NASL Spring Week 6 Recap: Strikers Shock the RailHawks, Cosmos Back on Top

IMAGE, NASL

by JAKE NUTTING

The Spring Season title race is without a doubt wide open again after the Carolina RailHawks (4W-2L-0D, 12 pts) faltered to a shocking 3-1 loss to the previously winless Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

Instead of moving closer to clinching their first spring title, the RailHawks have allowed the New York Cosmos (4W-2L-0D, 12 pts) and Minnesota United FC (3W-1L-1D) squarely back into the thick of it.

While Minnesota will be kicking themselves for not grabbing the full three points against Ottawa Fury FC, the Cosmos will be riding high on the knowledge that they’re back in pole position. They’re now even on points with the RailHawks, but they have Carolina beat by five in the critical goal differential tiebreaker.

Ottawa Fury FC 2-2 Minnesota United FC

Minnesota had the better run of play early on Saturday afternoon and were able to jump ahead thanks to a finish from forward Christian Ramirez. A corner kick in the 13th minute was flicked on to the unmarked Ramirez, who blasted his effort into the top netting of the goal for his league-leading fourth goal of the year.

Ottawa leveled the match in the 60th minute thanks to a fortunate deflection. Second half substitute Marcel De Jong attempted a cross into the box, but his service clipped the arm of Minnesota’s Jeb Brovsky and sailed into the empty net as keeper Sammy Ndjock was caught offguard.

The Loons roared back with another tally in the 75th minute. This time Ben Speas finished off a perfectly-weighted cross to the far post from defender Kevin Venegas. The visitors were not destined for the win, though, as Ndjock let a bouncing ball slip through his hands in the 90th minute, freeing De Jong to tap it into an empty net.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 3-1 Carolina RailHawks

Fort Lauderdale displayed a level of confidence on Saturday that not many would expect to see from a team that had gone winless through its first four and was matching up with the top dog in the standings.

The Strikers came out on the front foot and put the RailHawks in a three-goal hole by halftime. It was a deficit they could not conquer.

Defender Nana Attakora helped take hold of the match after seven minutes when his pinpoint cross from the right flank found the unmarked head of Maicon Santos for a whipped in effort that keeper Brian Sylvestre could only watch blow by him. Attakora then doubled the lead with his own in the 23rd minute by deftly redirecting a corner kick from Ramon Nunez to the far post. The Strikers added another shortly before the halftime break thanks to a strike from Matheus Carvalho to cap off a counter opportunity after being subbed on for the injured Santos.

Despite the lopsided scoreline, the RailHawks held an overwhelming 70 percent of the possession. Forward Brian Shriver was able to pull one back through a brilliantly flicked header to the top corner, but Fort Lauderdale’s fast start proved insurmountable.

Indy Eleven 1-1 FC Edmonton

Indy will take some comfort in continuing on as the only unbeaten team in the NASL, but they’ll also likely feel at least slight dejection from the fact that they were unable to take the full three points at home and assert themselves in the spring title race.

The home side pulled ahead in the 22nd minute with a well-executed set piece. Nicki Paterson’s curling service from the corner area made its way to the far post where defender Greg Janicki dashed in to connect and finish the chance before a defender could clear. Indy let an achingly perfect opportunity to add to their lead only a minute later slip away when keeper Matt Van Oekel gifted them an interception by accidentally distributing the ball to Justin Braun rather than one of his teammates. Braun received the ball at the top of the box but hesitated with the sudden opportunity and was shut down before he could take a quality shot.

Indy then let the visitors back into the match with some lackadaisical marking in the box in the 27th minute. Midfielder Sainey Nyassi lofted a cross into the box and forward Jake Keegan was free to head an arching effort over a helpless Jon Busch.

Rayo OKC 1-0 Jacksonville Armada FC

 For the second straight match, Jacksonville dictated the pace of a match in front of their home crowd but came up woefully short on the final touch. In Saturday’s match against expansion side Rayo OKC, Jacksonville held over 70 percent of the possession and took 19 total shots. Unfortunately, only three of those attempts were actually put on net and the scoreless streak for Tony Meola’s squad extended to 254 minutes.

Rayo OKC could only muster two shots on goal themselves, but they ended up only needing one to knock off the ineffective home side. After replacing Georgios Samaras in the 57th minute, Robbie Findley notched his second of the year when he beat keeper Miguel Gallardo to a cross into the center of the box from Michel.

New York Cosmos 3-0 Miami FC

Miami seemed ill-prepared to face off with the level of talent that the Cosmos brought to the field. The loss of the midfielder Niko Kranjcar to a hamstring injury didn’t slow down the visitors one bit. The Cosmos dictated the pace of the match in every area and at every stage, while Miami put in a lazy defensive effort and failed to guide a single shot on frame for the second week in a row.

Juan Arango gave the Cosmos the lead in the 18th minute when he was left alone in front of goal to head home a perfect cross from Hunter Freeman. Gabriel Farfan doubled the lead in the 34th minute after a poor clearance from Jonathan Borrajo fell to him at the top of the box and he blasted the ball into the net in the face of no pressure. Captain Carlos Mendes then helped put the nail in the coffin with a superb volley to set up Jairo Arrieta with a breakaway opportunity in the 50th minute that the attacker slid by keeper Daniel Vega.