NASL Week 10: What to Watch For

Zach Steinberger heads home one of his two goals against the San Francisco Deltas Image, Robert Edwards-KLC fotos.

By JAKE NUTTING

NASL logoAll eight North American Soccer League teams are back in action this weekend as the league’s Spring Season hits the midway point in Week 10. It will be a week of opportunity as most teams square off with those directly above them in the standings. The only exception is Puerto Rico FC (0-5-3, 3 points), which has the unenviable task of going up against the league’s frontrunner, Miami FC (5-1-2, 17).

Cosmos Return From Break

The New York Cosmos (3-1-3, 12) return to NASL play this weekend after their short excursion to Saudi Arabia last weekend for an exhibition with Al-Hilal that ended scoreless. They rejoin the Spring Season action in fourth place with a game in hand on everyone except Edmonton. Their last time out, the Cosmos recorded their first win at home this year, in a 4-3 comeback against Puerto Rico. This week they host the league’s unexpected road warriors, the San Francisco Deltas (3-2-3, 12). San Francisco has yet to drop a match in its first four away trips (2-0-2) and recently bagged two road wins before slipping up at home in a 3-0 loss to Jacksonville last week.

Saturday’s match at MCU Park will also see the Cosmos celebrate stalwarts Jimmy Maurer and Danny Szetela for joining defenders Carlos Mendes and Ayoze in the team’s 100 appearances club. Both Maurer and Szetela have been a part of the Cosmos since the reboot season in 2013.

Winless Puerto Rico Travels to Streaking Miami

It would be an understatement to say Puerto Rico is off to an incredibly frustrating start. The Caribbean club, which recently fired Coach Adrian Whitbread, is still winless after eight matches and has let leads slip away against three of the NASL’s top four teams. Last week’s loss saw North Carolina rally to score two late goals after Puerto held a one-goal lead for much of the night at Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium. The interim coach, Marco Vélez, will have his hands full trying to turn Puerto Rico’s luck around this week as the team travels to first-place Miami, which is riding high after four straight wins.

Battle at the Bottom

Edmonton (1-5-1, 4) and Indy Eleven (0-2-6, 6) likely didn’t see themselves being in their current position when they met in last season’s semifinal round of the Championship. Between the two teams, the Eddies are the only one with a win, though Indy has a slight edge in the standings because of six straight draws to begin the season. Edmonton got last week off (because its game against New York was rescheduled) and had an opportunity to reassess ahead of this weekend’s home match. For Indy, Coach Tim Hankinson is hoping players like Ben Speas, who have returned to Indy’s lineup recently, can start making a difference on the field.

Steinberger Proving His Value to Armada

The Jacksonville Armada (3-1-4, 13) rebounded well from a tough 3-1 loss to North Carolina two weeks ago by dropping three goals on San Francisco . This weekend they have a shot at avenging the loss to North Carolina (4-2-2, 14) in front of their home supporters. Jacksonville has only conceded twice in four home matches this year, but stopping North Carolina’s Lance Laing and Matt Fondy, who have seven goals combined, will be a tall order. Armada midfielder Zach Steinberger has provided some much needed fire power for the Armada in recent weeks, notching three goals to put him even with Laing and Indy’s Justin Braun at the top of the NASL’s leader board. Steinberger has been a bright spot in Jacksonville’s lineup since joining midway through last year, but he seems to be flourishing under Coach Mark Lowry and could be just hitting his stride.