NASL Week 5 Preview: Rayo OKC face tough Minnesota side

IMAGE, RAYO OKC

by JAKE NUTTING

Rayo OKC (23 pts Combined, 11 pts Fall) is the unlikely leader in the Fall Season race heading into the final weekend July. To close out the month with that lead secure, though, the expansion side will need to get by a potent Minnesota United FC (25 pts, 9 pts) side that is coming off two-straight wins.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers host Jacksonville Armada FC, Saturday July 30, 7 p.m. ET

The question on just about everyone’s mind as the Strikers host Indy Eleven is whether or not the Brazilian PC will suit up for the South Florida side. Multiple reports on Sunday stated that the versatile attacker had been sold to the rival Rowdies. Heading into the weekend, though, PC has resumed training with the Strikers and the front office is claiming no deal has been finalized for the player after fielding a handful of offers from teams within the league and in MLS.

Regardless of who does play, the Strikers are desperate for a result after dropping their first four matches of the fall.

Jacksonville should be equally desperate after sinking to the bottom of the standings once again thanks to three-straight losses.

Ottawa Fury FC host Tampa Bay Rowdies, Saturday July 30, 7 p.m. ET

After losing out in their first three matches of the fall, Ottawa has picked up some steam with back-to-back 2-0 wins in their last outings. Leading scorer Carl Haworth continues to come through for the Canadian side, posting a goal in each of the recent wins.

Last year’s leading scorer for Ottawa Tommy Heinemann will be making his first trip to the city since departing for Tampa Bay in the offseason. With only three goals so far for the Rowdies, Heinemann will hope that the familiar surroundings of TD Place can provide an environment for him to spark a scoring streak. Depite Heinemann and the Rowdies controlling the match in most aspects, an inability to finish and a howler from keeper Matt Pickens sunk them against Rayo OKC on Wednesday.

New York Cosmos host Puerto Rico FC, Saturday July 30, 7:30 p.m. ET

There will be no rest for the Cosmos following their deflating 2-1 loss in Edmonton on Wednesday night. On short rest, the Cosmos must defend their perfect home record against expansion side Puerto Rico FC. The visitors could be in line for a boost in the stands as several hundred Puerto Ricans are said to be ready for the trip to Shuart Stadium for the first meeting between the Cosmos and Caribbean club. The NASL newcomer is buoyed by forward Hector Ramos, who has tallied a goal in all but one of Puerto Rico’s opening five matches, including the lone goal in the club’s first ever win over Rayo OKC last week.

Miami FC host Indy Eleven, Saturday July 30, 8 p.m. ET

With Kwadwdo Poku notching two goals in the first month of the Fall Season, Miami FC’s highly-publicized acquisitions appear to be lifting the first-year club. However, none of them may be as impactful as the emergence of Jaime Chavez, who has tallied three goals in two matches. Miami has struggled finding a consistent scorer up top, so the possibility of Chavez recapturing the magic he had in Atlanta last year to make the Silverbacks a surprising contender could be what carries Miami up the standings and into playoff contention.

Indy Eleven bounced back from their first loss of the year with a gritty 1-0 result over the Eddies, but a lack of production up top for the Spring Season champions could be cause for alarm. Eamon Zayed’s habit of scoring in bunches rather than consistently leaves Indy looking to others to pick up the slack. So far they’ve had success with this strategy, but their luck could be running out as the rest of the league improves.

Rayo OKC host Minnesota United, Saturday  July 30, 9 p.m. ET

Rayo OKC has a stiff test to close out the first month of the Fall Season as leaders in the standings. Minnesota and Christian Ramirez appear to have caught fire in the first few weeks of the fall. The expansion side managed to knock off the Rowdies during weeknight action, although that result was largely due to Tampa Bay’s own impotence in the final third and a major gaffe from the keeper that lead to Rayo OKC’s only goal. The Loons will undoubtedly be eager to redeem themselves after suffering a similar fate as the Rowdies back in the spring when they traveled to Oklahoma City.

FC Edmonton host Carolina RailHawks, Sunday July 31, 4 p.m. ET

Since dropping their home opener back in April, the Eddies have been unbeatable at home. Wednesday’s dramatic stoppage time win over the Cosmos was their seventh-straight win at home, putting them in prime position to make a run up the standings. They’ll look to extend their winning streak to eight this weekend against a Carolina that has historically struggled in Edmonton.

Without star striker Omar Bravo due to visa issues, the RailHawks traveled to Ottawa during the week and came up lame with a 2-0 loss. Bravo’s status for the club’s second trip to Canada this week is unknown.