NASL Fall Week 7 Preview: Atlanta Quietly Moving On Up in the Standings

IMAGE, NASL.COM

by JAKE NUTTING
NASL Writer

Ottawa Fury FC has rightfully been garnering attention during its 12-game unbeaten run to the top of both NASL points tables. However, the Atlanta Silverbacks have been equally as impressive in recent weeks and suddenly find themselves one point out of a playoff spot in the combined standings.

Minnesota United FC currently occupies the final playoff spot with 23 points, but Atlanta and Carolina only trail by one point heading into the weekend.

Three wins and one draw in their most recent matches also has Atlanta alone in second place in the Fall Season standings. Ottawa (19 pts) still has a commanding lead in those standings and Atlanta (14 pts) is the closest challenger to the Canadian side.

Jacksonville Armada FC vs. Carolina RailHawks, Wednesday 7:30 p.m. ET

The Armada will need to rebound quickly when they host Carolina in the lone weeknight match in the NASL. Jacksonville head home with their tails between their legs after being thoroughly outplayed by the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The only positive to take away from the last weekend’s match was that Alhassane Keita got on the board twice through a penalty and a total breakdown from Tampa Bay on a set piece. Jacksonville will be without defender Lucas Trejo who received a straight red card against Tampa Bay.

Carolina’s trip to Jacksonville earlier in the year was one of the club’s best overall performances of the year. The RailHawks delivered a 4-0 beat-down to the expansion side. This time around Carolina should have a full complement of players after sitting out the past week of NASL action.

New York Cosmos vs. San Antonio Scorpions, Saturday 7 p.m. ET

Both New York and San Antonio are coming off impressive comeback 3-3 road draws last weekend. Even though the Cosmos needed a three-goal surge to tie with Fort Lauderdale, they have improved their form after a slow Fall start. The club has two wins, one draw and seven goals in its last three matches. The absences of midfielder Marcos Senna and captain Carlos Mendes were strongly felt in the first half against the Strikers.

San Antonio pulled off their comeback draw last week mainly on the back of Omar Cummings. The forward netted two goals in the match to reach 10 goals for the year. Cummings’ league-leading year has been one of the lone bright spots for San Antonio this year. The Scorpions are third from the bottom in the Fall standings and second from the bottom in the combined standings.

Ottawa Fury FC vs. Minnesota United FC, Saturday 7 p.m. ET

Minnesota and Ottawa each enter the weekend with an impressive streak of their own. Ottawa’s 12-game unbeaten run is the best of the year and has them atop both the Fall and combined standings. Meanwhile Minnesota’s Christian Ramirez has notched a goal in each of the club’s last six matches. Ramirez’s most recent goal was his 27th for the Loons, a new club record.

While Ottawa has been tearing up the league in the Fall Season, Minnesota has shown some impressive play but has failed to come away with many full three point results. So far the Loons have a 2W-3D-2L record to show for all their entertaining play. A number of late goal concessions have cost Minnesota valuable points and the club has a slim grasp of the final playoff spot on the combined table.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

The Rowdies will hit the road for the Coastal Cup for the first time this year. They hold a three point lead over the Strikers with only a few games left between the Florida based NASL teams. This will be the last regular season meeting between the historic rivals.

Tampa Bay has turned its fortunes around since the Strikers trounced them 3-1 at home just two weeks ago. Head coach Thomas Rongen has adjusted has reinserted defensive midfielder Marcelo Saragosa and the move has paid off well with a win and draw in the last two matches.

Fort Lauderdale is searching for that edge that helped them knock off the Rowdies not so long ago. Since that victory the Strikers have lost twice and drawn once. An upset win over the highly-touted New York Cosmos in Fort Lauderdale’s most recent match, but the Strikers failed to maintain a three-goal lead and conceded an equalizer in stoppage time.

Jacksonville Armada FC vs. Atlanta Silverbacks, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

The Atlanta Silverbacks have quietly mounted an impressive run up the NASL standings in the most recent weeks. The Spring Season cellar dwellers have injected several new players to great effect, such as Pedro Mendes and Junior Burgos. Both players scored in the club’s most recent matches and are showing that the impotent Atlanta attack may be a thing of the past. The Silverbacks have now scored 14 goals in eight Fall Season matches compared to seven goals in the entire 10-game Spring Season. The two matches between Atlanta and Jacksonville have been low scoring affairs, though, with the Silverbacks narrowly escaping with a 1-0 win at home on July 11.

FC Edmonton vs. Carolina RailHawks, Sunday 4 p.m. ET

The Sunday matinee between the Eddies and RailHawks could be considered the battle of the wingers as both sides field one of the best players at the position in the entire league. Carolina’s Tiyi Shipalane has been the lifeblood of so many Carolina attacks and it shows in the statistics as he leads the club in assists (4). In turn, Jamaican international Lance Laing has been one the most consistent contributors for a very inconsistent NASL side. The Eddies would no doubt be at the bottom of all the league tables of not for Laing’s six goals and six assists. Just last week Laing provided the assist that allowed the Eddies to steal a point on the road in Minnesota.