NASL Week 7: What to Watch For

IMAGE, MIAMI FC

By JAKE NUTTING

imagesThe logjam at the top of the North American Soccer League’s Spring Season table could be broken a bit in Week 7. Then again, maybe not.

Cosmos Looking to Overtake the Armada

The Jacksonville Armada’s (2-0-3, 9 points) lead in the Spring Season standings could be in jeopardy this week with three teams one point back. One of those challengers is the New York Cosmos (2-1-2, 8), who will attempt to halt Jacksonville’s unbeaten start to the year. The Armada took a point at the Cosmos two weeks ago, but New York has claimed victories in its last two road matches and just handed San Francisco its first loss of the year, on the West Coast last week.

Defense has been key to Armada’s fast start. While New York has relied on goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer to put in several notable shifts and lead the league with 21 saves to get by, Armada keeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell has only had to face 10 shots on target this season. Jacksonville’s back line faces a critical moment this weekend because the seasoned center back Aaron Pitchkolan will miss the match.

Aggressive Attacks Square Off in Puerto Rico

After a few frustrating outings, Miami FC’s (2-1-2, 8) attack got back on track last week with an assured 2-0 win over Edmonton. Coach Alessandro Nesta‘s squad continues to lead the league with 67 scoring chances, nearly half of which belong to forward Kwadwo Poku (15) and winger Dylan Mares (15). They will look to continue the productivity this week against Puerto Rico FC (0-2-3, 3), the team tied with the Eddies at the bottom of the table. Creating scoring opportunities hasn’t been a problem for Puerto Rico — its 50 chances is second in the league and it boasts one of the best scorers in the league in Hector Ramos. Puerto Rico’s scoring efficiency could use improvement, but so could the defense, which has allowed seven goals through the first five matches.

Indy Happy to Host Draw-less Edmonton 

On the surface, things look pretty good for Indy Eleven (0-0-5, 5). A draw with San Francisco two weeks ago helped the team establish an NASL record with a 20-match unbeaten run at home. On top of that, Indy’s Justin Braun took home the NASL’s Player of the Month award for bagging two assists and a league-leading three goals. Five straight draws to start the year, however, has Indy just two points ahead of Puerto Rico and Edmonton (1-4-0) at the bottom of the standings. Fortunately for Indy, this week’s opponent at Carroll Stadium is the only team in the league that has yet to record a draw. The Eddies have won once this season, are winless in their last six road matches and are coming off a tough loss to the Ottawa Fury in Canada’s Voyageurs Cup.

North Carolina’s Late Concessions

North Carolina FC (2-1-2, 8) is on an upswing in the standings thanks to its many potent attackers, but the team could benefit with stronger defense late in matches. All six of the team’s goals against have come in the final 15 minutes of matches, a habit which could cost them valuable points as the season wears on. Fresh off their first loss, the San Francisco Deltas (1-1-3, 6) might be in a unique position to exploit North Carolina’s vulnerability close to the whistle. San Francisco’s four goals have all come in the final moments of the first and second halves.