NASL Fall Week 15 Recap: Race for Fourth Intensifies, Edmonton Clinches Playoff Spot

IMAGE, FC EDMONTON

by JAKE NUTTING

Ben Fisk scored in his second straight match to earn FC Edmonton (33 pts Fall, 50 pts Combined) a win over the visiting Tampa Bay Rowdies (21 pts, 37 pts), earning the club’s first postseason berth since 2011. With the New York Cosmos (38 pts, 56 pts) only able to secure a draw at Ottawa Fury FC (21 pts, 30 pts), Edmonton pulled to within five points of them on the Fall Season table. However, the Eddies do still have a game in hand on the Cosmos.

With the Cosmos, Eddies and Indy Eleven (27 pts, 45 pts) all locked into The Championship, only one spot remains for handful of hopeful teams. Minnesota United FC (22 pts, 38 pts) regained a tenuous hold of the fourth spot in the standings as both the Rowdies and Miami FC (29 pts, 36 pts) lost out in their matches.

Rayo OKC (23 pts, 35 pts) and the Carolina RailHawks (23 pts, 37 pts) were perhaps the biggest winners of the weekend. Each picked up critical wins to join the fray and put even more pressure on Minnesota. Only three points separate eighth-place Rayo OKC from the Loons in the combined standings, while the RailHawks, Rowdies and Miami are all sandwiched in between them hoping to make a move.

FC Edmonton 1-0 Tampa Bay Rowdies

FC Edmonton got a boost to their already strong home field advantage on Sunday with some snowy conditions. Canadian international Ben Fisk scored the only goal of the afternoon in the 13th minute. Midfielder Dustin Corea fired a cross from the left sideline and Fisk beat Tampa Bay’s Neil Collins to the service to head the ball between Matt Pickens and the near post.

The Rowdies held an edge in possession for the remainder of the first half, but they failed to find a way through Edmonton’s tight defensive lines to earn quality shots. Keith Savage sent the visitor’s best chance of the match wide right after a deflection off an Edmonton defender left him with an unmarked chance at the top of the six-yard box moments before halftime. Unable to threaten Edmonton’s goal much more in the second half, the Rowdies saw their seven-game unbeaten run come to an end.

Ottawa Fury FC 1-1 New York Cosmos

Ottawa had the better of the Cosmos in the first half but weren’t rewarded until the second half after a blunder in New York’s defensive end. Keeper Jimmy Maurer put midfielder Ruben Bover in a bad spot with a poor pass out of the box and Ryan Williams seized the chance by swiping the ball and charging forward to fire a shot between Maurer’s legs.

Hope appeared lost for the Cosmos before Juan Arango found a way to record his 12th goal of the year in the 79th minute. Defender Timbo failed to clear a cross properly, allowing Adam Moffat to receive the ball and attempt a shot. Moffat miscued his attempt, but volleyed the rebound to the near post for Arango to head straight into the top corner.

Carolina RailHawks 3-0 Fort Lauderdale Strikers

Carolina jumped ahead of the floundering Strikers in the 25th minute and never looked back. Austin da Luz helped kick off the scoring when he got his head on the end of a cross from Matt Fondy. The lead was doubled a few minutes before the halftime whistle when Nazmi Albadawi picked out an open Brian Shriver to send a left-footed striker past Bruno Cardoso. With his 10th set up of the year, Albadawi established a new NASL single-season record. The RailHawks put the match even further out of reach in the 82nd minute after Matt Watson collected a clearance from a corner kick outside the box and blasted a shot into the back of the net.

Rayo OKC 1-0 Miami FC

A second-half penalty proved the difference for Rayo OKC in Miami on Saturday as the club recorded a win after four straight draws. Defender Rhett Bernstein drew the whistle in the 70th minute when a pass from Rayo OKC’s Billy Forbes connected with his outstretched arm. Michel stepped up to convert and just managed to beat keeper Daniel Vega to the right post with his attempt. Michel now leads the team with 11 goals, four of which have come from the penalty spot in the team’s last four outings.

Puerto Rico F 0-0 Minnesota United FC

Minnesota ended its four-game losing streak and retook hold of the fourth spot in the combined standings, but the club can’t be too content with a one-point lead in the race after only taking two points in their two-game road trip. The Loons nearly gave the game away in the final stages when Michael Kafari had a one-on-one with Sammy Ndjock, but he ended up sending a harmless shot right at the keeper.