NASL Fall Week 12 Recap: Minnesota’s Collapse Tightens Playoff Race

IMAGE, PATRICK PATTERSON/UNUSED SUBSTITUTES

by JAKE NUTTING

The New York Cosmos (31 pts Fall, 49 pts Combined) were frustrated to not take three points at home against FC Edmonton (26 pts, 43 pts), but they can hang their hat on maintaining control of their fate as the league’s frontrunner moving forward.

In other league action, Minnesota United FC’s deflating collapse to Ottawa was the delight of several teams around the league. The Tampa Bay Rowdies (16 pts, 32 pts) were the biggest beneficiaries of the result, moving from ninth to a three-way tie with Miami FC (25 pts, 32 pts) and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (17 pts, 32 pts) for fifth-place in the combined standings after their win over the Carolina RailHawks (16 pts, 30 pts).

New York Cosmos 0-0 FC Edmonton

The crossbar played a part in Saturday’s meeting between Edmonton and New York remaining scoreless in the first half. New York’s Juan Arango and Edmonton’s Sainey Nyassi both beat the opposing keepers with excellent strikes only to see their attempts rattle off the crossbar to stay out of the net.

The Cosmos took total control of the match in the closing 45 minutes but failed to get the better of Matt Van Oekel as the keeper came up with two outstanding saves in the span of one minute in the dying moments. He first stifled a quality header from Sebastian Guenzatti, and followed up on the ensuring corner kick by stonewalling Adam Moffat on a close-range blast.

Indy Eleven 2-1 Miami FC

Miami put its seven-match unbeaten run away from home in the Fall Season up against Indy’s unbeaten home record this year and it was the expansion side that ended up buckling. Indy jumped out to a lead in the 25th minute when Daniel Vega’s distribution was picked off by Dylan Mares, who quickly made the keeper pay with a long-range shot into the back of the net.

The home side managed to double its lead only 11 minutes into the second half as a shot from Don Smart took a fortunate deflection and slipped by Vega. The second tally proved critical after Miami pulled one back through a backheel finish from Enzo Rennella six minutes later.

The result snapped a five-match winless streak for Indy and also brought Miami’s six-match unbeaten run to a halt.

Ottawa Fury FC 3-2 Minnesota United FC

Minnesota struck first at the half hour mark through an excellent delivery from Christian Ramirez and a beneficial deflection off a defender. Ramirez sailed a beautiful over the top from the halfway line for Jamie Watson to take in stride. Watson squeaked by Romuald Peiser on his run into the box and took a shot that was off target but ended up crossing the line after deflecting off the feet of Timbo.

The visitors answered just four minutes later with long-range strike from Giuseppe Gentile that skipped off the ground and snuck by the outstretched arms of Sammy Ndjock. Minnesota regained the lead in the closing minutes of the first half when Rafael Alves was whistled for knocking Ramirez down on a cross into the box. Ramirez made easy work of the conversion to record his league-leading 15th goal of the season.

Ramirez’s penalty looked as if it would be enough for the Loons to get back in the win column until Ottawa produced a two-goal rally in the span of five minutes. Ryan Williams grabbed the equalizer in the 84th minute by sending a header straight for the top corner past Ndjock, and loanee Danny Mwanga followed suit four minutes later with another header across the line to cap a counter attack.

Puerto Rico FC 3-3 Jacksonville Armada FC

After going scoreless in four straight outings, Puerto Rico’s attack finally sprung to life against Jacksonville with three goals. Unfortunately, the expansion side wasn’t able to match the performance on defensive end and allowed Jacksonville to notch three of their own.

Jackie Marrero opened the scoring for Puerto Rico in the 3rd minute with a left-footed strike. Charles Eloundou equalized for the visitors in the 29th minute, but Puerto Rico was back on top just a few minutes later thanks to a finish to the top corner from Oliver.

Jacksonville rallied in the second half and eventually took the lead through goals from Mechack Jerome and Alhassane Keita. Any hope of stealing three points on the road was dashed in the 85th minute, though, when Sydney Rivera tallied his first goal of the year.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-0 Carolina RailHawks

The Rowdies extended their unbeaten run to four matches but, more importantly, took the full three points against the RailHawks to keep pace with the rest of the pack in the chase for the fourth playoff spot. Midfielder Eric Avila recorded the winner for Tampa Bay in the 22nd minute, finishing a pass from Darnell King after being left totally unmarked in the center of the box. Saturday night was the third straight time the RailHawks have been blanked by the opposition.

Rayo OKC 1-1 Fort Lauderdale Strikers

After finishing scoreless in the first 45 minutes, the Strikers find a way to break through in the 61st minute. Keeper Daniel Fernandes made the initial stop on a tricky free kick from Ramon Nunez, but his teammates left him high and dry by allowing Maicon Santos to run onto the rebound unimpeded and bury it into the net.

Rayo OKC experienced a surge after the concession and finally found an equalizer in the 84th minute. Fort Lauderdale’s Victor Pineda was whistled for tripping up Billy Forbes from behind at the edge of the box and Michel stepped to convert from the penalty spot.