NASL Fall Week 17 Preview: Crunch Time for Several Teams in Postseason Chase

IMAGE, MINNESOTA UNITED FC

by JAKE NUTTING

With just two matches remaining for each team in the Fall Season, the field for the final postseason spot is on the verge of shrinking. Minnesota United FC (25 pts Fall, 41 pts Combined) and Rayo OKC (29 pts, 41 pts) could each take charge of the race with a win this weekend as they go head-to-head with two teams chasing them in the standings, the Carolina RailHawks (23 pts, 37 pts) and Fort Lauderdale Strikers (23 pts, 38 pts).

Devastating midweek losses for the Tampa Bay Rowdies (22 pts, 38 pts) and Miami FC (30 pts, 37 pts) have put their postseason prospects in serious jeopardy, although the Rowdies still have the better shot at moving into the fourth spot in the final week of the season if Minnesota and Rayo OKC drop points this weekend.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers host Rayo OKC, Saturday October 22, 7 p.m. ET

The Strikers have kept afloat in the postseason race with back-to-back wins, but only a third straight will do against this weekend. Trailing Rayo OKC and Minnesota by three points in the combined standings, anything other than a win in their head-to-head meeting with Rayo OKC would make it impossible to sneak into the fourth spot.

Unfortunately for Fort Lauderdale, Rayo OKC is the hottest team in the NASL at the moment. Unbeaten in their last eight matches, the expansion side extended its winning streak to three last week with a commanding win over Ottawa. Additionally, with a record of 5W-5D-5L, Rayo OKC is one the most consistent road teams in the league. Rayo OKC will be without the services of defensive midfielder Derek Boateng due to yellow card accumulation.

New York Cosmos host Miami FC, Saturday October 22, 7 p.m. ET

Miami heads into New York clinging to a faint chance of reaching the postseason. Winless in its last four outings, only a win over the Cosmos will suffice for the expansion side. Miami will be at a serious disadvantage due to the suspension of defender Gabriel Farfan and attacker Kwadwo Poku. Former Cosmos player Hunter Freeman is also expected to be unavailable as a result of an agreement in his transfer deal that prevent him from playing against the Cosmos in the regular season.

Injuries are also likely to eliminate players for the Cosmos, although Gio Savarese can afford to take his time getting Carlos Mendes and Lucky Mkosana back into the fold after clinching the fall title and top postseason last week.

Carolina RailHawks host Minnesota United FC, Saturday October 22, 7:30 p.m. ET

Carolina cannot afford to drop a third straight match this weekend. The team’s attack will look to get back on track after being blanked in back-to-back matches. Omar Bravo made his return to the gameday roster last week, but the Mexican striker was an unused substitute in the loss.

While the RailHawks are hoping to ignite their offense to stay alive in the postseason race, they’ll also need to be vigilant on the defensive side of the ball to keep the Loons at bay. Christian Ramirez has hit his stride once again with three goals in his last two appearances, including last week’s brace that helped his side take hold of the chase for the fourth spot with their first win since early September.

Indy Eleven host Puerto Rico FC, Saturday October 22, 7:30 p.m. ET

Indy is already locked into the second seed in The Championship, so their motivation in the final two weeks of the Fall Season is all about finishing up on a high note. They’re on the right track after posting two straight wins, with three goals recorded in each match.

With their loss to Fort Lauderdale last weekend, Puerto Rico’s shot at not finishing dead last in the combined standings came to an end. The last two matches of their inaugural campaign will be all about pride.

Tampa Bay Rowdies host Ottawa Fury FC, Saturday October 22, 7:30 p.m. ET

Their odds are slim after Wednesday’s loss to Indy, but the Rowdies still have one of the best chance at catching Minnesota and Rayo OKC of any of the teams in the postseason race. Another loss would all but guarantee they miss out on the fourth spot given how far behind they are in the tiebreaking goal differential. Tampa Bay’s attack has pulled its weight with four goals in the last two matches, but five goals conceded on the opposite end has limited them to just one point in that stretch.

Already eliminated from postseason contention, Ottawa will look to just find some positivity in their last two matches after going winless in four straight. Last weekend’s 3-1 loss in Oklahoma City was especially embarrassing and could have been much more lopsided if not for the efforts of keeper Romuald Peiser.

FC Edmonton host Jacksonville Armada FC, Sunday October 23, 4 p.m. ET

Unlike their upcoming postseason opponent, Indy Eleven, Edmonton is in danger of finishing the regular season trending downward. The Canadian side has dropped two straight road matches since securing their postseason spot at home. Sunday will be Edmonton’s last chance to pick up a result at home in the regular season, and possibly their last home fixture of the year.

Jacksonville is hovering at the bottom of the table, but the team is certainly no pushover. After suffering a devastating collapse to fall to the Cosmos at home, Jacksonville rebounded with a thrilling 3-2 comeback win over Miami. Jacksonville should be boosted by the return of forward Alhassane Keita from suspension.