NASL Week 6: What to Look For

Lance Laing, Steven Miller Celebrate image, North Carolina FC

By JAKE NUTTING

imagesAs the start of play in Week 6 of the North American Soccer League Spring Season nears, two teams have yet to lose (Jacksonville and expansion San Francisco), one has yet to win (Puerto Rico), one has yet to win or lose (Indy Eleven) and three (New York, North Carolina and Miami) have identical records.

Indy and Jacksonville Square Off

A rally last week in New York gave the Jacksonville Armada (2-0-2, 8 points) a crucial point and extended its unbeaten start to four matches. Indy Eleven (0-0-4, 4) is also off to an unbeaten run, though last year’s Spring Season champion has yet to capture a victory. The Eleven face another challenge this week on the road against an Armada team that has recorded shutouts in both of its home matches. Indy has won only once away from home in its last 16 road games.

Puerto Rico Slides Down the Standings

Winless in its first four outings, Puerto Rico (0-1-3, 3) is in desperate need of a positive result at home against North Carolina (1-1-2, 5) or it risks falling out of the  race. Fortunately for the Caribbean club, North Carolina has historically been one of the worst road teams in the NASL and is in the midst of an 11-match winless streak away from home. North Carolina, however, is coming off a solid performance in Miami that would have seen it take all three points if not for an equalizer deep into second=half stoppage time. A resurgent Lance Laing (2 goals, 1 assist) and the rest of North Carolina’s potent attack will also likely find their chances against Puerto Rico’s defense, which is tied for most goals allowed (6).

Miami’s Attack Doesn’t Have Much to Show

Despite a league-leading 53 scoring chances created, Miami (1-1-2, 5) has only managed five goals and one win to kick off the season. Miami has been a bit unlucky as the last two keepers it has faced have turned in standout performances. New York’s Jimmy Maurer and North Carolina’s Bryan Sylvestre both had eight saves in Miami to keep the team’s high-powered attack at bay — they lead the league with 16 saves each. With the defensively sound Edmonton (1-3-0, 3) in town on Saturday, Miami will have its work cut out for it again before next week’s road game at Puerto Rico. The Eddies should be on top of their game after registering their first win of the year last weekend, a 2-1 win over Puerto Rico.

Cosmos Head West

With only two goals conceded, the San Francisco Deltas (1-0-3, 6) are showing the defensive fortitude that Coach Marc Dos Santos fostered in his time at the Ottawa Fury. The Deltas recorded two shutouts during their recent two-match road trip, but neglected to score. New York (1-1-2, 5) also managed to blank the opposition twice on the road this year, although it took two stellar matches from goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer to do so. San Francisco’s Tommy Heinemann should be eager to get another crack at the Cosmos. He scored five goals against the Cosmos while with Dos Santos in Ottawa, two in the 2015 league title match. So far, Heinemann has accounted for two of San Francisco’s four goals, with both being scored in the same match.