NASL Fall Week 8 Preview: Teams Looking to Make Up Ground During Ottawa’s Off Week

IMAGE, FC EDMONTON

by JAKE NUTTING
NASL Writer

With Fall Season Leader Ottawa Fury FC sitting out the weekend, clubs across the league will be hoping to make up as much ground as possible in the standings. Edmonton can pull within one point of the Fury if they can claim victory over the visiting Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Atlanta can pull within two points if they knock off the struggling Indy Eleven.

In the combined points battle, Minnesota and Tampa Bay will face off in a match that will likely prove crucial in determining the shape of the playoffs. The two sides are even on 26 points in the third and fourth playoff spots, but the streaking Minnesota is ahead on tiebreakers. Tampa Bay has a midweek battle in Indy, though, so the Rowdies may be heading into the weekend already back out front or desperate to hold ground. The Eddies could also overtake either the Loons or Rowdies in the combined standings if they are victorious as they are only two points back.

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

The Rowdies are in a more advantageous position in the combined standings than Indy, but when it comes to the Fall Season, the two sides are in the midst of seriously troubling runs. Indy losing four of its last five matches has the team dead last in the Fall standings with five points. The Rowdies meanwhile have only mustered one win in their last six matches and are in danger of dropping out of the playoff picture for the first time in a long while.

When Tampa Bay and Indy last met, they combined for one of the most bizarre matches of the year. First there was a lightning delay of over three hours, which was followed by the Rowdies losing three players to red card ejection on the way to letting a one goal lead slip away in the eighth minute of stoppage time.

Atlanta Silverbacks vs. Indy Eleven, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

After squaring off with Tampa Bay, Indy must travel to Atlanta to face the surprising Fall Season contenders. A narrow 1-0 defeat on the road in Jacksonville saw the Silverbacks lose their second place spot in the Fall standings to Edmonton, but Gary Smith’s squad is only one point back of the Eddies and remains one of the few threats to Ottawa’s title run.

Atlanta and Indy recently matched up on August 1st and the Silverbacks escaped that road game with a 1-0 defeat through an early Pedro Mendes goal. Neither side has been a consistent offensive threat so far in the season, although the Silverbacks have turned their attacking fortunes around in small spurts in the Fall.

Carolina RailHawks vs. New York Cosmos, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

The Cosmos always seem to struggle when they travel to Carolina, but this weekend may be a perfect chance for the combined points leaders to notch a victory at WakeMed Soccer Park. The RailHawks are coming off one of the worst weeks in the history of the franchise, losing 3-0 to both Jacksonville and Edmonton. While the attack has clearly hit a stumbling block, the defense is finding life in the NASL difficult after the retirement of defender Wes Knight.

New York got off to a sluggish start in the Fall Season, but three wins in their recent five-game unbeaten streak has the Spring Season champions squarely back in contention or the Fall title. The club has regained its spot atop the combined points standings and now sits in fifth place on the Fall table.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Minnesota United FC, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

The match with the biggest impact on the playoff race this weekend will take place in St. Petersburg when the streaking Loons square off with the straggling Rowdies. Minnesota overtook Tampa Bay for third place by virtue of tiebreakers in the combined points standings after their dramatic victory over Ottawa and Tampa Bay’s lackluster defeat to Fort Lauderdale.

The previous match between the two sides yielded a fairly exciting 0-0 draw early in the Spring Season. That scoreline is highly unlikely to repeat itself considering the current forms of the teams. The Rowdies have suddenly become one of the leakiest defenses in the league with 13 goals conceded in only seven Fall Season matches. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s attack has begun to click in recent months and last year’s leading scorer, Christian Ramirez is on an incredible scoring streak, scoring a goal in seven straight matches.

San Antonio Scorpions vs. Jacksonville Armada FC, Saturday 8:30 p.m. ET

Jacksonville rebounded quickly last week with two straight home victories, but the expansion team will need to improve its road form if it hopes to stay alive in the playoff hunt. The expansion team will be traveling to Texas for the first time this weekend to take on the cellar dwelling Scorpions. San Antonio sits second to last in the Fall Season standings (5 pts) and dead last in the combined points standings (17 pts).

This weekend’s match in the Alamo City could prove to be a high scoring affair considering the attacking prowess that will be taking the field against less than stellar defenses. Jacksonville has conceded 13 goals to San Antonio’s whopping 18. In turn both sides boast some of the best attackers in the league, including the Armada’s Alhassane Keita (6 goals) and San Antonio’s league-leading scorer Omar Cummings (10 goals).

FC Edmonton vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Sunday 4 p.m. ET

Head coach Gunter Kronsteiner has found some quick success since returning to Fort Lauderdale during the midsummer break. However, most of that success has come exclusively against the rival Tampa Bay Rowdies. Kronsteiner’s only two wins since retaking the wheel have come against the instate foes and the club has struggled to assert itself against out of state competition. He’ll have to remedy that situation promptly as the Strikers are making the longest road trip in the NASL to take on FC Edmonton for Sunday’s matinee.

Edmonton have been making the most the fresh start offered in the Fall Season and find themselves as the biggest threat to Ottawa running away with the Fall title. The Eddies sit alone in second place in the Fall standings, only four points back from Ottawa. Pivotal attackers Lance Laing and Tomi Ameobi are coming off their best games of the Fall Season after missing action for international duty and injury respectively. Laing and Ameobi each scored in the team’s 3-0 win over Carolina and were constant pests to the opposition’s back line.