NASL Fall Week 2 Preview: Winners Hit Road, Minnesota Looks for Signs of Life, more

IMAGE, OTTAWA FURY FC

by JAKE NUTTING
NASL Beat Writer

All four of the winning teams in the opening weekend of the NASL Fall Season – the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Ottawa Fury FC, FC Edmonton and Carolina RailHawks – will face a road test in this round of action.

The current Fall leaders, FC Edmonton, make the biggest trek for their match with Fort Lauderdale. The Eddies do not have the best history when it comes to getting positive results in Florida and are again facing numerous absences.

The New York Cosmos are off this weekend and currently occupy the second place spot on the combined points table. With a one point lead over the Cosmos, the Rowdies would love to create some breathing room at the top of the table by pouncing on the wounded San Antonio Scorpions.

Carolina will be traveling to Indy Eleven on short rest after playing the first Wednesday night match of the Fall, which is something that may become a huge factor as the season progresses.

Meanwhile, Minnesota United FC is in search of any sign of positivity as they host Ottawa, who are on a historic defensive run and finally displayed some attacking prowess in the Fall opener.

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

Atlanta and Jacksonville are two teams desperate for a full three point result. The Silverbacks last win came all the way back on April 18 and the Armada are only slightly better, with their last win coming on May 9.

Silverbacks head coach Gary Smith is getting an influx of talent this weekend in hopes of lifting his team from the bottom of the points table. The club announced the departure of right back and leading assist man Kyle Miller, but also recently revealed the addition of defenders Kosuke Kimura and Mohammed Bin Issahaku, midfielders Junior Burgos and Paulo Mendes, as well as forward Pedro Mendes. Paulo Mendes and Issahaku still need to clear international paperwork, but the rest of the signings will all be available for Saturday’s match.

Jacksonville is hoping that scoring will not be as difficult without Pascal Millien as it seemed last week against Ottawa. Even though their leading scorer is away on Gold Cup duty, Jacksonville has a good chance at getting on the board if they apply the same pressure as last week. Back up keeper C.J. Cochran showed signs of vulnerability when pressured by the Rowdies last week.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. FC Edmonton, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

Edmonton got a reprieve in the Fall Season opener when winger Lance Laing was able to delay his Gold Cup departure and stick around to score two goals in the club’s 4-0 drubbing of San Antonio. Laing won’t be suiting up this week, though, and key Spring offensive contributors Tomi Ameobi and Daryl Fordyce are still sidelined with injury. Head coach Colin Miller will turn to 20-year-old forward Sadi Jalali again after the youngster recorded his first goal of the year in the opening minutes of last week.

Spirits in the stands of the Strikers’ home venue should be pretty high at the start of Saturday’s affair. It will be beloved coach Gunter Kronsteiner’s first home match since he re-signed with the club during the midseason break. The squad will be coming off short rest after playing the first Wednesday night match of the Fall Season. There was no immediate sign of improvement in play from the players after the coaching change, but they certainly showed some fight by coming back to draw with Carolina on the road.

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

Relatively speaking, Indy and Carolina are two of the hottest teams in the NASL. Carolina’s current six-game unbeaten streak bests Indy, but the Midwestern side is unbeaten in all four matches since interim head coach Tim Regan took over. Indy will need to get a result without Regan on the sideline this weekend, though, after his ejection in the dying minutes of the 1-1 draw with New York.

The RailHawks may be at a disadvantage of their own having just played on Wednesday night in a match that they should have won comfortably, but ended up drawing. However, leading scorers Ty Shipalane and Nacho Novo should be healthy and ready to go for Saturday. Novo only played three minutes and stoppage time as a substitute in the draw with Fort Lauderdale.

Minnesota United FC vs. Ottawa Fury FC, Saturday 8 p.m. ET

Ottawa is flying high coming into this weekend’s action. Minnesota? Not so much.

The Fury, led by Romuald Peiser is in the midst of a 616 minute shutout streak, which has shattered the previous modern (397, Kistian Nicht – Indy Eleven) and original (473, Jack Brand – Seattle Sounders) NASL shutout records. Ottawa also scored multiple goals for the first time all year in their 2-0 win over Jacksonville in the Fall Season opener.

The Loons may be even with Ottawa on points in the combined table, but they are far from even when it comes to current form or living up to expectations. Perhaps an outing in front of the home crowd is what the club needs to stop the slide down the table after an underwhelming loss at Carolina. Kevin Venegas showed flashes in his first match as creative midfielder since the departure of Miguel Ibarra, but the club did not produce nearly enough to quality chances against the RailHawks. Venegas needs help in the attack and the defense needs to be much more organized and intense if the Loons are going to remain one of the top teams.

San Antonio Scorpions vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies, Saturday 8:30 p.m. ET

After taking sole possession of first place on the table since April, the Tampa Bay Rowdies face their first road test of the Fall Season. The Rowdies have been stellar at home all year, but were less impressive on the road in the Spring, posting a 1W-1L-3D record. Head coach Thomas Rongen selecting the same midfield and starters in the past three matches, though, may be a key to improving the club’s away form. Forming a consistent lineup has been Rongen’s primary concern this year because it should, logically, breed more consistent play on the field, regardless of venue.

San Antonio is returning home licking some serious wounds. The club was blanked on the socresheet and also conceded it highest amount of goals all year (4). Head coach Alen Marcina will also need to overcome the absence of keeper Daryl Sattler and defender Nana Attakora due to red card suspension. Former Rowdies defender Brad Rusin is a likely replacement for Attakora and rookie Matt Cardone will mind the net in his second start of the year. Beyond Cardone, though, the Scorpions have no available keepers listed on the roster. The team has not revealed how they will handle the backup situation for Saturday.