NASL Week 15: What to Watch For

IMAGE, MIAMI FC

By JAKE NUTTING

nasl logoAfter Wednesday’s dramatic victory over Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United to earn a spot in the quarterfinal round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Miami FC (9-1-3, 30) shifts its focus back to capturing the North American Soccer League’s Spring Season title.

Coach Alessandro Nesta‘s team, which has lost just one match all season, could lock up the championship and the postseason berth that comes with a win in Week 15 when they travel to North Carolina FC (4-6-3, 15).

The San Francisco Deltas (6-2-5, 23) and Jacksonville Armada (5-3-4, 19) are the only teams still able to challenge Miami for the spring crown, but both must basically win out and also hope Miami drops its first match since April . If neither team can get the job done, everyone can start worrying about where they stack up in the Combined Standings.

The Unexceptional Eddies

It’s been a Spring Season to forget for the Eddies (3-9-1, 13). The Canadian side is in danger of having its number of scoreless finishes surpass its total goal tally. Last week’s 1-0 loss to San Francisco was the ninth time Edmonton has been shutout, equaling the team’s scoring total from 13 matches. Surprisingly, Edmonton’s Dustin Correa is tied for second-most scoring chances created (22). Even with scoring chances, though, it’s hard to rack up goals when the team’s goal conversion rate is only 9 percent. With a trip to Jacksonville this week, the Eddies have a chance at redemption against a team that blanked them twice already.

Puerto Rico Bringing Up the Rear

Puerto Rico (1-7-4, 7) got an unexpected week off last week thanks to Mother Nature, which caused the rescheduling of its match at Jacksonville. That matchup with the Armada has been pushed to July 12 and this week sees the league’s last-place team make the trek to San Francisco. The Honduran attacker Jairo Puerto has been terrific for the Caribbean side, netting three goals and notching an assist in his last three matches. It’s the defense that needs serious improvement if Puerto Rico hopes to climb out of the bottom spot in the standings before the Spring Season closes. Puerto Rico has allowed the most goals this season (23) and conceded seven in its last two matches, including a 3-1 loss to the Deltas.

Championship Rematch

With only three matches left in the Spring Season, last year’s participants in The Championship Final will finally face off again on July 4 in Brooklyn. Both teams have fallen short of securing a playoff spot in the spring, although the Cosmos (5-3-5, 20) have fared much better so far. Indy Eleven (2-4-7, 13) is only now getting a taste of that winning feeling again after claiming their first victories in back-to-back results over North Carolina. Because of Indy’s struggles, Justin Braun‘s tremendous output has gone under the radar. The forward is tied for second-most goals with six and is tied for the most assists with four. Braun, who performed well against the Cosmos last year, could find space to score as they hope to fill the holes left by Dejan Jakovic (Gold Cup) and Carlos Mendes (injury) in central defense.

Sylvestre vs. Miami

Miami is likely to get plenty of chances on net as it aims to take the spring title on Tuesday. North Carolina’s leaky defense has made a habit of giving up a ton of scoring opportunities in recent weeks as it has gone winless in its last six matches. The only silver lining for North Carolina is that its defensive woes could be much worse if not for Bryan Sylvestre in net. The closest keeper to Sylvestre’s league-leading 59 saves is New York’s Jimmy Maurer at 39. If Miami wants to wrap up the spring early, it is going to have to get past an in-form Sylvestre.