NASL Week 11: What to Watch For

Lance Laing, Steven Miller Celebrate image, North Carolina FC

By JAKE NUTTING

NASL logoWeek 11 of the North American Soccer League’s Spring Season has an enticing matchup at the top of the standings. The Jacksonville Armada (4-1-4, 16 points) is looking to usurp Miami FC (5-1-3, 18) in the first meeting this season between the intrastate rivals. Meanwhile, the New York Cosmos (3-1-4, 13) are hoping to continue their unbeaten run and make up ground on the rest of the league against North Carolina FC’s (4-3-2, 14) lethal attack.

Miami’s Attack Meets Jacksonville’s Defense

The Armada’s  Zach Steinberger has been on a tear. Steinberger has netted six goals from just 12 shots on goal, and has created 12 scoring chances for the Armada, which have recorded only 11 goals in its first nine matches. It’s Jacksonville’s defense, however, anchored by center backs Machack Jérôme and Aaron Pitchkolan, that will be the most crucial for Jacksonville in its first meeting with Miami this season. Coach Alessandro Nesta‘s squad is averaging more than 15 shots a match and has been blanked just once this year. Miami, though, has yet to face the Jacksonville’s back line, which is tied with San Francisco for fewest goals allowed (7). A win puts Miami five points clear at the top of the table, while a win for Jacksonville would vault it into first place.

Signs of Life for Edmonton and Puerto Rico

Saturday’s bout between Puerto Rico (0-5-4, 4) and Edmonton (2-5-1, 7) will be a question of which struggling team will be the one to take the most from a recent encouraging result. The Eddies are coming off their second win of the year, 2-1 against Indy, which happens to also be only the second time they’ve notched multiple goals in a match. Edmonton’s attack has been anemic, tallying just five goals while being shut out five times. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico took a moral victory as the second team to take a point from Miami in a 1-1 draw. Two matches after firing Adrian Whitbread as coach, Puerto Rico and the interim coach Marco Vélez are still seeking the team’s first win.

Indy’s Ails Continue

The troubles of last year’s Spring Season champion have extended to the third month of the season as the Eleven (0-3-6, 6) continues to search for their first win. Pinning Indy’s awful start on one area of the field is tough. On the surface, the attack’s nine goals seem adequate, although forward Justin Braun has accounted for seven indicates the team needs production from others. The defense is the most obvious culprit. At this point last year, Indy had only conceded nine, while this year’s squad has allowed the opposition to score 13 times. This week Indy meets the San Francisco Deltas (3-2-4, 13), which has been steady in the start of their inaugural season. Coach Marc Dos Santos‘ Deltas have allowed seven and scored seven, but are still in the thick of the spring title race.

Cosmos Have Room for Improvement

With the exception of Miami, the New York Cosmos are on the best run in the league. Despite being unbeaten in their last six matches, the Cosmos are only fourth in the standings partly because they’ve played one less match than the competition because of a trip to the Middle East for the recent exhibition in Saudi Arabia. New York has three wins during its unbeaten ru The Cosmos are also unbeaten in all four of their trips away from home (2-0-2). Host North Carolina FC, however, is unlikely to be a pushover on Sunday. Between Tiyi Shipalane, Lance Laing and Nazmi Albadawi, North Carolina has a host of creative attackers that could give New York’s defensive unit fits.