NASL Fall Week 15 Preview: Top Six Clash as Minnesota Looks to Punch Playoff Ticket

IMAGE, MINNESOTA UNITED FC

by JAKE NUTTING

Ottawa Fury FC (37 pts Fall, 48 pts Combined) and the New York Cosmos (27, 47) have locked up two of the four postseason spots. Those two sides will likely be jockeying for the number one overall seed in the few remaining weeks, but Minnesota United FC (32, 46) is hoping to secure their playoff berth this weekend.

All the Loons need is one more point to earn their second straight playoff appearance.

Fans could be in store for some exciting matches this weekend as the top six teams in the combined standings will be pairing off. No one can afford to take their foot off the accelerator this weekend, or they risk losing pace in this year’s unpredictable end of season push.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies (15, 34) are hosting Ottawa, who are still looking to clinch the Fall Season crown. Meanwhile, FC Edmonton (25, 34) and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (23, 34) will need to pull out huge road results in New York and Minnesota to make any headway in the battle for the coveted final playoff spot.

Carolina RailHawks vs. Indy Eleven, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

The RailHawks went on hiatus during last week’s round of NASL action and are hoping that the rest can help them right their season while the faintest of hope for the postseason still remains. Carolina’s slide down the standings in the back half of the year is due in large part to the club allowing 32 goals during the Fall Season, the most of anyone in the NASL. The back line will once again be comprised of a new combination as Futty Danso is off with the Gambian national team. The club did, however, add defensive depth with the signing of Alex Perez before the break.

International absences will also take a chunk out of Jacksonville’s revitalized lineup. Attacker Pascal Millien and center back Mechack Jerome will be with the Haitian national team this weekend. Jerome would’ve missed Saturday’s match anyway as a result of his red card last weekend. A three point result for either side would keep their postseason dream alive, while effectively eliminating the loser.

Indy Eleven vs. San Antonio Scorpions, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

Indy and San Antonio are the other two clubs desperately trying to claw their way back into serious playoff consideration. Buoyed by the return of Dylan Mares, Indy was sturdy, if not overly impressive, in their pair of 1-1 road draws last week. So far, the club from the Circle City is tied for second fewest goals scored in the Fall Season, with only 16 tallies from 16 matches. San Antonio is on the opposite side of the spectrum. The Scorpions have netted 25 goals from the Fall campaign but have struggled to remain a playoff threat as they have conceded 31 goals.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Ottawa Fury FC, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

The Rowdies are back at home this weekend where they have taken seven points from their last three contests. The problem for the Rowdies, though, is that the hottest team in the league will lining up against them at Al Lang. The Fury have won four straight and are unbeaten in their last eight matches. The league leaders are clicking on both sides of the ball, scoring 14 goals and allowing only four during their recent unbeaten run. Tom Heinemann and Siniša Ubiparipović have been excellent in the club’s attacking surge in recent weeks.

Tampa Bay will be without regular left back Ben Sweat for the second time in three matches after his ejection last weekend. The club added some defensive help in the form of Willie Hunt, who was with them last year, to provide some cover for the final four matches. Hunt is a versatile defender that can be plugged into several areas to possibly allow Darnel King to remain up on the right wing.

Minnesota United FC vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Saturday 8 p.m. ET

If the Loons can clinch their postseason berth with a win or draw, they will take a little satisfaction in knowing that they will severely endanger the playoff hopes of the club that unceremoniously knocked them out in last year’s semifinal. A draw for the Strikers would not be a disaster, but an outright defeat could hurt them in the race for fourth. Luckily for the South Florida side, they have had great success in their last two trips up to the Twin Cities. Apart from last year’s semifinal victory, the Strikers also dispatched the Loons 3-2 in this year’s Spring Season finale. Minnesota may have finally gotten that particular monkey off their back, though, with a thorough 5-2 victory over Fort Lauderdale only a few weeks ago.

If playoff implications aren’t enough to entice fans, then the fact that the league’s two leading scorers will be suiting up for this match should. Fort Lauderdale’s Stefano Pinho is the pacesetter with 15, but Minnesota’s Christian Ramirez still has an outside shot at catching the Brazilian in the Golden Boot race with 11 goals of his own.

New York Cosmos vs. FC Edmonton, Sunday 5 p.m. ET

The Cosmos will be in no hurry to give up the second place spot in the combined standings that they just earned on Wednesday night in a strong 3-0 outing against Atlanta. The two most experienced veterans, Raul and Marcos Senna, were held out of that weeknight bout, and the players who started in their stead did more than pick up the slack. Cosmos supporters were finally able to breathe a little sigh of relief as the club scored multiple goals for the first time in over a month and forward Gaston Cellerino finally managed to notch his first goal since joining earlier in the Fall Season.

Edmonton will be without Lance Laing for the match. Laing is the man who scored the first goal in their recent 2-1 win over the Cosmos and he also happens to lead the Eddies in goals and assists. Along with Laing, international call ups also leave the Eddies without Sainey Nyassi and Hanson Boakai. The Canadian side will likely need an impactful game from its second leading scorer, Tomi Ameobi, who has been working his way back to full match fitness over the past month.

  • smurf040

    Good luck my beloved club!