NASL Fall Week 3 Preview: Indy, Cosmos Look to Pull Ahead, more

IMAGE, INDY ELEVEN/ TREVOR RUZSKOWSKI

by JAKE NUTTING

The two frontrunners in the NASL’s combined table have an opportunity to extend their lead greatly this week as they are each set for two matches.

The New York Cosmos enter the weekend as the top dog in both league tables, while Indy Eleven sit two points behind them in the combined standings and tied for second with FC Edmonton and Jacksonville Armada FC in the Fall Season race.Creating a cushion of space at the top of the table is nice, but Indy is also hoping to make this week a historic one.  A win or draw in their two matches this week would extend their unbeaten run to 14, which would break the the 13-match run set by the Carolina in 2011 and the Cosmos between the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

Indy Eleven host Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Wednesday July 13, 7:30 p.m. ET

The Strikers are one of several teams looking to finally get the job done against Indy. The South Florida side was dominant in their spring meeting with Indy, but a standout performance from keeper Jon Busch ensured the match ended scoreless.

The Strikers are also in the midst of a hectic week. Having just fallen to Edmonton on the road, they will travel to Indy, followed by a home match with Carolina on the weekend before ultimately capping things off with a meeting with MLS’ Chicago Fire in the Quarterfinal round of the U.S. Open Cup. As the last lower division team remaining in the Open Cup, their match against the Fire is arguably their most important of the week.

New York Cosmos host Jacksonville Armada, Wednesday July 13, 7:30 p.m. ET

After finishing tied for dead last in the Spring Season standings, Jacksonville suddenly faces the opportunity to jump to the top in the Fall Season race after starting off with a draw and a win in their first two matches. Tony Meola’s side will need to do the one thing the club has never managed to after a year and a half of trying, though. With zero away wins under their belt, Jacksonville must finish with all three points on Wednesday to leapfrog the Cosmos for first place. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, they face a Cosmos side that has claimed every possible point through six home matches this year.

Rayo OKC host Puerto Rico FC, Wednesday July 13, 9 p.m. ET

Wednesday night will also see a clash between two of the league’s expansion sides. Puerto Rico must quickly adjust to the arduous travel requirements of life in the NASL as the new club is already facing three road matches this week, which kicked off with a loss in Jacksonville this past weekend. It’s been a fast start for Puerto Rican national team member Hector Ramos, who has netted a goal for his side in each of their first two matches. Rayo OKC will hope to improve upon their underwhelming home record against the NASL newcomer after only claiming one win at home thus far. They came close to nabbing their second in the fall opener but some atrocious marking in the dying moments left them with only a draw.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers host Carolina RailHawks, Saturday July 16, 7 p.m. ET

While the Strikers might get caught looking ahead to the Open Cup match with the Chicago Fire, the RailHawks will look to build upon the momentum of their 4-1 win over the Rowdies. While half of those goals came from penalties, the RailHawks attack did outwork the Rowdies defense to put in their best shift since the early part of the Spring Season. Matt Fondy was especially impressive in his first appearance for Carolina, showing a level of confidence that was absent throughout his stint with Jacksonville. Adding to a potential resurgence of Carolina is the possibility that the club’s latest signing Omar Bravo debut — if his international clearance comes through in time. The 36-year-old striker most recently captained and scored in Chivas de Guadalajara’s SuperCopa Mx win over Veracruz.

Tampa Bay Rowdies host Puerto Rico FC, Saturday July 16, 7:30 p.m. ET

The Rowdies will lick their wounds at home after an embarrassing loss in Carolina. Replacement center backs Stefan Antonijevic and Frankie Sanfilippo were not up to snuff while filling in for the injured Tamika Mkandawire and Neil Collins. If Tam and Collins remain sidelined, Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell might be inclined to switch up his back line again and insert either Justin Chavez or Jeremy Hall. The Rowdies will also need to see more out of their attack, which is still having problems with consistency. Joe Cole looked sluggish as the match in Carolina wore on, and no one around him was able to pick up the slack and carry the load.

Miami FC host Jacksonville Armada FC, Saturday July 16, 8 p.m. ET

While Miami let a draw with the Cosmos slip away in the final seconds last week, they still have plenty to hang their hat on from the match. Jaime Chavez had easily his best outing of the season, combining well with Dario Cvitanich and putting the Cosmos back line in difficult spots with smart runs. Kwadwo Poku even showed a flash of promise in scoring his first goal. The signs of improvement for this retooled roster are all there. It’s now up to Miami to keep putting in the effort to click as a unit and achieve some consistency.

Jacksonville is seeking to remain on top in the race for the Coastal Cup, the annual competition between all the NASL teams based in Florida. At the moment, Jacksonville is on top with six points while Miami is seeking its first win against instate competition.

Minnesota United FC host Indy Eleven, Saturday July 16, 8 p.m. ET

The bad news: Minnesota lost out a shot at redemption against Indy Eleven last week by losing 1-0.

The good news: They have a shot at Indy again this weekend, and this time they will act as hosts.

The Loons have only lost one match at home this year and should be anxious to keep that positive form going this week with Spring Season champions coming to town. Saturday’s match will be the final chance Minnesota has to pick up points and prove their quality against Indy, unless both end up meeting in the postseason.

Minnesota defender Tiago Calvano and Indy defender Lovel Palmer are both suspended for the match after receiving red cards following the final whistle last week.

Rayo OKC host New York Cosmos, Saturday July 16, 9 p.m. ET

Objective number one for Rayo OKC against the Cosmos this weekend should be keeping their cool. The spring encounter in New York between the two sides saw three of Rayo OKC’s players hit the showers early after being ejected, including leading scorer Michel and star striker Georgios Samaras. The Cosmos managed to take that match 1-0 and it stands as the only away loss of the year for Rayo OKC.

FC Edmonton host Ottawa Fury FC, Sunday July 17, 4 p.m. ET

The busy week of NASL action will close out with a matinee meeting between the league’s two Canadian sides. This will be the first time the two clubs have met since defenders Mallan Roberts and Eddie Edward departed Edmonton for Ottawa. The Eddies took the spring matchup 2-0, but the two sides each took a match in this year’s Amway Canadian Championship.

After acquiring Roberts and Edward to beef up their defense, Ottawa has also added 29-year-olded striker Thomas Stewart. The Northern Irishman was released by Sacramento Republic FC earlier in the week after netting 23 goals in three seasons with the USL side.