NASL Week 6 Preview: Indy Eleven Seek To Build On Unbeaten Run

IMAGE, MATT SCHLOTZHAUER

by JAKE NUTTING

Heading into the second half of the short Spring Season, Indy Eleven (2W-0L-2D) find themselves as the only remaining unbeaten team in the North American Soccer League. Grinding out early draws and coming through with late winners in their last two matches has left the ‘Boys in Blue’ with an excellent opportunity to establish themselves as a serious contender for the spring title.

Indy has already knocked off the New York Cosmos (3W-2L-0D) in head-to-head action and will hold home field advantage over Minnesota United FC (3W-0L-0D) and the Carolina RailHawks (4W-1L-0D) in the coming weeks. The spring title race appeared to be a three-team sprint at first, but Indy could easily work their way into the fray if they keep racking up wins.

Ottawa Fury FC host Minnesota United FC
Saturday May 7, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN3)

Ottawa finally picked one up in the win column in their home opener last week, but they will have to get past a confident Minnesota United side if they wish to repeat themselves. The Loons have won their last three matches, including a ego-boosting victory over the Cosmos two weeks ago.

Despite Minnesota having the clear edge on paper heading into this encounter, match-ups between these two sides always find a way to be closely-contested. They’ve only drawn once in seven matches, but every other match in the series has been decided by a one goal difference.

Part of the reason for those narrow results is the stellar play of keeper Romuald Peiser. This time around, though, the high-flying Loons attack that has added dynamic midfielder Ben Speas and Lance Laing to help forward Chrisian Ramirez could be too much to handle for Peiser. With a new backline in front of him, Ottawa is tied for second in the league with goals conceded (7) and Peiser leads the league in saves (15).

Minnesota centerback Damion Lowe will miss the match due to red card suspension.

Jacksonville Armada FC host Rayo OKC
Saturday May 7, 7 p.m. ET (beIN Sports)

After just losing out to Edmonton in a punchless  1-0 result on Wednesday, Jacksonville needs to regroup quickly with expansion side Rayo OKC coming to town. Rayo OKC started off the year with a scoreless draw but has since found a groove offensively, averaging two goals in their last three matches. Michel moving into the midfield and former San Antonio Scorpion Billy Forbes finally gaining steam has helped increase their chances.

Jacksonville on the other hand is searching for answers after only notching three goals in their first four matches. Things just are not clicking for head coach Tony Meola’s squad. With attacking players like Pascal Millien, Alhassan Keita and Matt Fondy, they clearly possess the talent to produce more, but they seem to be playing without cohesion or urgency in the final third. However, Rayo OKC is tied for second in goals conceded (7), so this weekend’s match should be a good opportunity for Jacksonville’s attack to catch fire.

Carolina RailHawks host Fort Lauderdale Strikers
Saturday May 7, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3)

The Carolina RailHawks have an excellent chance to rebound well from their first loss of the year last week, as they play host to the last-place Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

Examining the attacking statistics is when it becomes abundantly clear where the difference between these two sides exists. While Fort Lauderdale’s defense has only conceded one more goal than Carolina’s, their attack has a woeful two goals compared to Carolina’s nine. To really drive the nail in, only one of Fort Lauderdale’s goals was from open play. Players like Luis Felipe Fernandes and Jose Angulo have helped created a fair amount of scoring chances, but the finishing has not been up to snuff yet. The team is lacking a true finisher like they had with Stefano Pinho last year.

Fort Lauderdale will be getting captain Jean-Marc Alexandre back from suspension for the match, and Carolina should see the return of starting keeper Akira Fitzgerald after missing last week due to the death of his mother.

Indy Eleven host FC Edmonton
Saturday May 7, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3)

Winners of two straight, Indy Eleven have a chance to pick up another critical three points against FC Edmoton, who are coming to town on short rest after playing on Wednesday. Indy has been taking care of business late in matches so far, picking up four goals past the 75th minute in the last three matches to remain unbeaten. A switch to a 4-4-2 formation has helped take some of the pressure off forward Eamon Zayed and the team seems to be benefiting with more chances.

The Eddies meanwhile are heading into the weekend with the good vibes from taking three points on the road in Jacksonville. They’ve now won their last two outings, but they’ve done so largely on the backs of the defensive players. The Eddies defensive unit has only allowed three goals and also account for two of the team’s three goals. They’ll need to start finding production from their attacking players if they hope to rise up the standings.

Miami FC host New York Cosmos
Saturday May 7, 8 p.m. ET (ONE World Sports)

The New York Cosmos will square off with NASL newcomer Miami FC for the first time this season. Head coach Alessandro Nesta’s squad is one of only two teams yet to pick up a win over the first month of the season. In their first trip outside of Florida last week, the team put in their worst showing of the year and lost 2-0 to Ottawa.

A lack of diversity in Miami’s attack has severely hampered the club so far. Forward Dario Cvitanich accounts for three of their five goals, with one of those being a penalty and the other two from poaching opportunities. The telling number with Miami’s attack is that it has only managed to guide 13 shots on goal through five matches. On top of that, the team has allowed a goal past the 80th minute mark in all but one of their matches.

With those kind of unimpressive numbers, the Cosmos should be eager for the opportunity to pick up their first road points of the year. New York had issues closing out their two recent road matches, and now they cannot afford to drop a single point to a team like Miami if they hope to remain in the spring title race.