NASL Spring Week 9 Recap: Cosmos Back in Driver’s Seat

IMAGE, NASL

by JAKE NUTTING

The North American Soccer League’s Spring Season title race narrowed to six teams this weekend, but that in no way means things are ready to cool off just yet.

Everything went the way of the New York Cosmos (6W-0D-3L, 18 pts) this weekend. Along with squeaking by an eight-man Rayo OKC 1-0, the Cosmos benefited from Minnesota United FC (4W-1D-3L, 13 pts) dropping their first home match of the year to the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-0, Indy Eleven (3W-5D-0L, 14 pts) only escaping Jacksonville with one point, and FC Edmonton (4W-2D-3L, 14 pts) falling to Miami in a shocking 1-0 result.

The Eddies loss officially eliminates them from the title chase.

Things are now much simpler for the Cosmos. A win next week in their spring finale clinches a second straight spring title. A draw would eliminate the Rowdies and Strikers, but could leave the door open for Indy, Minnesota or Carolina to swoop in and claim the top spot in the final week.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2-1 Ottawa Fury FC

Ottawa dictated Friday’s match in nearly every category, but it still wasn’t good enough to carry them over the streaking Strikers, who recorded their third straight road win of the Spring. The home side edged out the Strikers in possession, corner kicks and shots, only to come up lacking in finishing. Fort Lauderdale keeper Diego Restrepo put in his best performance of the spring, denying Ottawa with four saves and only getting beat by a penalty conversion from Carl Haworth in the 80th minute.

Ottawa was already in a two-goal hole by the time of Haworth’s penalty. Leading scorer Maicon Santos tallied his fourth of the year when he finished a half-volley set up by Ramon Nunez in the 8th minute. Giuseppe Gentile then doubled the lead in the 65th minute when he fired a shot from distance that slipped by Romuald Peiser.

Jacksonville Armada FC 1-1 Indy Eleven

A major sigh of relief came from the stands in Jacksonville when the half hour mark of Saturday’s match saw the home side snap its scoreless streak at 464 minutes. Matt Bahner was the hero for Jacksonville, rocketing a rebound that fell to him outside the box between the near post and the fingertips of keeper Jon Busch.

After coming up with a critical save, Sebastian Evers was forced out of his debut match with a groin injury in the second half. Indy pushed throughout the second stanza and finally was able breakthrough in the 73rd minute. Jair Reinoso delivered a cross dead center into the box and Justin Braun rose over his defender to bang home the service. Remarkably, the equalizer keeps Indy unbeaten through eight matches.

New York Cosmos 1-0 Rayo OKC

In what would only be their first of threeejections on Saturday night in New York, Rayo OKC lost leading scorer Michel to a straight red card in the 36th minute after he dove studs first into a challenge and clipped the plant foot of keeper Jimmy Maurer.

After a stretch of total dominance, the Cosmos found a goal through the unlikely finesse of Danny Szetela in the 54th minute. A ball played into the box from the right flank was flicked on by Sebastian Guenzatti, and Szetela rushed in to guide an effort past a helpless Daniel Fernandes.

The Cosmos struggled to produce many more true threats on goal, but the match was not without fireworks. Rayo OKC’s Billy Forbes after giving Guenzatti a taste of his elbow in the 89th minute, and then just for good measure, Georgios Samaras picked up his second yellow card by tripping up Ruben Bover on a breakaway. Even after all that, Rayo OKC came close to an equalizer in the final minute of stoppage time, but Richard Menjivar’s finish was waived off for a close offside call.

Miami FC 1-0 FC Edmonton

Heading into their encounter with Miami, Edmonton had a decent shot at gaining the top spot in the standings. Instead, they now find themselves eliminated from the Spring Season title race after dropping all three points in South Florida. Prior to the match, Miami has failed to register a single shot on goal in their last three outings, but none of that mattered as they did what Edmonton could not in the 67th minute of this match. Ariel Martinez received the ball with a few defenders around him but created a pocket of space for himself to blast a left-footed shot that zipped into the top corner of the net. Along with sealing their first ever victory, the Martinez’s goal also snapped Miami’s four-game losing streak.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-0 Minnesota United

Minnesota dropped their second straight match and their first at home this year to a determined Tampa Bay Rowdies side. The Rowdies outworked the Loons on both sides of the ball and converted their few chances with precision. English star Joe Cole was directly involved on both tallies that came right before and right after the halftime break. First he notched his first goal for the Rowdies with a header from a brilliant ball from Kalif Alhassan in the 43rd minute. He then set up Eric Avila in the 47th minute with a through ball that the attacker calmly booted to the far post past the flat-footed keeper.