NASL Fall Week 13 Preview: High Stakes FL Derby, Indy host Cosmos, more

IMAGE, NASL

by JAKE NUTTING

The New York Cosmos (31 pts Fall, 49 pts Combined) hit the road this weekend to take on Indy Eleven (24 pts, 42 pts). The Spring Season champions have already locked up their spot in The Championship, but they find themselves trailing the Cosmos in the Fall Season and combined standings in the final stretch of the regular season. Unbeaten at home this year, Indy will look to secure all three points to keep their slim hope of clinching the top seed in the playoffs alive.

While Indy and New York clash, the Tampa Bay Rowdies (16 pts, 32 pts) and Fort Lauderdale Strikers (17 pts, 32 pts) will face off in South Florida. The two are tied on points in fifth in the combined standings and are seeking to gain ground on fourth-place Minnesota United FC (20 pts, 36 pts), who will look to avenge last week’s collapse with a rematch against Ottawa Fury FC (17 pts, 26 pts).

Miami FC host Puerto Rico FC, Friday September 23, 8 p.m. ET

Miami’s rise up the NASL standings hit a snag last week with their first road loss of the Fall Season in Indy. Of the three teams tied on points for fifth in the combined standings, though, Miami has the easiest matchup on paper of the weekend. Puerto Rico capped off a four-game homestand with their first three-goal effort of the year, but the expansion side also conceded three to finish with a draw. Through 15 matches of their inaugural campaign, Puerto Rico has only recorded one win and is on the brink of being eliminated from playoff contention.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers host Tampa Bay Rowdies, Saturday September 24, 7 p.m. ET

Despite getting the better of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in two previous encounters this year, the Rowdies still find themselves even on points with their instate rivals and trailing by one point in the Coastal Cup standings. They’ll look to make the regular season a clean sweep on Saturday in order to pull ahead of the Strikers in both races.

Both sides have enjoyed a positive string of results in recent weeks, with sturdy defense playing a part in each case. The Strikers have only allowed four goals during their seven-match unbeaten streak, while the Rowdies have recorded three shutouts in their four-match unbeaten run.

A few days after being released by Jacksonville, midfielders Pascal Millen and Junior Sandoval have signed up with Fort Lauderdale for the remainder of the year.

Jacksonville Armada FC host Rayo OKC, Saturday September 24, 7 p.m. ET

Jacksonville’s attack has picked up the slack with five goals in the last two matches, but it hasn’t been enough as the club still finished with a loss and a draw on the road. Since debuting with a rousing win on the road in mid-August, interim head coach Mark Lowry has yet to tally a another win and Jacksonville is teetering on the edge of being eliminated from the postseason race as a result.

After getting off to rocky start under interim head coach Gerard Nus, Rayo OKC has strung together a promising three-match unbeaten run, although they no doubt feel frustrated by only coming away with draws in their last two outings. As turbulent a year as it has been for Rayo OKC, they still have a somewhat realistic shot at climbing into the final playoff spot. They only trail the fourth-place Loons by six with seven matches remaining on their schedule.

Ottawa Fury FC host Minnesota United FC, Saturday September 24, 7 p.m. ET

Minnesota is in dire need of a three-point result, not only to stay ahead of the pack of teams chasing them for the fourth playoff spot, but also just as a confidence boost after letting a lead slip away late against Ottawa just last week. The Loons still have the edge on talent, but Ottawa now has a psychological edge in the matchup after rallying for two goals last week in Minnesota.

Carolina RailHawks host FC Edmonton, Saturday September 24, 7:30 p.m. ET

The RailHawks came away with zero points in their two-match road trip to Florida last week as they posted two 1-0 losing efforts. While they’re still alive in the playoff race, the RailHawks will need to regain their attacking mojo before they can be considered alive and kicking. They’ve now been blanked in three straight matches.

Carolina’s attackers will have their work cut out for them this weekend as they host the stout FC Edmonton, who have only conceded 14 goals through 25 matches this year and are coming of clean sheet against the high-powered Cosmos. With 13 shutouts this year, keeper Matt Van Oekel is just one away from tying the league’s single season record.

Indy Eleven host New York Cosmos, Saturday September 24, 7:30 p.m. ET

More than pride is one the line for Indy as they host the Cosmos. Along with avenging their lopsided loss to the Cosmos last month, the Spring Season champions will look to win this weekend in order to keep the Cosmos from running away with the top seed in The Championship. Indy managed to knock off the Cosmos on their home turf with a last-gasp two-goal rally in the spring, but the Cosmos is are in the midst of a nine-match unbeaten run in which they’ve won six times. However, with only two of their remaining seven matches coming at home, the Cosmos will need to raise their road form if they wish to finish on top in the standings.