NASL Spring Week 2 Recap: Big Crowd in Miami, Cosmos, RailHawks Stay on Top

IMAGE, MINNESOTA UNITED FC

by JAKE NUTTING

The second round of action for the North American Soccer League’s Spring Season saw Minnesota United FC recover well from their disheartening loss in Carolina last week. The Loons traveled north of the border to face FC Edmonton and they looked every bit the dynamic attacking side everyone expected to see as they confidently dismissed the Eddies 2-0.

Last week’s lone victors, the New York Cosmos and Carolina RailHawks, were the only sides to secure a victory this weekend — other than Minnesota. The Cosmos took care of business as they saw their attack click even more against Tony Meola’s new-look Jacksonville Armada FC, while the RailHakws needed a pulse-pounding winner in the sixth minute of stoppage time to steal all three road points from Rayo OKC.

Meanwhile Miami FC enjoyed some raucous support this weekend in their home debut. However, the result gave most in attendance a case of deja vu.

Indy Eleven 1-1 Ottawa Fury C

In front of a packed Michael Carroll Stadium on Saturday night, the Indy Eleven were the aggressors in the opening 45 minutes, but neither they nor Ottawa could direct any of their chances during the half onto frame and both keepers escaped without having to make a save.

The visitors jumped ahead only 11 minutes into the second half with a wonderful passing sequence in the final third. Forward Gerardo Bruna posted up at the top of the box and played it into space on the left side of the box for midfielder Jonny Steele, who delivered a perfectly weighted first-timed pass across the face of goal for a streaking Idan Vered to finish on the far post.

Despite losing midfield playmaker Sinisa Ubiparipovic to a hamstring injury early in the second half, Indy refused to wilt after going down and produced a handful of serious threats on goal. Their equalizer finally came shortly before the final whistle in the 89th minute. Greg Janicki redirected a cross into the box right at keeper Romuald Peiser in net. The keeper made the initial save, but the rebound bounced to Nemanja Vuković, who rocketed a left-footed shot into the back of the net to equalize.

Miami FC 1-1 Tampa Bay Rowdies

Expansion side Miami FC impressed in the stands of their inaugural home match at FIU Stadium this weekend with 10,156 in attendance — the largest crowd any NASL team has attracted so far this season.

Miami gave their new fans something to cheer about when they capitalized on a lapse for the Rowdies in defending a corner kick in the 17th minute. Keeper Matt Pickens knocked away the first shot from Adailton, but forward Dario Cvitanich did well to chase the rebound and bury the ball into the net as the Rowdies watched.

Those flurry of shots turned out to be the only serious threats the NASL newcomers had all night. Their pace dropped in the second half, allowing the Rowdies to gain confidence going forward. Eventually the Tampa Bay’s positive play was rewarded when midfielder Eric Avila was taken down from behind in the box by Hugo Leroux in the 85th minute. Second half substitute Georgi Hristov easily converted the penalty to rescue a point for the Rowdies in their first road match.

Carolina RailHawks 3-2 Rayo OKC

The visitors gave Rayo OKC their first taste of falling behind early on Saturday when they knocked in a goal in the 23rd minute. Nazmi Albadawi recorded his first assist of the night by picking out an on-rushing Austin da Luz in the box for a simple finish.

Rayo OKC rallied back from their first deficit, though, and tallied two unanswered goals. The first came only 10 minutes after Carolina’s initial strike. Marvin Chavez intercepted a bungled clearance and quickly slipped it to Ryan Johnson for a sliding finish. They then took the lead in the opening minutes of the second half when left back Michel powered a shot from an near-impossible angle past a helpless Akira Fitzgerald.

Carolina wasn’t done on the night, though. Albadawi set up substitute Aly Alberto Hassan in the 74th minute with a long ball over the top that the attacker was free to collect and finish as his mark tripped to the ground. Eventually, Carolina found their winner as Da Luz rose to put a deft header on a corner kick in the sixth and final minute of stoppage time, ensuring the RailHawks their first road win since May of last year.

Minnesota United FC 2-0 FC Edmonton

The Loons exploited early dominance in possession to jump ahead of their hosts after only 16 minutes. Right back Kevin Venegas pounced on an unfortunate turnover from the Eddies in the final third and promptly slipped a ball inside the box for a streaking Ben Speas, who made the finish between the legs of his sliding defender look easy.

As they completely stifled nearly every counter attack from the Eddies, the Loons continued to see the better build up in play and were rewarded with another stellar goal from Speas ten minutes into the second half. A throw in from Venegas fell to Speas with his back to goal, but the midfielder put an incredible flick on the ball and turned toward goal as it lifted over the defender. He waited for one bounce before delivering a perfect volley to best the keeper to the far post.

New York Cosmos 2-0 Jacksonville Armada FC

Early frustrations in breaking down the overhauled Jacksonville Armada FC didn’t take long to dissipate for the Cosmos on Sunday. With Jacksonville clogging up the midfield, the Cosmos looked to an unusual source in the boot of Jimmy Maurer. The keeper booted a free kick deep from his own territory inside Jacksonville’s final third and Juan Arango jumped to get a head on it. His header fell directly into the path of Jairo Arrieta, who put enough pace on his volley to force Miguel Gallardo into fumbling the shot and it trickled across the line.

The second half saw the match open up for the Cosmos as first-time starter Niko Kranjcar finally found his groove. The attacking midfielder created New York’s second goal out of nothing in the 55th minute when he juked between two defenders who were closing in outside the box. He then slid a pass out to an unmarked Adam Moffat, who made no mistake in sending his shot to the far post for his second goal of the year.