NASL Fall Week 4 Preview: Cosmos Top Spot in Danger, more

IMAGE, TAMPA BAY ROWDIES

by JAKE NUTTING

The New York Cosmos could find themselves out of their current position at the top of both NASL tables after this weekend if they can’t find a way to remedy their abysmal road form that saw them fall to Rayo OKC 3-0 last week.

New York’s job won’t be easy, as they travel to play the hungry Tampa Bay Rowdies, who are coming off of a 3-0 rout of Puerto Rico FC. With only a two-point lead in the combined standings and a one-point edge in the Fall Season, it’s safe to say the Cosmos are feeling the pinch to fix their problems sooner rather than later.

Carolina RailHawks host Miami FC, Friday July 22, 7:30 p.m. ET

Miami FC picked up its first win of the Fall Season last weekend at home thanks to a finish from Jaime Chavez. Now the expansion side will look to capture its first ever win away from home as they travel to Carolina.

Miami’s spending has clearly made them a more formidable opponent, although attacker Kwadwo Poku still looks lost at times trying to find his feet in the system. Meanwhile, the RailHawks are back at home after escaping Fort Lauderdale with a 1-0 win. Most of the attention surrounding their match this week will be the likely debut of Mexican striker Omar Bravo. The veteran’s adjustment into the squad could be made easier by the fact that he’ll be stepping on to the field with captain Nazmi Albadawi, who leads the NASL in chances created (27) and is tied for most assists in the league (6).

Jacksonville Armada FC host Ottawa Fury FC, Saturday July 23, 5 p.m. ET

It’s coming close to crunch time for Tony Meola in Jacksonville. Being a respectable and competitive side is all well and good, but it doesn’t mean much if they can’t build off of it. Saturday will likely see the long-awaited debut of Swedish attackers Alex Andersson and Niklas Maripuu after the two were announced nearly one month ago. Defender Beto Navarro will miss the match after picking up a red card last week.

Sitting dead last in the fall standings and second from the bottom in the combined table, Ottawa has also made moves in hopes of stopping their current skid. The Canadian side has added English midfielder Ryan Williams and Canadian midfielder Jamar Dixon. Both players are joining up with Ottawa after careers in Europe.

Indy Eleven host FC Edmonton, Saturday July 23, 7:30 p.m. ET

Indy must push aside the disappointment of falling one match short of setting a new unbeaten streak record in Minnesota last week. The Spring champions can’t afford to linger on their first defeat of the year as they host FC Edmonton, one of the most organized teams in the league. The Eddies have only conceded a league-low eight goals so far this year. This week, though, they’ll have to stand tall without standout center back Papé Diakité, who is unavailable after picking up two yellow cards in last week’s win.

Fortunately for Indy, they are back at home where they remain unbeaten and have used the advantage to score 14 goals in front of their supporters. Mexican midfielder Gerardo Torrado could be in line for more playing time this week after putting a 45-minute shift last week for Indy. Torrado’s calming influence and distribution from the midfield might help forward Eamon Zayed start producing more consistently.

Puerto Rico FC host Rayo OKC, Saturday July 23, 7:30 p.m. ET

Puerto Rico will be glad to be back at home after having a disastrous three-game road trip over an eight-day stretch. The expansion side lost to Tampa Bay and Jacksonville, but the tougher pill to swallow was the draw they settled for at Rayo OKC after jumping out to a 2-0 lead. This weekend the expansion club will have a shot at redemption against Rayo OKC, who will likely be flying high after a stirring 3-0 victory over the league-leading Cosmos.

After tallying three goals in Rayo OKC’s two matches last week, Michel is suddenly back in the thick of the NASL Golden Boot race. With eight goals to his name, Michel only trails Minnesota’s Christian Ramirez by two goals.

Tampa Bay Rowdies host New York Cosmos, Saturday July 23, 7:30 p.m. ET

The Rowdies are carrying a chip on their shoulder in this round of action against their historic rivals. Tampa Bay came close to nicking the first point any team has taken at Shuart Stadium this year in the spring, but an incorrect offside call negated their last-gasp equalizer. The memory of that moment still sticks in the mind of many in Tampa Bay and they’ll be eager to wipe it away. A pair of internationals, Danish midfielder Martin Vingaard and Carlos Preciado, was announced as new additions for the Rowdies this week. Both took part in training this, but only Vingaard has received his international clearances.

The Cosmos still remain at the top of the heap in the league standings, but a match on the road has been anything but a lock for them this year. Last week’s lopsided loss to Rayo OKC was the fifth time this year the Cosmos have ended up with zero points on the road. They’ll be without center back Roversio is out yet again, but they will have a potential boost in the attack with the return of Yasmani Duk from his broken nose.

Minnesota United host Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Saturday July 23, 8 p.m. ET

The Strikers are in the midst of a massive downward spiral. The South Florida side is crumbling under the weight of a busy July schedule and has now lost their last four matches, including a 3-0 dismantling to the Chicago Fire in the Quarterfinal round of the U.S. Open Cup. Head Coach Caio Zanardi will not be on the sidelines after being ejected in the team’s last league match. It was the second time Zanardi has been thrown out this year.

Minnesota is full steam ahead after cruising to victory over Indy Eleven thanks to a brace from Christian Ramirez. Unsurprisingly, whenever Ramirez is in form the Loons also experience a boost on the field.