NASL Fall Week 17 Recap: Rayo OKC in Driver’s Seat for Last Postseason Spot

IMAGE, ROB KINNAN/CAROLINA RAILHAWKS

by JAKE NUTTING

While the Fall Season champion New York Cosmos (44 pts Fall, 62 pts Combined) were steamrolling Miami FC (30 pts, 37 pts) 4-0 to finish the regular season without a loss at home, Rayo OKC (32 pts, 44 pts) was taking hold of the race for the fourth postseason spot and the right to play the Cosmos in the semifinal round of The Championship.

Six teams were still in the running for the final postseason spot at the start of the weekend, but only two came out the other end. Rayo OKC and Minnesota United FC (25 pts, 41 pts) are the only teams still alive heading into the final weekend. However, Rayo OKC hold the best shot at the final spot thanks to their 2-0 win and Minnesota’s devastating 1-0 loss to the Carolina RailHawks (26 pts, 40 pts).

A win or draw for Rayo OKC in the Fall Season finale next week would secure their postseason berth, no matter what Minnesota does in their match.

Rayo OKC 2-0 Fort Lauderdale Strikers

A pair of second-half goals helped Rayo OKC extend their unbeaten streak to nine games with a massive road win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The expansion side tallied the opening goal five minutes in the closing half from a set piece sequence. Fort Lauderdale’s Bruno came out to punch a dangerous cross from Michel, but the keeper’s clearance fell for Sebastien Ibeagha to slot across the line. Michel was involved in Rayo OKC’s stoppage time goal to seal the result when he slipped a pass to Pecka, who sent a shot inside the far post.

New York Cosmos 4-0 Miami FC

The Cosmos bagged two goals in the first ten minutes of their regular season home finale and never looked back. Jairo Arrieta recorded the first of the night when he guided a header from the center of the box into the back of the net less than two minutes into the match. Yohandry Orozco then piled on Miami with a volley into an empty net from 20 yards out after a miscued clearance.

Juan Arango buried the visitors even further with his third set piece goal in the last two matches. The Venezuelan curled a shot just over the wall and past a diving Daniel Vega in the 31th minute to notch his team-leading 15th goal of the year. Orozco scored his second of the night five minutes later when he delivered a low, long-range strike into the bottom right corner.

Carolina RailHawks 1-0 Minnesota United FC

Carolina jumped out to a lead early into the second half with a well executed counter attack. In the 52nd minute, Brian Shriver picked Matt Fondy out on the far post with a pass and the forward made the simple tap-in finish for his seventh goal of the year. Keeper Bryan Sylvestre came up with five crucial saves in the match for the RailHawks, including a clutch block on a long-range strike from Ben Speas just before stoppage time.

Despite the winning effort, the RailHawks were officially eliminated from postseason contention as a result of Rayo OKC’s win. Rayo OKC does owe the RailHawks a thank you note, though, as the loss for Minnesota puts the expansion side in full control of the race for the final playoff spot.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-1 Ottawa Fury FC

The Rowdies could have still been in the postseason hunt had they been able to come up with a win in their home finale on Saturday, but they dug themselves too deep a hole to climb out of in the first half.

Right back Darnell King was sent off with a straight red card for making contact with Ottawa’s Ryan Williams as the attacker was streaking into the box in the 27th minute. To make matters worse for Tampa Bay, the visitors made them pay on the ensuing free kick. Carl Haworth blasted his strike into the wall, but Maxim Tissot pounced on the rebound with a shot that deflected off the wall and slipped through the fingers of Matt Pickens.

Down a man, the Rowdies still managed to fight for their way into the match and created the majority of the scoring chances. Georgi Hristov leveled things up eight minutes into the second half when he latched onto a through ball from Justin Chavez and fired a shot under an onrushing Romuald Peiser. The equalizer was all the Rowdies could find, though, and they finished frustrated with a point.

Indy Eleven 3-0 Puerto Rico FC

Indy appears to be heating up at the exact right time. With just two weeks until their postseason match against Edmonton, Indy has the confidence of three-goal performances in three straight wins.

Indy’s latest impressive victory came at the expense of Puerto Rico, who dropped their second straight match. A disastrous ten-minute collapse at the close of the second half doomed Puerto Rico. Justin Braun opened the scoring for Indy in the 36th minute and the visitors were reduced to ten men two minutes later when Oliver was shown a second yellow card.

Trevor Spangenberg stonewalled Eamon Zayed’s penalty attempt in the 45th minute, but Indy’s leading scorer persisted to tap home his own rebound for his 15th goal of the year. Dylan Mares iced the match just before the halftime whistle with a 20-yard strike.

FC Edmonton 1-0 Jacksonville Armada FC

FC Edmonton got back in the win column to snap a two-match losing streak, but not without controversy. A fatigued Jacksonville was unable to put up much of a fight in the attack, but they looked to have done enough to earn at least a point away from home until the final moments of stoppage time.

The Eddies attempted to mount one last effort on goal and ended up with a penalty when Mechack Jerome was whistled for a foul on Sainey Nyassi at the edge of the box. After initially indicating the foul was committed outside of the area, the referee drew the ire of Jacksonville when he reversed his decision and awarded a penalty. Daryl Fordyce calmly stepped to the spot and buried his effort to the right of Miguel Gallardo.