NASL Spring Week 7 Recap: Minnesota On Top After Cosmos Falter

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by JAKE NUTTING

At the conclusion of the seventh round of action in the North American Soccer League’s Spring Season, Minnesota United FC (4W-1D-1L, 13 pts) finds themselves with a narrow lead in the Spring Season standings after dispatching Jacksonville Armada 2-0 at home. It was an opportunistic victory for the Looks, taking advantage of setbacks for the Carolina RailHawks (4W-1D-2L, 13 pts) and New York Cosmos (4W-0D-3L, 12 pts).

Goal differential has given Minnesota the edge over the RailHawks who were held scoreless at home by last-place Miami FC. Meanwhile, the Loons have a one-point lead on the Cosmos who slipped up on the road, losing out to FC Edmonton (3W-2D-2L, 11 pts). It was New York’s third loss in four matches played away from home this season.

Minnesota has the benefit of a game in hand on both New York and Carolina.

Other than damaging New York’s spring title hopes, Sunday’s result in Edmonton also gives the Eddies a glimmer of hope in the chase to clinch the first playoff spot. With three matches left on their schedule, the Eddies are now only two points behind Minnesota and Carolina on the table.

Carolina RailHawks 0-0 Miami FC

While they didn’t lose this week, the Carolina RailHawks will still be kicking themselves after dropping more points at home to the last-place Miami FC.

The home side started the match with high energy and would have been up early if not for three critical saves from Miami’s Daniel Vega in the opening stages. Vega added two more saves later on to keep his side in the match. Carolina continued to look dominant through most of the match, but failed to find the back of the net.

After only being acquired by Miami in a transfer from Jacksonville earlier in the week, midfielder Richie Ryan slotted right into the starting lineup and had the closest thing to a scoring chance when he rocketed a shot inches over the crossbar in the second half.

For the third straight match, Miami was left without a single shot on goal.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-1 Rayo OKC

After a first half devoid of many true chances, expansion side Rayo OKC was able to jump out to a lead in the 54th minute thanks to a disastrous defensive sequence from the Rowdies. Keeper Matt Pickens rose to meet a cross into the box but collided with center back Tamika Mkandawire and let the ball slip from his grasp. Defender Neil Collins then swooped in to clear only to have his attempt ricochet off Pickens trying to recover, gifting OKC’s Michel with a free look on an empty net.

The finish was Michel’s fourth of the year, pulling him even with Christian Ramirez as the league’s leading scorer.

The Rowdies weren’t ready to let midfielder Joe Cole’s debut be spoiled in front of a near-capacity crowd at Al Lang, though. Second half substitute Tommy Heinemann helped create the equalizer in the 74th minute when his initial shot was knocked away by keeper Daniel Fernandes into the path of defender Juanan for an own goal. Cole then set up Heinemann with a fabulous free kick that the forward redirected into the net in the 87th minute, but the goal was disallowed as the referee said he had yet to give Cole the go-ahead to put it in play.

The Rowdies created a bevy of chances in the final moments only to see them all sail into the arms of Fernandes or wide of the net.

Minnesota United 2-0 Jacksonville Armada FC

Minnesota took care of business at home this weekend and find themselves with a slim lead in the Spring Season standings as a result. The Loons took a lead over the visitors after only 16 minutes when defender Kevin Venegas intercepted a ball and played a give-and-go with Christian Ramirez to break into the final third. Venegas capped off the chance with a sensational curling shot to the far post corner that had the keeper beat all the way.

The Loons never looked back after going ahead early as Jacksonville once again failed to come up with much offensive threat. The lead doubled in the 28th minute when Stefano Pinho bagged his first goal for Minnesota. A cross into the area was deflected to Pinho at the edge of the six yard box and the Brazilian did well to control it before turning and blasting it into the net. The result extends Jacksonville’s winless streak on the road to 17 matches.

FC Edmonton 2-1 New York Cosmos

Edmonton and New York traded a pair of early first half goals to kick things off on Sunday afternoon. The Eddies struck first in the 13th minute when Dustin Corea sent a long ball to the other end of the field for Jason Plumhoff, who turned Carlos Mendes inside-out to create a window of space and fire a low shot that beat Jimmy Maurer.

The Cosmos responded in the 22nd minute with a superb bit of individual play from Yohandry Orozco. The winger received a ball from Jairo Arrieta and cut inside before finding the back of the net with a left-footed shot.

It was the Eddies, though, who found a winner in the final 15 minutes of the match. Adam Eckersley floated a free kick from the right flank for Papa Diakité at the far post and the defender did not disappoint, directing his header onto frame and past Maurer.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 0-0 Indy Eleven

Indy’s veteran keeper Jon Busch was the difference between his side taking a point or coming away with nothing in a match that was delayed by lighting for over an hour. Prior to the delay, Busch was forced into a save off the line and then another on a close-range effort from Maicon Santos. When the match resumed, Busch got an assist from the crossbar when it thwarted a blast from Jose Angulo in the 48th minute, but the keeper kept his cool and went on to deny Santos again, Nana Attakora and Ramon Nunez.