NASL Fall Week 2 Preview: Loons set to Challenge Indy’s Unbeaten Run

Kevin Venegas - Minnesota United FC

by JAKE NUTTING

The second week of the Fall Season is highlighted by a matchup between Indy Eleven and Minnesota United. At the moment, Minnesota has a slight edge over the Spring Season champions through tiebreaker, but the Loons have plenty of motivation to end that streak after falling to Indy 4-2 in the spring.

This week’s action will also see the first meeting between the New York Cosmos and Miami FC since May, when the Cosmos prevailed 3-0 and spurred the expansion side to retool its roster with high-profile transfers, including ex-Cosmos Michael Lahoud and Gabriel Farfan.

Jacksonville Armada FC host Puerto Rico FC, Saturday July 9, 7 p.m. ET

Jacksonville is in the midst of a four-game unbeaten streak, a club record for the young franchise. First-year head coach Tony Meola can’t take much comfort in this fact, though, considering his squad sits third from the bottom in the combined standings. Jacksonville has only recorded one win under Meola this year. One of the club’s midseason pickups, Zach Steinberger, showed well with a goal in his debut, but the team is still waiting on attackers Alexander Andersson and Niklas Maripuu to receive their international clearances. In the meantime, the team has also added attacking midfielder Jason Plumhoff in a trade with Edmonton.

Puerto Rico was denied a full three points in stoppage time of its inaugural home match last weekend, but there were plenty of positives to take away from a respectable showing against the league’s spring champions. The expansion side looked well organized and Puerto Rican national team members Hector Ramos and Jackie Marrero¬†ensured they posed a credible threat in the attack.

Carolina RailHawks host Tampa Bay Rowdies, Saturday July 9, 7:30 p.m. ET

The RailHawks are in desperate need of some positivity to jolt them out of their funk after being outscored 9-2 in their last two league matches. They’ll look to right the ship against the Rowdies, the last team they recorded a win against in league play before taking a nosedive in the standings. Carolina will also hope to have its latest addition Matt Fondy in the mix after the forward at out the fall opener with an injury.

Much has changed for the Rowdies since that loss to Carolina in late April. The insertion of Joe Cole has raised the level of play in the midfield and provided a cutting edge to an attack that was missing one previously. Cole missed the fall opener due to a last-minute personal matter. Tampa Bay could be without resolute center backs Tamika Mkandawire and Neil Collins, who were both forced out for the first time this year after picking up injuries in the draw with Jacksonville.

Indy Eleven host Minnesota United FC, Saturday July 9, 7:30 p.m. ET

Indy Eleven found magic again somehow last week and rescued a point in stoppage time of their fall opener, extending their unbeaten run to 11 matches. Minnesota would love nothing more than to snap Indy’s impressive stretch this weekend. A 4-2 loss at Indy midway through the spring kicked off a three-game losing streak for the Loons, placing them in a hole in the spring title race they were unable to dig out of. This meeting between Indy and Minnesota will see the league’s two leading scorers, Christian Ramirez and Eamon Zayed, square off on the field. Ramirez’s hat trick effort last week helped him leapfrog Zayed and claim a two-goal lead in the Golden Boot race.

Defensive midfielder Jeb Brovsky will miss the rematch with Indy after being ejected with two yellow cards in last week’s win. On the other side, Indy will hope to see the league debut of Mexican national team veteran Gerardo Torrado in its midfield.

Miami FC host New York Cosmos, Saturday July 9, 8 p.m. ET

The last meeting between the Cosmos and Miami ended with a decisive 3-0 win for the Cosmos. That trouncing back in May sparked a significant overhaul for the expansion side, who went on to spend over $2 million in transfer fees to bring in new blood. Two of those four players are former Cosmos Michael Lahoud and Gabriel Farfan, who both took part in New York’s dismantling of Miami in the spring.

Since falling to the Cosmos, Miami has stabilized in form, but some serious flaws stll need addressing. The club has only lost once in league play. However, the attack remains unfocused and without purpose. Dario Cvitanich’s production has fallen off after a hot start. Miami will look to get more out of recent acquisition Kwadwo Poku following an underwhelming showing in his first match.

Ottawa Fury FC host Rayo OKC, Sunday July 10, 12 p.m. ET

Ottawa will face this weekend’s match without the help of regular keeper Romuald Peiser after his early red card in the loss against the Cosmos. Capable backup Marcel DeBellis is expected to slot in, but Ottawa is in need of a boost in many other areas. In a surprising move, the team traded attacker Paulo Junior to Fort Lauderdale in exchange for forward Giuseppe Gentile. Junior had recorded one goal and one assist while starting nine times in ten appearances for Ottawa this year, while Gentile registered one goal in nine substitute appearances for the Strikers.

After letting three points slip away with some lackadaisical defending in the dying moments of their home opener, Rayo OKC is in need of some maturation as it progresses through its inaugural campaign. Attackers Michel and Robbie Findley have pulled their weight with eight goals between them, but the team could use calmness from other veterans to close out matches.

FC Edmonton host Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Sunday July 10, 4 p.m. ET

Seeking to fill out its pool of defenders after the recent losses of Mallan Roberts and Eddie Edward to Ottawa, the Eddies secured defender Shawn Nicklaw by giving up attacking midfielder Jason Plumhoff in a trade with Jacksonville. Giving up Plumhoff comes off as a bit odd for a side that has only notched 10 goals in league play this year. The Eddies did manage multiple goals in their 2-1 win over the Strikers to close out the Spring Season, though.