NASL Fall Week 16 Recap: Cosmos Clinch, Minnesota, Rayo OKC Neck and Neck for Fourth

IMAGE, MINNESOTA UNITED FC

by JAKE NUTTING

While the New York Cosmos (41 pts Fall, 59 pts Combined) wrapped up the Fall Season championship and top postseason seed with a comeback win at Jacksonville Armada FC (17 pts, 24 pts), Minnesota United FC (25 pts, 41 pts) and Rayo OKC (29 pts, 41 pts) remained neck and neck in the race for the fourth and final playoff spot after picking up identical 3-1 wins at home.

Minnesota and Rayo OKC can’t take take their eyes off the rest of the field quite yet, though. While they are on the verge of being eliminated from contention for the postseason, the Carolina RailHawks (23 pts, 37 pts) and Fort Lauderdale Strikers (23 pts, 38 pts) are still technically mathematically alive. The biggest threats to catch Minnesota and Rayo OKC are the Tampa Bay Rowdies (22 pts, 38 pts) and Miami FC (30 pts, 37 pts), who both could make up ground in the standings when they play this coming Wednesday.

New York Cosmos 4-2 Jacksonville Armada FC

A well executed counter put the Cosmos up on the road at the end of the first half. Forward Jairo Arrieta drilled a shot toward the far post that required a diving stop from Miguel Gallardo, but Yohandry Orozco swooped in to clean up the rebound opportunity.

The tide turned in the second half as Jacksonville’s high press began to force the Cosmos into more turnovers in their defensive end. Alhassane Keita leveled things for the home side after shielding center back Jimmy Ockford off the ball on a fifty-fifty challenge and firing a shot under the crossbar in the 66th minute. Midfielder Zach Steinberger then put Jacksonville up in the 79th minute when he followed up a long distance shot by Keita and buried the initial save from Jimmy Maurer.

Careless fouls and two expert set pieces from Juan Arango quickly wiped away any celebrations from Jacksonville. The Venezuelan equalized for the Cosmos just five minutes after Jacksonville had gained the lead with a free kick from just outside the box that benefited from a deflection off the wall. Arango found the winner and Fall Season clincher in a more outright manner in the 88th minute, curling a left-footed free kick from 25 yards outs over the wall and past Gallardo.

Arrieta nabbed another goal for good measure in the final seconds of stoppage time with a driven strike to the bottom left corner.

Minnesota United FC 3-1 FC Edmonton

The Eddies put their hosts on their heels in the 16th minute when they capitalized on a set piece opportunity. Daryl Fordyce slipped a shot under the wall that keeper Sammy Ndjock failed to scoop up as it skidded off the grass and Albert Watson did well to follow the shot and blast the rebound into the net.

From that opening goal on the match was all in Minnesota’s favor. Christian Ramirez swiftly leveled the match in the 23rd minute with a sensational half volley from the edge of that box that blew by Tyson Farago. JC Banks provided a tremendous flick into space to set up Ramirez for the finish.

Edmonton held off the surging Loons until the 53rd minute. Right back Kevin Venegas delivered a long range cross on a dime to Ibson on the left side of the box and the midfielder centered it with a volley to Ramirez, who beat his mark and guided the ball across the line.

A quick restart by the Loons in the 84th minute led to their third goal of the night. Ben Speas received the ball on the right flank after initialing throwing it in to Ramirez and whipped in a cross for Stefano Pinho, who redirected the service into the top corner.

Rayo OKC 3-1 Ottawa Fury FC

Rayo OKC extended their unbeaten streak to eight games with their third straight win in a commanding performance over Ottawa Fury FC. The visitors scored the opening goal in the 28th minute when Carl Haworth sent in a cross from the right side for the head of Giuseppe Gentile, but the hosts took control of the match from that point on.

Ottawa gifted Rayo OKC with the equalizer in the 36th minute after Romuald Peiser spilled an errant pass into the box right to the feet of Futty Danso, who slipped a pass to a wide open Michel for the simple finish into the empty net.

Rayo OKC then turned up the intensity in the second half, barraging Peiser with a handful of shots before finally taking the lead in the 61st minute. Midfielder Yuma played a long ball over the back line that caught up in the wind and dropped perfectly for a streaking Billy Forbes to collect and rocket past Peiser. Forbes then acted as the set up man for the third goal, slicing a pass to the center of the box for Michel to convert for his second of the night and 14th of the year.

Miami FC 2-2 Tampa Bay Rowdies

Miami was all over the Rowdies in the opening 20 minutes of Friday’s match. Jaime Chavez especially was a terror for Tampa Bay’s back line, notching the opening goal in the 16th minute with a screaming volley off a cross from Blake Smith and then setting up Kwadwo Poku for the second goal with a heads up pass to split the defenders.

The Rowdies, though, dug deep and cut the lead in half in the 27th minute when Georgi Hristov got his head on the end of a cross from Eric Avila to catch keeper Daniel Vega flat-footed. Momentum swung even further in Tampa Bay’s favor in the second half and the visitors were finally rewarded with an equalizer in the 66th minute. Joe Cole was left with space inside the box and laid a pass off for an unmarked Juan Guerra to line up a shot into the back of the net.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2-0 Puerto Rico FC

The Strikers knew only a three-point result on Saturday would give them a realistic shot at moving into the fourth and final playoff spot. They left it until late in the match, but they managed to find the necessary result at home and snapped Puerto Rico’s seven-game unbeaten run in the process.

Geison Moura grabbed the winner in the 78th minute when he jumped on a loose ball inside Puerto Rico’s box and Jose Angulo sealed the match with a second goal just before the start of stoppage time.

Indy Eleven 3-0 Carolina RailHawks

Indy took a lead over the visiting RailHawks moments before the halftime break and never looked back. Justin Braun provided the opening tally, heading home a cross from Sinisa Ubiparipovic. Substitute Nicki Patterson recorded the second of the night in the 77th minute with a scorching free kick that beat Bryan Sylvestre to the bottom right corner. Soulemayne Youla notched Indy’s third by slotting home a cross by Don Smart but was then promptly shown a straight red card for putting a hand to the face of Nazmi Albadawi.