NASL Spring Week 8 Recap: Cosmos Take Slim Lead After Wild Weekend

Arango Cosmos

by JAKE NUTTING

The New York Cosmos (5W-0D-3L, 15 pts) entered Sunday night’s match with the Tampa Bay Rowdies (2W-3D-2L, 15 pts) in fifth place on the Spring Season table, but the ultimate victory over their heritage rivals catapulted them into sole possession of the top spot with two games left on their schedule.

The wild swing in favor of the Cosmos was the capper to a roller coaster weekend in the NASL that saw the other top two teams heading into the weekend, the Carolina RailHawks (4W-1D-3L, 13 pts) and Minnesota United FC (4W-1D-2L, 13 pts), lose out on the road to FC Edmonton (4W-2D-2L, 14 pts) and Indy Eleven (3W-4D-0L, 13 pts) respectively.

Handling their business at home firmly entrenched the Eddies and Indy in the spring title discussion with only three weeks left on the docket. The Cosmos hold the lead at the moment, but with a game in hand on their competition for the crown, both Indy and Minnesota control their own destiny.

Indy Eleven 4-2 Minnesota United FC

Indy managed to extend their streak as the only unbeaten team in the NASL with an emphatic result over Minnesota. They first caught the Loons on the counter attack in the 16th minute when Justin Braun slid a pass to Eamon Zayed inside the box for an empty-net finish. Indy’s lead then grew shortly out of the halftime break after Zayed provided the assist to Omar Gordon for another look at an empty net.

The Loons finally woke up in the 54th minute when last year’s Golden Boot winner Stefano Pinho rocketed a shot from just outside the box that zipped past the defenders and keeper Jon Busch on its way to the top corner of the net. Center back Damion Lowe then leveled the match in the 69th minute by volleying home a well-placed corner kick from Kevin Venegas to the far post.

Indy dashed hopes of a comeback win for the Loons only five minutes later when Braun followed up to bury a rebound off keeper Sammy Ndjock’s save on an initial free kick struck by¬†Nemanja Vukovic.

Adding insult to injury, Minnesota’s captain Justin Davis was sent off after receiving his second yellow in the dying moments and substitute Nicki Patterson added a fourth for Indy with a gorgeous curling free kick from 20 yards out.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2-1 Rayo OKC

After coming up with a crucial goal line save from Dalton early in the match, Fort Lauderdale jumped ahead of their hosts in the 33rd minute when Jose Angulo headed home a cross from Nana Attakora to notch his first of the year.

Michel provided an answer for Rayo OKC in the 62nd minute when he converted a penalty that was drawn by attacker Billy Forbes. Fort Lauderdale Head Coach Caio Zanardi took exception to the penalty call against midfielder Luis Felipe Fernandes that helped the home side get on the board, and he was eventually ejected from the match for his aggressive objection.

Zanardi’s team pushed on without him and didn’t have to wait long to find a winner as Ramon Nunez picked an opportune moment to tally for the Strikers after signing a few weeks ago. He provided a sensational free kick effort in the 70th minute that had a similar trajectory to a knuckle ball throw from a major league pitcher, lifting over the defensive wall before dropping dead in the air to slip in under the crossbar.

FC Edmonton 1-0 Carolina RailHawks

The Eddies enjoyed a brief spell on top of the NASL table on Sunday after extending their unbeaten run to five matches with a win over the RailHawks, who are now winless in their last four after starting the year with four straight wins.

Both sides struggled to unlock the final third throughout the match played in wet conditions north of the border until the 78th minute mark. It took a penalty for the Eddies to get on the scoresheet. Connor Tobin was the infringing player for Carolina, as he wrestled Albert Watson to the ground on a corner kick sequence, allowing Daryl Fordyce the opportunity to step up and convert from the spot.

Ottawa Fury FC 1-0 Jacksonville Armada FC

In search of their first win as a club on the road, Jacksonville produced the first serious look on net in the 40th minute when Charles Elondou ripped a shot from just outside the box that forced keeper Romuald Peiser to come up with a save. Unfortunately for head coach Tony Meola and his team, though, that sequence was not a sign of things to come. Their attacking woes continued, as they finished with only three shots on goal and were blanked for the fourth straight match.

Jacksonville was denied at least a point in the match when Ottawa pulled a winner out of their hat in the 88th minute. After providing the massive late equalizer against Minnesota in their last league match, Canadian international Marcel De Jong answered the call again with a forceful shot from a tight angle that slipped between Miguel Gallardo and the near post.

New York Cosmos 2-1 Tampa Bay Rowdies

The Rowdies came out swinging against their old school rivals on Sunday night and landed the first punch after only 18 minutes. They absorbed early pressure from the Cosmos before midfielder Kalif Alhassan sprung forward Tommy Heinemann free into the final third for a counter attack opportunity. Heinemann took one touch and fired a shot back across the goal to sneak it by an onrushing Jimmy Maurer.

New York roared back in tremendous fashion with two quality sequences set up by Juan Arango to take the lead. In the 32nd minute, Arango first provided an assist to Yasmani Duk when he stared down Matt Pickens in a one-on-one and slid a pass across goal for Duk to tap in. Arango then delivered a pin-point pass to the far post for Ruben Bover in the 40th minute that the midfielder expertly volleyed into the back of the net.

Pushing for an equalizer, the Rowdies surged forward in the second half and came close to leveling things up in the final moments. Substitute Danny Mwanga headed a perfectly placed cross from Joe Cole across the line, but the flag went up for an offside call.

The Rowdies had just cause to protest as the replay plainly showed Mwanga was onside on the play.

The Rowdies came up with another close chance when defender Tamika Mkandawire headed a ball on frame that was destined for the back of the net if not for a tremendous clearance off the line by Hunter Freeman in the final minute of stoppage time.