NASL Fall Week 14 Preview: Too Close to Call

IMAGE, MINNESOTA UNITED FC

by JAKE NUTTING

The NASL has entered the final month of the regular season and not a single spot on the table has been locked up. The only guarantee so far is that the New York Cosmos (23 pts Fall, 43 pts Combined) will be one of the top two seeds in the postseason. Everything else is completely up for grabs.

Even Ottawa Fury FC (34, 45) cannot rest on their laurels in either the Fall or combined standings as Minnesota United FC (29, 43) and Cosmos are chomping at the bit to overtake the current league-leaders.

Indy Eleven (12, 25), Jacksonville Armada FC (14, 26), the San Antonio Scorpions (14, 26) and Carolina RailHawks (12, 26) are all extreme long shots for the final playoff spot, but hot and cold Fall Seasons from FC Edmonton (25, 34), Tampa Bay Rowdies (14, 33), Fort Lauderdale Strikers (20, 31) and Atlanta Silverbacks (22, 30) have left the bottom of the NASL barrel with the faintest whiff of hope – with only October left to play out.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Indy Eleven, Wednesday 7:30 p.m.

On paper, the Rowdies should have the upper hand on Indy Eleven in this weeknight matchup. However, Indy’s status as the cellar dweller in both the Fall and combined standings doesn’t weigh that heavily against them when you consider that the Rowdies just lost out to last week’s last place team. Indy has been idle for nearly two weeks now and, coincidentally, the last time they took such a break they came back and defeated the Rowdies 2-0. That loss on August 19th was the last match under former head coach Thomas Rongen. The Rowdies are still desperate for some consistency in the results under new coach Stuart Campbell as they push for a playoff spot.

Jacksonville Armada FC vs. Indy Eleven, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

Indy will stick around the Sunshine State and travel a few hours north to take on the Armada in their home fortress. Jacksonville may not be meeting expectations in the standings, but the club has still managed to survive its debut season mostly unscathed at home. Their only home loss so far this year was against Carolina back in May. Interim coach Eric Dade will have a chance to test out his new defensive philosophy against an Indy Eleven squad that embarrassed Jacksonville 3-0 on September 5th. Both Indy and Jacksonville rank at the bottom of the NASL when it comes to goals conceded, allowing 39 and 38 goals respectively.

Minnesota United FC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies, 8 p.m. ET

The Rowdies have a tall task trying to remedy their road form against the Loons, who are eager to take their shot at the Fall Season crown, as well as the top spot in the overall standings. Minnesota demolished Fort Lauderdale 5-2 to bring their league-leading goal total to 47 — nine more than the second place Cosmos and Strikers. The stakes are high for both sides in the match, but it would seem like a major upset if the Rowdies were to take down the Loons, who are riding a nine-game unbeaten streak into the weekend. Minnesota has dropped only one match at home this year and Tampa Bay’s lone win away from Al Lang Stadium came in week one of the Spring Season.

Cosmos-ad-banner

San Antonio Scorpions vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Saturday 8:30 p.m. ET

The red hot Strikers took a dip in form in the month of September, but they still find themselves in the thick of the playoff chase. The main man behind the club’s rise up the standings earlier in the Fall Season, Stefano Pinho, has been shut out in four straight matches. The forward still leads the league with 12 goals, but Minnesota’s Christian Ramirez is closing in on him and the Strikers need him to catch fire once again. The Scorpions will be hoping to ride the momentum of their two-goal rally in the final 10 minutes against Atlanta in to this week so they can keep their slim chance at a playoff spot alive.

Ottawa Fury FC vs. FC Edmonton, Saturday 3 p.m. ET

The two teams that combined to knock the Cosmos out of the top spot in the overall standings will face off in the Canadian capital. Edmonton has the unenviable task of immediately defending its tenuous playoff position against a seemingly invincible Ottawa side. The Fury have only lost once in their last 20 matches and are coming home after winning three straight on the road by a combined score of 9-2. The Eddies pose a stiff threat themselves, though, having posted three straight wins. Fans could be in for a defensive slugfest as the previous league battles between the two this year ended as a scoreless draw and a narrow 1-0 win for Ottawa. The Fury still have everything to play for with Minnesota breathing down their neck in both tables.

New York Cosmos vs. Atlanta Silverbacks, Sunday 5 p.m. ET

After resting a number of starters last Sunday against Edmonton, the Cosmos should be recharged and ready to go for their Sunday bout with the Silverbacks. The match will be the start of another three-match week for the Cosmos, who are looking to fight their way back into first place in the overall standings. New York had to settle for a scoreless draw in their only previous encounter with the resilient Silverbacks. Atlanta has rebounded nicely after a dismal Spring Season, but like many NASL teams, they’ve struggled at producing a consistent run of positive results. Atlanta let a golden opportunity slip away last week when they gave up a two-goal lead on the road with 10 minutes remaining.

  • I spent a month one night in the Canadian Capitol.

  • Tom

    Two Sunday matches, battle of the Canadian clubs will be interesting, the Eddies need this more than the Ottawa Fury with the Strikers and Rowdies breathing down their neck for the last spot in the NASL’s Soccer Bowl Championship.