NASL Fall Week 7 Preview: Indy, Edmonton Look to Protect Slim Standings Lead

IMAGE, MATT SCHLOTZHAUER

by JAKE NUTTING

The pacesetters in the NASL’s Fall Season race, Indy Eleven (16 pts Fall, 34 pts Combined) and FC Edmonton (16 pts, 33 pts), both have the advantage of playing at home this weekend, but if there’s one lesson to be learned from this year it’s that nothing in the NASL is guaranteed.

One slipup from Indy and Edmonton this week and the New York Cosmos (14 pts, 32 pts) or Rayo OKC (13 pts, 25 pts) could be back on top of the Fall Season table in one fell swoop. Rayo OKC and Indy will meet head-to-head, but the Cosmos host the Tampa Bay Rowdies after narrowly escaping with a 2-2 draw with their rivals three weeks ago.

Ottawa Fury FC host Jacksonville Armada FC, Saturday August 13, 5 p.m. ET

Ottawa’s three-game winning streak was snapped by a heartbreaking goal in Indy last week. Fortunately, the Canadian side is squaring off with Jacksonville, the club that it knocked off to start its recent run up the standings. Ottawa’s defense deserves some credit for the positive form after allowing only two goals in the last five games.

Jacksonville is in salvage mode for the second straight year after firing head coach and technical director Tony Meola last week. Mark Lowry has taken over coaching duties on an interim basis, making him the fifth person to hold the coaching position in Jacksonville’s two years of existence.

New York Cosmos host Tampa Bay Rowdies, Saturday August 13, 7 p.m. ET

The Cosmos have been unstoppable at home this year. The closest any team has come to nabbing a victory at Shuart Stadium this year was Rayo OKC last week when they earned a 1-1 draw. Along with their impressive 11-game unbeaten streak at Shuart, the Cosmos hold a psychological advantage over the Rowdies, who have yet to record a win in New York in the modern era.

July’s meeting between the longtime rivals ended in a 2-2 scoreline and both sides fuming over decisions from the referee. Since that meeting the Cosmos have been up and down with a win, a draw and a loss, while the Rowdies hit a snag and lost two of their last three. The Rowdies also added PC to their ranks last week in an effort to give them a boost in the final stretch of the race to the postseason. The Brazilian came on as a late substitute in the team’s win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers last week.

Carolina RailHawks host Puerto Rico FC, Saturday August 13, 7:30 p.m. ET

The RailHawks will be grateful to be home again after coming up with only one point from their recent three-game road swing. Forwards Matt Fondy and Omar Bravo have quickly proven to be excellent additions to Carolina’s roster for the fall. Fondy has already tallied three goals and one assist in six matches while Bravo has scored two goals in his first three appearances.

Puerto Rico is coming off the disappointment of its first ever loss at home last week. While Hector Ramos’ scoring streak to kick off the fall is worthy of highlighting, it’s also a sign of the expansion side’s lack of diversity in the attack. Ramos has scored all but one of Puerto Rico’s six goals thus far. Other attackers will have to start joining in if Puerto Rico has any shot at finding consistent results.

Indy Eleven host Rayo OKC, Saturday August 13, 7:30 p.m. ET

Indy enters the weekend carrying a seven-game winning streak at home, although that might not mean much to Rayo OKC, who just ended the Cosmos’ home winning streak at ten last week. There was much doubt swirling around Rayo OKC following the sudden resignation of head coach Alen Marcina, but the expansion side was full of confidence in its draw with the Cosmos. The biggest beneficiary of Marcina’s departure was star striker Georgios Samaras, who earned his first start of the Fall Season and scored his second goal of the year four minutes into the match. Saturday’s match in Indy should be a good test as to whether last week’s draw under newly appointed head coach Gerard Nus was a fluke.

Miami FC host Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Saturday August 13, 8 p.m. ET

Both contests this year between Miami and Fort Lauderdale ended in 1-1 deadlocks, but the two sides are currently at drastically different ends of the spectrum. Miami has won three of their last four, including a 4-0 smackdown on Minnesota last week. Former NYCFC attacker Kwadwo Poku is helping to lead the expansion team up the standings, notching three goals in six appearances.

Meanwhile, the Strikers have dropped five of their last six in league play. To go along with their dip down the table the Strikers also lost PC in a transfer to the rival Rowdies. The dynamic Brazilian was one of the squad’s best players, but they hope the acquisition of former Italian national team striker Amauri can fill the void left on the roster.

FC Edmonton host Minnesota United FC, Sunday August 14, 4 p.m. ET

If Minnesota wishes to put their three-game winless streak behind them and keep pace with the frontrunners in the fall title race they’ll need to find a way to get past a familiar face. Former Minnesota keeper Matt Van Oekel is in the midst of a banner year for the Eddies. Van Oekel leads the league with eight clean sheets and a goals against average of 0.59. Minnesota’s recent woes is owed in part to a rash of injuries that have sidelined Stefano Pinho, Damion Lowe and Ben Speas.

Sunday’s meeting has definite postseason implications for both sides, but the Eddies could have a little extra edge to their motivation as their lone loss at home this year came at the hands of Minnesota. Edmonton will be eager to show they belong at the top of the league’s pecking order.