NASL Fall Wk 10 Recap: Opportunity Slips From Loons, Rowdies Shine, More

IMAGE, MATT MAY/TAMPA BAY ROWDIES

by JAKE NUTTING

The bitter taste in Minnesota United FC’s mouth on Monday morning will not be from freshly brewed coffee, but rather the club’s inability to pull off the six-point week.

The Loons held serve at home with a narrow 1-0 win over Indy on Wednesday and nearly did the same in Edmonton on Sunday, but conceded a heartbreaking stoppage time equalizer. As a result of the draw, Minnesota finishes third in the overall standings and tied for second in the Fall standings. Had they won on Sunday, the Loons would have taken sole possession of second in both tables.

Ottawa Fury FC (24 pts Fall, 35 pts Combined) returned to form with their first win in a month to remain in control of the Fall Season standings. The New York Cosmos (19 pts Fall, 39 pts Combined), however, were dealt only their second defeat of the year by the heritage rival Tampa Bay Rowdies (11 pts Fall, 30 pts Combined). The Cosmos overall standing lead is safe for the time being, but the larger questions loom for the club as aging stars Marcos Senna and Raul looked sluggish in the losing effort.

Tampa Bay’s win was the first of newly appointed head coach Stuart Campbell’s tenure and also broke the tie with the idle Fort Lauderdale Strikers (16 pts Fall, 27 pts Combined) to move the club back into the fourth and final playoff spot in the combined standings.

Carolina RailHawks 2-0 Atlanta Silverbacks

Perhaps Carolina should play on Friday more often. The club had lost four straight heading into the match, but left all those upsetting results behind them and thoroughly dominated the visiting Silverbacks. Besides being the RailHawks first win since July 18, it was also the team’s first clean sheet since May 30.

Carolina scored both of its goals with a span of five minutes. Forward Nazmi Albadawi followed up his brace against the Cosmos last week with a terrific 25 yard strike in the 24th minute that sailed over Atlanta’s keeper before defecting off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net. The RailHawks grabbed the insurance goal four minutes later when a free kick was headed across goal by Austen King and pounced on by Connor Tobin.

Indy Eleven 3-0 Jacksonville Armada FC

Jacksonville is quickly running out of opportunities to notch its first road victory. The first-year club’s road woes continued with a frustrating performance that saw them control possession, only to force Indy’s keeper to make three simple saves. The absence of Alhassane Keita and Jemal Johnson to injury, as well as Pascal Millien to international duty left the Armada’s hurting for serious attacks.

Meanwhile, Indy maintained its composure and capitalized on defensive lapses from the visitors. Forward Zach Steinberger was the hero for Indy with his first two goals of the year. Steinberger first tallied in the 9th minute through a two-on-one with the keeper where Don Smart fed him into space and he made the easy finish on an empty net. Smart set Steinberger up again in the 73rd minute with an excllent through ball that the forward attempted to chip over the keeper. The chip was slightly weak so Steinberger followed it up himself to beat a defender and slam the ball home. Substitute Marvin Ceballos scored another for good measure in the 90th minute. The result could have been much more lopsided if not for some terrific point blank saves from keeper David Sierra.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-0 New York Cosmos

The Cosmos survived a busy August unscathed — only to lay an egg in their first outing of September. Marcos Senna made his highly-anticipated return to the starting lineup, but it was the Rowdies midfield that took hold of the match and never relented. The Rowdies played with the zeal that one would expect from a club fighting to stay alive in the playoff picture in front of their home crowd on the night of their 40th anniversary celebration.

Tampa Bay’s attack continued to ramp up the pressure on the Cosmos as the first half wore on and were finally successful in the 40th minute. A deflected pass fell to league-leading assist man Georgi Hristov (9) near the endline and he did not disappoint, delivering a cross that only Corey Hertzog could touch. The finish from Hertzog was equally brilliant as he lifted his leg up to reach behind his body and pull the ball back on frame.

The Cosmos came close to earning a penalty one minute later when Raul fell to the ground on a challenge from keeper Matt Pickens. The referee, though, made the rare decision to caution the striker for simulation.

Sparkplug Darwin Espinal entered for the Rowdies midway through the second half and was the attacking catalyst for the second straight week. Espinal scored his second in as many matches through a well-executed transition attack in the 76th minute between him and Brian Shriver.

Ottawa Fury FC 1-0 San Antonio Scorpions

Ottawa got back to basics on Saturday night, with solid defensive composure being the key to securing a victory after going winless in their last three matches. The Canadian side was gifted two advantages when San Antonio’s Zourab Tsiskaridze was shown a second yellow and lethal attacker Billy Forbes exited with an injury before the halftime whistle.

The visitors used the departures to control the pace of the match as San Antonio bunkered down and hoped for a counter attack opportunity. The Fury got their winner only eight minutes into the second half through a header by Oliver. Surprisingly, the chances dried up for Ottawa after that goal. San Antonio threatened on the counter occasionally, but the back line and keeper Romuald Peiser were up to the task of riding out their league-best tenth shutout of the year.

FC Edmonton 1-1 Minnesota United FC

Minnesota takes home the prize for the biggest squandered opportunity of the weekend. The Eddies were without star wingers Lance Laing and Sainey Nyassi due to international duty, the Loons scored only 11 minutes into the match when a wall parted for a free kick from Kalif Alhassan and Edmonton’s Michael Nonni was sent off after only 25 minutes with a second yellow. Even with all that working in their favor, Minnesota could not extend their lead in regulation time, and eventually failed to protect it in stoppage time.

Edmonton survived a second half swell from Minnesota through the adept hands of former Loons keeper Matt Van Oekel and managed to build some momentum despite the disadvantages. A free kick from Daryl Fordyce was well-handled by keeper Sammy Ndjock, but the follow up free kick only a minute later slipped under the wall and past the keeper for the stoppage time equalizer. Somehow, all three legs of the 2015 Flyover Cup ended in frustrating stalemates.