NASL Spring Week 1 Recap: Cosmos, RailHawks Lone Victors in Opening Week



A high octane start between the Carolina RailHawks and Minnesota United FC in the North American Soccer League’s opening match of the Spring Season whetted the appetite of supporters tuning in, but the majority of teams struggled to find their potency in the rest of the league’s opening round of action.

Two of the five matches over the weekend ended in scoreless stalemates and two of the eight goals that were tallied came from penalty conversions. With an impressive three-goal performance, the New York Cosmos accounted for half of the goals scored in open play, launching them to the top of the Spring Season standings.

Notably, a handful of high-profile players like Stefano Pinho, Lance Laing, Georgios Samaras, Niko Kranjčar and Wilson Palacios kicked off the new season as second half substitutes as they continue to work to improve their fitness levels.

Carolina RailHawks 2-1 Minnesota United FC

The opening stages of Saturday afternoon’s match in Cary, North Carolina provided for some blood-pumping action at both ends, as Minnesota’s Christian Ramirez and Carolina’s Tiyi Shipalane demonstrated some sublime finishing.

Before the third minute was over, Ramirez slipped by the back line on a hopeful ball over the top from defender Damion Lowe and delivered a gorgeous volley off the bounce from 25 yards out that rose over a helpless Akira Fitzgerald and dipped back down into the net.

Not to be outdone in his home park, Shipalane answered back in the 12th minute when Alex Perez picked him out streaking toward net with space. Shipalane brought down the service before promptly chipping over keeper Sammy Ndjock to equalize.

The home side scored the game-winner shortly before the half hour mark. Newcomer Karem Moses did well from deep down the right flank to pick out a rising Austin Da Luz for the clinching header.

Unable to get a whiff of anything inside the final third, Minnesota was forced to leave Carolina without a win yet again. The Loons have not won a match in Carolina since the NASL’s debut season in 2011.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1-1 Miami FC

The first match up between expansion side Miami FC and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers produced some choppy play and a pair of penalties.

The NASL newcomers were gifted an early opportunity when Ariel Martinez had his legs swiped out from under him by Fort Lauderdale’s Julius James in the 12th minute. Seasoned Argentine striker Dario Cvitanich stepped to the spot and calmly converted for the first goal in the history of Miami FC.

Shortly before the halftime whistle, a reckless challenge from Jorge Luis Corrales earned him an ejection through a second yellow card.

Despite the one-man disadvantage, Miami held together in the second half and looked poised for victory in their inaugural match before defender Brad Rusin clipped forward Geison Moura in stoppage time to concede a penalty. Veteran Maicon Santos shot right and made the conversion look easy.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 0-0 Indy Eleven

The Rowdies will be kicking themselves after letting Indy escape Al Lang Stadium with a point to open the season despite dictating the pace of the match.

The new-look Rowdies midfield appeared far better in terms of ball movement and possession, but they were never able to capitalize on any of the positive play by notching a goal. They finished the match with a 60 percent stake in possession and only three shots on target. Notable offseason signing Tommy Heinemann had the best opportunity of the night in the 56th minute when Junior Burgos slipped a pass from the endline to him on front of net. The forward one-timed a shot that veteran keeper Jon Busch managed to make the point blank kick-save on.

Indy finally produced a couple of chances against the run of play in the 78th minute, but keeper Matt Pickens made quick work of both attempts and ensured the draw.

Rayo OKC 0-0 FC Edmonton

The NASL’s Midwest expansion side, Rayo OKC, looked solid in their first match in front of a sold out stadium of 6,416 supporters. Their positive performance was aided by a straight red card to Eddies captain Albert Watson in the 30th minute after he body checked a streaking Marvin Chavez at the top of the box.

The home side failed to exploit the one-man advantage until the closing minutes of the match after star forward Georgios Samaras entered the match in the 79th minute and nearly spurred a game winner. The Greek international broke apart from defenders in the penalty area and fired off a shot that keeper Matt Van Oekel batted away. The rebound bounced to an unmarked Richard Menjivar at the top of the box, but Van Oekel recovered in time to save that powerful blast as well.

New York Cosmos 3-0 Ottawa Fury FC

In Sunday’s rematch of last year’s Championship Final, the Cosmos weathered some harried defending in the first half to bounce back and claim a decisive victory over an overhauled Ottawa side.

The reigning NASL Golden Glove winner, Romuald Peiser, had showed some uncharacteristic errors in judgment that led to the Cosmos pulling ahead. He charged out to close down an onrushing Jairo Arrieta on the left side of the box in the 36th minute, but the forward wisely slipped a pass to Juan Arango in front of the empty net for a simple finish. Arango doubled his total only two minutes later when a rebound off a Peiser save fell to him in front of goal again.

Second half substitute Adam Moffat put the game well out of reach in the 71st minute with a stellar 45-yard effort after Peiser’s sliding clearance attempt outside the box fell into his path.