NASL Spring Week 4 Recap: RailHawks, Minnesota Come Up with Statement Wins

IMAGE, MINNESOTA UNITED FC

by JAKE NUTTING

The North American Soccer League is now a month into its season and it’s clear that the Carolina RailHawks (4-0-0, 12 pts) and Minnesota United FC (3W-1L-0D, 10 pts) have established themselves as the clubs to beat.

Carolina handled their toughest road test of the young season with great poise, dispatching the Tampa Bay Rowdies with lethal clinical ability by a score of 3-1.

Meanwhile, Minnesota erased any lingering doubt from their opening day loss by putting a stellar performance while down a man and came away with their first ever win over the New York Cosmos (2W-2L-0D, 6 pts).

Rayo OKC 3-2 Miami FC

In a battle between the NASL’s two expansion sides, it was Rayo OKC who came out on top to claim their first ever victory in a match that was delayed at the start by 90 minutes due to lightning.

Rayo OKC jumped out to an early lead against their hosts when attackers Robbie Findley and Billy Forbes grabbed their first goals of the year. Findley tallied his goal in the 15th minute with a right-footed attempt from outside the box and Forbes followed up by finishing off a counter attack with a left-footed strike inside the box 10 minutes later.

Miami managed to cut the deficit in half in the 36th minute through a brilliant 25-yard strike from Ariel Martinez that clipped the inside of the right post. They then found an equalizer in the 60th minute by capitalizing on a corner kick. Martinez’s initial corner found the head of Aaron Dennis, who redirected it across goal for Blake Smith to tap in from three yards out.

For the third time this year, though,  disciplinary issues would cost Miami a result. Adailton was whistled for taking down Forbes just inside the box and defender Michel stepped up to convert and take all three points for Rayo OKC.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1-1 Jacksonville Armada FC

Everything was in Jacksonville’s favor as they looked to come away with their first ever road win. They gained an early lead when defender Matt Bahner notched a goal on a corner kick sequence initiated by captain Richie Ryan, and they were given another advantage early in the second half when Fort Lauderdale’s captain Jean-Marc Alexandre was sent off after seeing his second yellow card.

However, the Armada failed to exploit either advantage and allowed substitute Maicon Santos the space in the six-yard box to bury a powerful header in the 74th minute from a cross by Jose Angulo.

Carolina RailHawks 3-1 Tampa Bay Rowdies

In the end, all it took for the RailHawks to earn their fourth straight win and dismiss the Rowdies was the closing minute of the first half and the opening minute of the second half. Despite dominating in nearly every facet of that match, the Rowdies switched off on two sequences during those minutes and Carolina made them pay.

Alex Perez notched the first goal when he was totally unmarked on the back post to get a boot on a well-weighted cross from Paul Black on the left side of the box. James Marcelin then doubled the lead straight out of the halftime break when the Rowdies lost him inside the box and he was free to run onto and blast home a cross from Nazmi Albadawi.

Tampa Bay received a glimmer of hope in the 65th minute when centerback Tamika Mkandawire volleyed in a goal. That ended up being one of only two shots on frame in the entire match for Tampa Bay, though, and former Rowdies player Brian Shriver put the game out of reach in 87th minute by converting a penalty drawn by Tiyi Shipalane.

Minnesota United FC 1-0 New York Cosmos

For the second straight week, the Cosmos let a road point slip away by allowing the opposition to score in the final minutes of the match.

Perhaps more troubling, though, is that it was the second straight match in which the Cosmos were held scoreless in the run of play. Even a man advantage for most of the second half against Minnesota wasn’t enough to help them score.

After a tightly-contested first half where neither team gained an edge over the other, the Loons were dealt a seemingly critical blow when centerback Damion Lowe was shown a red card for recklessly stomping on the back leg of midfielder Michael Lahoud. Despite going down, Minnesota raised their game and actually became the better side in the second half.

The Loons created the better chances after the red card and were finally rewarded with their deserved winner in the 90th minute when Christian Ramirez collected a cross into the box from left back Justin Davis. Ramirez fired off a shot toward the far post that keeper Jimmy Maurer got a hand on, but it wasn’t enough to stop the ball from rolling over the line.

FC Edmonton 2-0 Ottawa Fury FC

Things were looking bleak for Edmonton heading into the halftime break on Sunday afternoon. The Eddies had not yet tallied a goal through seven halves of play and were facing a another week on the bottom of the standings if they couldn’t find a way into the back of the net.

They found their answer in captain Albert Watson only one minute into the second half when the veteran headed home a cross from Sainey Nyassi. Ottawa found opportunities to equalize throughout the second half, but Edmonton’s defense always rose to the task.

Eventually the Eddies added an insurance goal through Jake Keegan. The attacker collected a long ball over the back line from Dustin Corea and cut inside to beat Romuald Peiser for his first goal for the Eddies.