NASL Spring Season Finale: What to Watch For

Justin Braun has tallied seven goals for for Indy Eleven, which has risen in the standings in the final weeks of the Spring Season. Image, Indy Eleven

By JAKE NUTTING

nasl logoAll of the pressure is off Miami FC (10-2-3, 33 points) in the North American Soccer League’s Spring Season finale this weekend. Alessandro Nesta‘s team throttled the San Francisco Deltas (7-3-5, 26), 7-0, last week to claim the spring title and the first of four spots in The Championship, the league’s postseason tournament.

For the rest of the league, Saturday’s action is all about positioning for the Fall Season run to join Miami in the postseason. Unlike past years, teams will have only one week off to regroup.

Look Out for Indy

Indy Eleven (3-4-8, 17) won’t be able to crack the league’s top four this week, but the last few weeks should be enough to give pause to those who dismissed last year’s spring champions after a slow start. Buoyed by strong performances from keeper Jon Busch and forward Justin Braun, Indy has won three of its last four to catch up with the rest of the pack in the standings. Indy will host the Jacksonville Armada (6-3-6, 24), which squandered its match in hand on Wednesday by drawing at home with Puerto Rico. The Armada will need to best Indy on the road if they want a chance to grab second place.

North Carolina Keeps Slipping

One week after preventing Miami from celebrating the spring championship in Cary, North Carolina FC (5-7-3, 18) let a lead slip away late in Edmonton to fall, 2-1. The win over Miami in Week 15 is the only victory North Carolina has secured in its last seven matches. With Indy now one point back in the standings, North Carolina could use an encouraging result to bolster its cause heading into the back half of the season. North Carolina hosts last-place Puerto Rico FC (1-8-6, 9), a team they already beat twice this year. Puerto Rico may not be a willing pushover after nearly escaping Jacksonville with a win earlier in the week.

Cosmos Still Looking for Consistency

Emmanuel Ledesma continued to excel with the New York Cosmos (5-4-6, 21) last week, bagging a goal in his fourth straight match in the loss at Indy. The Argentine’s fine form, however, has yet to yield consistency for Cosmos, who have won once in their last five matches and have now dropped their last two road matches after starting the season unbeaten away from home. They hit the road again this week to close out the spring against an FC Edmonton (4-10-1, 13) side that is coming off a rare two-goal showing. With their finishing leaving much to be desired, the Eddies have only netted 11 goals. It’s worth pointing out, though, that four of Edmonton’s goals were against the Cosmos at MCU Park. That embarrassing 4-2 result in early June is not one the Cosmos have forgotten.

San Francisco Deltas Playing for Pride

After being bossed by Miami in Florida last week, the Deltas have an immediate shot at some form of redemption in a rematch at home. San Francisco put up no fight past the opening 15 minutes when Miami jumped out to a three-goal lead. Coach Marc Dos Santos will want to prove his squad’s defensive prowess against Miami’s high-powered attack. Defender Reiner Ferreira will miss the match after last week’s red card, but Dos Santos’ defensive system isn’t built on one player and had allowed just 10 goals before its beatdown in South Florida. Miami is unlikely to be as motivated as it was in the championship-clinching match and could be guilty of looking ahead to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup after having its quarterfinal match with FC Cincinnati postponed by a storm.