NASL Fall Week 13 Recap: O, Canada!

IMAGE, ROB KINNAN/CAROLINA RAILHAWKS

by JAKE NUTTING

The Canadian clubs may be outnumbered in the NASL, but that hasn’t stopped them from making their presence well-known in this year’s playoff hunt. Ottawa Fury FC (34 pts Fall, 45 pts Combined) and FC Edmonton (25, 34) both had statement games this weekend in which they knocked off the previous league-leading New York Cosmos (23, 43).

The two clubs now occupy two of the four postseason spots with one month left remaining in the regular season.

Ottawa finished off their three-game road trip with dominant wins in New York and Carolina, solidifying their Fall Season lead and allowing them to leapfrog the Cosmos for the top spot in the combined standings. Making matters worse for the Cosmos,Minnesota United FC (43, 29) is now ahead of them in the combined standings thanks to goal differential.

Edmonton, meanwhile, held serve with a convincing win at home while the Tampa Bay Rowdies (14, 33) and Fort Lauderdale Strikers (20, 31) both dropped the ball in their matches. The Eddies now hold sole possession of the fourth playoff spot in the combined standings, but they’ve also played one more game than the Rowdies and Strikers.

Ottawa Fury FC 3-1 Carolina RailHawks

The Fury showed no evidence of road weariness in their third game away from Canada in the span of one week. Eschewing their typically conservative approach to opening halves, Ottawa cruised to a 3-0 lead over the nose-diving RailHawks. Striker Tom Heinemann tallied his club’s first two goals in the 19th and 33rd minutes to bring his season total to seven. Paulo Junior added the third tally seconds before the halftime whistle when he dribbled through some woeful Carolina defenders and blasted a shot from just inside the box.

Carolina grabbed a goal back six minutes into the second half when Nacho Novo was taken down in the box. The veteran striker slipped the ensuing penalty under Romuald Peiser to record his ninth goal of the year. The Fury ceded most of the possession for the remainder of the match, but never lost their shape. The referee added insult to injury for the RailHawks when he gave Novo a second yellow for simulation moments before the final whistle.

Minnesota United FC 5-2 Fort Lauderdale Strikers

The night had a promising start for Fort Lauderdale when Gabriel ran down the right side of the box and cut back to his teammate Jose Angulo for an easy finish in the seventh minute. Unfortunately for the Strikers, that was the last time they would have cause to celebrate.

The highest-scoring attack in the NASL (47 goals) lived up to its reputation and took full control minutes after the opening goal when a deflected shot fell to Daniel Mendes in the box and he slipped it to Christian Ramirez for his 10th finish of the year.

The rout was on from there as the Loons went on to score four more unanswered goals. Kalif Alhassan noticed the keeper off his line and chipped a beauty from 20 yards out that snuck under the top right corner. Minnesota tallied another just before halftime when Ibson intercepted a goal kick and sprung Mendes behind the back line for a simple a one-on-one finish. Ibson notched the final two goals himself in the second half to truly bury the Strikers.

Angulo scored another goal in the final minutes of the match to gives the home fans some kind of consolation for coming out. The lopsided loss might be easier for the fans to swallow as the Strikers still managed to clinch their second straight Coastal Cup by virtue of Tampa Bay losing to Jacksonville.

Jacksonville Armada FC 2-0 Tampa Bay Rowdies

Jacksonville’s new era post-coach Guillermo Hoyos got off to a tremendous start on Saturday. Interim coach Eric Dade made good on his promise to focus more on the defensive side. The back line, including recent signing Mechack Jerome of the Haitian national team, stayed composed throughout the match and kept the Rowdies at bay. Tampa Bay only truly threatened to score late in the first half, but keeper Miguel Gallardo rose to the occasion and denied Brian Shriver and Darnell King from close range with back-to-back saves.

The Armada were finally able to end their five-game scoring drought in the 34th minute when midfielder Lucas Scaglia one-timed a powerful shot past the fingertips of Matt Pickens. Pascal Millien got in on the fun in the 74th minute when he picked his spot on the far post to finish a counter attack. Notably, it was the Haitian’s first goal of the Fall Season.

Jacksonville’s blanking of Tampa Bay is impressive considering the club gave up six goals to the Rowdies in their previous two matches this year, but it’s also of note because it’s the first time they’ve taken any points from one their fellow instate rivals.

San Antonio Scorpions 3-3 Atlanta Silverbacks

Atlanta controlled the opening half hour of Saturday’s match in all areas and was able to jump out to an early 2-0 lead with a pair of headers. Jaime Chavez recorded the first in the eighth minute when keeper Daniel Fernandes failed to handle his attempt, and defender Rauwshan McKenzie followed with his first of the year in the 23rd minute.

A chaotic sequence of unintended play on a corner kick allowed the Scorpions to pull one back minutes before halftime. A deflected shot on the right side of the box fell to Stephen DeRoux, who fired off a shot without looking right at his teammate Nana Attakora inside the six-yard box. Attakora managed to save the sequence with a back heel to the far post to beat the keeper.

Chavez extended his side’s lead again in the 58th minute, this time with his feet, inside the penalty area with an assist from Junior Burgos.

San Antonio came storming back in the final 15 minutes with two more chaotic goals. Marvin Chavez found the ball at his feet when an Atlanta defender unwittingly trapped it with his back and the attacker buried a shot from the top of the box. The equalizer came in the 89th minute when an Attakora header clanged off both posts without crossing the line and Cesar Elizondo dove in head first to knock it over the line.

FC Edmonton 2-1 New York Cosmos

The Cosmos left several valuable contributors back in New York for their trip to Edmonton. Raul missed his first game of the year and keeper Jimmy Maurer, Ayoze and Captain Carlos Mendes all got the week off, as well.

Edmonton’s attack only needed two minutes of play to score their goals on Sunday. Lance Laing was the beneficiary of a deflection off defender Jimmy Mulligan and used the opportunity to penetrate the area and slip a shot past the keeper in the 41st minute. Daryl Fordyce doubled the lead shortly after when the Cosmos back line parted to allow gift him a free run on goal that he had no trouble converting.

New York caught a glimmer of hope 10 minutes into the second half when Edmonton’s Albert Watson was guilty of a handball in the box. Marcos Senna stepped to the spot and clinically finished. Senna came the closest to equalizing in the 81st minute when a free kick from 30 yards was bobbled by the keeper and nearly trickled over the line.