Preview NASL Week 2: Edmonton, Jacksonville Enter the Fray

Zach Steinberger in preseason match with Orlando City B IMAGE, JACKSONVILLE ARMADA

by JAKE NUTTING

After sitting out in Week 1, Edmonton and the Jacksonville will get their first taste of action in the North American Soccer League’s Spring Season this weekend. They will close out matches in Week 2 at the Armada’s new home, Hodges Stadium.

The New York Cosmos and Indy Eleven will also play their first home matches of the year. Indy is returning to Michael Carroll Stadium, while New York is playing its first match of 2017 at MCU Park in Brooklyn. (All times Eastern; home teams listed first.)

Indy Eleven vs. Puerto Rico, Saturday, 2 p.m.

Indy’s Tanner Thompson scored in his professional debut, a second-half equalizer, to spoil San Francisco’s inaugural match. The former Minnesota United attacking midfielder Ben Speas showed well in his first match for Indy, setting up Thompson and creating three other scoring chances. Michael Carroll Stadium was a fortress for the Indy during its run last year to the Spring Season title and second-place finish in the Combined Standings. The team finished unbeaten in 17 matches at home.

Puerto Rico showed composure by preventing the Cosmos from registering a shot on goal in the season opener. Ex-Rayo OKC midfielder Yuma was a positive influence in the team’s midfield, helping to control possession and shut down opposing attacks. That strengthened midfield could help Puerto Rico find more points on the road. Last year, the team had a 2W-4D-5L record away from home after beginning play in the Fall Season.

Cosmos vs. Miami FC, Saturday, 7 p.m.

The Cosmos hope a home match can improve their form after an underwhelming opener in Puerto Rico. They will certainly look to do better in the attack after not recording a shot on goal. New York has been an unstoppable force at home in its first four years in the modern era. The Cosmos have played at MCU Park twice before, winning each time.

While New York looks to attack, it is likely to have its hands full with the Miami’s stacked offense. If not for four first-half saves from North Carolina’s Bryan Sylvestre last week, Miami could have easily run away with the season opener. Instead, Miami settled for a point thanks to an opportunistic goal by former NYCFC attacker Kwadwo Poku. Stefano Pinho, the 2015 NASL Golden Boot winner, and the dynamic forward Jaime Chávez fill out the rest of Miami’s potent front line.

Defender Gabriel Farfán is suspended for the match and defender Tyler Ruthven is out injured.

Jacksonville vs. Edmonton, Sunday, 4 p.m.

Coach Mark Lowry earned high marks during his stretch in charge last year after replacing Tony Meola. The club, which is being run by the league, has had four coaches in just two seasons. This year will see the Armada rely more on younger players. Attacking midfielder Zach Steinberger has signed a deal with the team after a productive loan stint from the Houston Dynamo last year. Attackers Danny Barrow and Charles Eloundou are also likely to see more minutes. Longtime Minnesota United center back Aaron Pitchkolan will be captaining Lowry’s squad.

Edmonton returns with much of the defensive core that helped it record a league-low 21 goals conceded last year. The Eddies will be without the most important piece of that group after the exit of keeper Matt Van Oekel.