NASL Week 9: What to Watch For

Robert Baggio Kcira, Richie Ryan Image, Orovio Photography/Miami FC

By JAKE NUTTING

NASL logoNorth American Soccer League teams return to league action after midweek games in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Four of the league’s teams advanced, but last year’s finalists — Indy Eleven (0-1-6) and the New York Cosmos (3-1-3) — both lost to teams from the amateur Premier Development League.

The Cosmos jetted off to the Middle East in the middle of the Spring Season for an exhibition against Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal. That trip leaves faltering FC Edmonton (1-5-1) with an open date and chance to regroup.

Homecoming for Mares

Last week Dylan Mares helped Miami FC (4-1-2) assert its grip on the league’s top spot and hand his old team, Indy Eleven, its first loss of the season. On Saturday Mares has a chance to snap Indy’s 21-match unbeaten run at Michael Carroll Stadium, a streak he helped prolong. The midfielder has easily slotted into Miami’s high-powered attack, bagging two goals and assist from his spot on the left wing. He also lead’s Miami with 20 scoring chances created.

For Indy, records likely aren’t a primary concern this weekend. Coach Tim Hankinson‘s team has yet to register a win in league play and is coming off an embarrassing 1-0 loss to the Michigan Bucks in the Open Cup. Indy desperately needs a positive result or it risks a lost Spring Sason.

Changes for Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico FC’s (0-4-3) winless start to the season has cost Coach Adrian Whitbread and technical director Neil Sillett their jobs. The lingering disappointment of Puerto Rico’s failure to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League earlier this year also played a part in the decision to dismiss Whitbread and Sillett. Marco Vélez is the interim coach while Puerto Rico searches for a full-time replacement. Vélez won’t have an easy first outing as North Carolina FC (3-2-2) travels to the island confident after dropping three goals on Jacksonville’s sturdy defense last weekend and then six on the Carolina Dynamo in the Open Cup.

San Francisco Goes for Three

The expansion label hasn’t stopped Marc Dos Santos from leading the San Francisco Deltas (3-1-3) to one of the best starts of the season. Thanks to Dos Santos’ system and the skills of keeper Romuald Peiser, San Francisco is the only NASL team that has conceded fewer than five goals through the first seven matches. While the attack hasn’t been overly impressive, clinical execution on set pieces and on the few scoring chances the team does create has the Deltas second in the standings. Cristian Portilla‘s goal and two assists were critical in the Deltas picking up two wins from recent trips to North Carolina and Edmonton. The Deltas have an outside shot at surpassing Miami in the standings, but they could also lose their spot if they fall to the Jacksonville Armada (2-1-4), who haven’t recorded a win since Week 3.