NASL Fall Week 9 Preview: Road Points Becoming Crucial

IMAGE, TAMPA BAY ROWDIES

by JAKE NUTTING

The top three teams in the NASL standings are in their positions for one simple reason — they’ve been the best at home. First-place Indy Eleven and the third-place New York Cosmos have yet to be beaten once in front of their home supporters, and second-place FC Edmonton’s only losing effort at home came in week two of the Spring Season.

With all three maintaining impressive home streaks, points on the road have become even more crucial. The team that figures out how to consistently secure road points will likely finish on top of the heap at the end of the Fall Season. All three have the opportunity to start doing so this weekend, as they head away from the friendly confines of their home venues.

Jacskonville Armada FC host Minnesota United FC, Saturday August 20, 2:30 p.m. ET

Jacksonville failed to build off the momentum of its first ever road win last weekend and came up with a disappointing 1-1 draw at home against Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday. While interim head coach Mark Lowry’s record is unblemished at the moment, he’ll have a tough task trying to stop Minnesota. The Loons could be at a disadvantage, though, thanks to the sweltering heat that is likely to come with the early afternoon kickoff time, as well as the fact that the match will be their third in less than a week.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers host Ottawa Fury FC, Saturday August 20, 7 p.m. ET

The Strikers are set to start a new era with their first match at Central Broward Stadium this weekend. They’ve picked up their form just in time for the debut, notching a win and a draw in their last two after only recording one win throughout all of July. Forward Jose Angulo has carried much of the burden for the Strikers in recent weeks, bagging two goals and an assist in their last three outings. Fort Lauderdale host Ottawa, who are suddenly vulnerable once again after dropping two straight. Carl Haworth continues to lead the way for the Canadian side with a team-best six goals, but no other attacker on the roster is stepping up to share the load yet.

Carolina RailHawks host Indy Eleven, Saturday August 20, 7:30 p.m. ET

Scoring hasn’t been much of a problem for the RailHawks in the Fall Season. Forwards Omar Bravo and Matt Fondy have made a tremendous impact since arriving in July, combining to score seven of Carolina’s 13 goals in the fall. It’s on the defensive end where the RailHawks have let themselves down. With 16 goals conceded through eight games, the RailHawks are tied with the Rowdies for second-most allowed in the fall.

Adding some spice to the match on Saturday will be the face off between Bravo and his former Mexican national team teammate, Gerardo Torrado. The two decorated Mexican veterans have yet to square off since making their respective NASL debuts last month.

Tampa Bay Rowdies host FC Edmonton, August 20, 7:30 p.m. ET

Tampa Bay’s recent two-game road trip could not have gone worse. The Rowdies had high hopes dashed away by a three-goal rally from the Cosmos and then they came up wanting with an underwhelming 2-0 loss in Minnesota on Wednesday. The Rowdies have now been on the losing end in four of their last five matches, although it’s worth pointing out that all four of those loses were on the road.

Edmonton comes into the weekend as one of the hottest teams in league. Winners of their last four matches, the Eddies will need to handle business on the road to keep the streak going. While the Canadian side produced a gritty 1-0 win in Puerto Rico to keep moving in the right direction, most of their positive results have been at home this year. Boasting the league’s strongest defense (10 goals allowed all year), though, will keep them competitive no matter where they play.

Puerto Rico FC host New York Cosmos, August 20, 7:30 p.m. ET

The Cosmos will look to post their first road win of the year against a team not named Miami FC. Puerto Rico’s home advantage was dismissed by Edmonton last week, but with forward Hector Ramos on such an incredible hot streak in the opening months of the Fall Season, the expansion side should not be easily dismissed. Despite the lopsided 3-0 scoreline that went in favor of the Cosmos at Shuart in July, Puerto Rico challenged the Cosmos to bring their best.

Due to his red card last weekend, the Cosmos will be without midfielder Adam Moffat, who is now tied with Juan Arango for most goals on the team (7) after converting three penalties in the last two matches.

Rayo OKC host Miami FC, Saturday August 20, 9 p.m. ET

Miami’s upswing on the field reached a setback last week in a 2-0 loss to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. They’ll look to get back on the horse right away when they travel to fellow expansion side Rayo OKC. The hosts are back at home for the first time since the resignation of head coach Alen Marcina. New head coach Gerard Nus was thrown straight into the fire with matches against two of the league’s top teams, Indy and New York, and came away with a respectable draw and a loss thanks to a dramatic winner from Indy.