NASL Week 9 Preview: Crunch Time for Bottom Half

NASL

by JAKE NUTTING

FC Edmonton (22 pts Fall, 39 pts Combined) and the New York Cosmos (20 pts, 38 pts) will seek to take advantage of home fixtures as they look to solidify their positions at the top of the Fall Season and Combined standings. Meanwhile, Indy Eleven (19 pts, 37 pts) will look to get back in the mix for the top spot against a vulnerable Ottawa Fury FC after stumbling last week.

As the top three jostle positions, the time is fast approaching for the majority of the teams in the NASL to make their move if they hope to clinch a playoff spot. If the season were to end as it stands now, the Cosmos and Minnesota United FC (15 pts, 31 pts) would occupy the third and fourth seeds in The Championship, the NASL’s four-team postseason tournament. The next few weeks will be crucial to see if any of the teams chasing four the fourth spot — the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (11 pts, 26 pts), Carolina RailHawks (12 pts, 26 pts), Rayo OKC (13 pts, 25 pts), or Tampa Bay Rowdies (8 pts, 24 pts) — can gain any ground and stay in the hunt.

A poor swing for Minnesota in the next month could allow any of those teams to become true contenders as the season winds down, but if they fail to string together results, they could find themselves out of the mix entirely.

New York Cosmos host Carolina RailHawks, Saturday August 27, 7 p.m. ET

After securing stoppage time wins in their last outings, both Carolina and New York should be heading into the weekend full of confidence. However, the Cosmos hold the obvious advantage having not lost any of their home matches this year.

The RailHawks should have cause for encouragement, though. Fall Season signings Matt Fondy and Omar Bravo have been on a tear since debuting in July. Fondy has bagged five goals and one assist in eight appearances, while Bravo has recorded four goals in his first five appearances. As the hottest forward combo in the NASL, Bravo and Fondy could potentially wreak havoc on a suspect Cosmos back line.

Tampa Bay Rowdies host Rayo OKC, Saturday August 27, 7:30 p.m. ET

Following their bitter loss to Edmonton at home last week, the Rowdies will be eager to get back on track on Saturday. Despite dominating in nearly every aspect over the Eddies, the Rowdies still fell 1-0 to drop their fifth match out of their last six. With one of the highest payrolls in the league, pressure is mounting on the coaching staff to find a way into the playoff picture.

Since battling to earn the first point on the road against the Cosmos this year, Rayo OKC has lost two straight closely contested matches. Working in the expansion side’s favor is the resurgence of attackers Georgios Samaras and Billy Forbes. The two have looked markedly more dangerous and active since interim head coach Gerard Nus took over for Alen Marcina several weeks ago.

Miami FC host Minnesota United FC, Saturday August 27, 8 p.m. ET

Miami and Minnesota played to scoreless draws in their most recent league outings, but if their previous two meetings this year are any indication, expect to see plenty of goals this weekend. Minnesota took the Spring Season meeting 3-1, while Miami took revenge with a decisive 4-0 drubbing of the Loons in early August. Apart from the recent defeat, the Loons should also be hungry to knock off the expansion side considering that Miami’s recent string of positive results have the two teams level at fourth in the Fall Season standings.

Miami will likely be without midfielder Jonny Steele after his injury in Wednesday scoreless draw in Ottawa. Minnesota will also lose out on the services of a veteran midfielder, as Ibson will sit out the next two matches due to red card suspension.

Ottawa Fury FC host Indy Eleven, Sunday August 28, 2 p.m. ET

An injury-plagued Ottawa side survived a midweek battle with a scoreless draw, but Saturday’s contest against the Spring Season champions might be a tougher task. Coming off only their third loss of the year, Indy Eleven will look to pick up critical points on the road to reassert their position in the combined standings. Indy’s playoff spot is already locked in thanks to their spring title, but with the top playoff seed and home field advantage that comes along with it up for grabs, there is still plenty left for Indy to fight for in the final third of the season.

FC Edmonton host Puerto Rico FC, Sunday August 28, 4 p.m. ET

Puerto Rico must push the disappointment from last week’s heartbreaking loss to the Cosmos aside as they get set to match up with the league’s best defense. Puerto Rico’s Hector Ramos has had an outstanding first two months in the NASL, scoring seven times and providing one assist, but his efforts alone likely won’t be enough against an Edmonton defense that has recorded ten shutouts through 19 matches this year. Even with one of the hottest strikers in the league, Puerto Rico is still averaging less than one goal a game and has only one win to their name. It will take more contributions from across Puerto Rico’s lineup if they have any shot at nabbing points in Edmonton.

  • Lex

    Letsss gooo Cosmosss we got thesee