies host Carolina RailHawks, Saturday September 17, 7:30 p.m. ET

The Rowdies should have plenty of motivation to take all three points at home this weekend. On top having an opportunity to avenge their embarrassing 3-1 and 4-1 losses to the RailHawks this year, the Rowdies are also in desperate need of a win to keep pace in the tight postseason race. Tampa Bay is unbeaten in their last three, but the draws taken in their last two won’t be enough to lift them into the top four.

Carolina is also fighting to stay relevant in the chase for a playoff spot. They’ve managed to shore up the defense after the 6-1 shellacking they took in New York three weeks ago with a win and draw, but they then fell to Miami in a 1-0 result on Wednesday. While the defense has gotten back on track with two clean sheets in their last three, their own attack has also been blanked twice during that time.

Minnesota United FC host Ottawa Fury FC, Saturday September 17, 8 p.m. ET

Minnesota can’t linger on the disappointment of their fall title hopes taking a major hit last week in New York. The Loons must pick themselves immediately to ward off the handful of teams yearning to leapfrog them for the final playoff spot in the combined standings. Strong defensive showings have kept the Loons ahead in the race, as the attack has only produced three goals in their last five matches.

Ottawa heads to Minnesota having taken a draw in five straight matches. Romuald Peiser has looked like the keeper that won the Golden Glove last year in recent weeks, but the offensive production has been lacking for the Canadian side as three of the five draws have ended as scoreless affairs.

Rayo OKC host Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Saturday September 18, 8 p.m. ET

Rayo OKC has had a respectable rebound from its four-match losing streak. The expansion side earned its first win under interim head coach Gerard Nus over the weekend and followed that up with a hard-fought scoreless draw in Edmonton on Wednesday night. Rayo OKC will need to get by a surging Fort Lauderdale side, though, if it hopes to keep up the positive run. The Strikers ended a four-match homestand with eight points and are currenlty unbeaten in their last six matches. A win for the South Florida club this weekend could potentially pull them within two of fourth-place Minnesota in the combined standings.