NASL Fall Week 11 Recap: Too Close for Comfort

STEVE KINGSMAN/OTTAWA FURY FC

by JAKE NUTTING

Ottawa Fury FC’s lead in the Fall Season standings (Fall 25 pts, 36 pts Combined) no longer qualifies as a “comfortable” one.

The club’s ninth draw of the year, coupled with wins from the New York Cosmos (Fall 22 pts, 42 pts Combined) and Minnesota United FC (Fall 22 pts, Combined 36 pts) means the gap has shrunk to only three points with eight games remaining for all three clubs. Coincidentally, all three clubs have nine draws under their belts this year, the most in the NASL.

Below the three league leaders is a whole lot of jostling. FC Edmonton (19 pts Fall, 28 pts Combined) knocked off the Tampa Bay Rowdies (11 pts Fall, 30 pts Combined) with a narrow 1-0 result to pull within two points of the final playoff spot. Fort Lauderdale, riding a six-game unbeaten streak, is also within two points of the Rowdies for the final spot.

The points congestion extends even further. The San Antonio Scorpions and Indy Eleven (9th and 10th respectively in the Combined standings) are only five points back of the fourth postseason spot.

Ottawa Fury FC 0-0 Fort Lauderdale Strikers

The Fall Season leaders had a stiff challenge trying to stymie the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in their first match since dismantling Indy 7-1. In the end, Fury keeper Romuald Peiser only had to make three saves, but they were all skillful ones and his defenders were there to back him up with goal line clearances twice. The shutout was Peiser’s 11th of the season.

The stadium erupted with shouts for a penalty when Tom Heinemann was noticeably dragged down in the box in the second half. The referee swallowed his whistle, though, and Ottawa was left grasping for offensive answers. Former Fort Lauderdale Striker Aly Alberto Hassan entered the match late and had a header that got past the entire defense, but it bounced a foot wide of the empty net.

New York Cosmos 1-0 Jacksonville Armada FC

A steady 90 minute downpour couldn’t dampen the intensity level between these two sides that have played close contests all year. The Armada played well above their station in the opening half and went toe-to-toe with the league leaders. Jacksonville’s Tyler Williams squandered a golden opportunity to give his side an early lead by lifting an empty-net sitter well over the frame.

That missed chance came back to bite the Armada when defender Lucas Trejo was shown a straight red card after his boot met the face of Lucky Mkosana early in the second half. The Cosmos took the man advantage and began to ratchet up the pressure on the visitors. Raul was the man to break through in the 74th minute when he received a ball in the box and dummied two defenders before rifling shot into the net.

Minnesota United FC 3-1 Carolina RailHawks

It wasn’t according to script, but Minnesota managed to take a bit of business against the reeling RailHawks. Carolina jumped out to a surprising lead only four minutes into the match when Futty Danso redirected a corner from Tiyi Shipalane into the net. The visitors seized the momentum after the early tally and controlled the flow for much of the first half. Loons keeper Sammy Ndjock was forced to make several crucial saves to keep the deficit at one.

The Loons rally kick started oddly enough after the ejection of head coach Manny Lagos for stepping on the field to argue with the referee. Minutes after the ejection, the Loons were gifted an equalizer through a Daniel Scott own goal. The winner came shortly after in the 76th minute when Christian Ramirez headed a ball into the path of substitute Pablo Campos, who promptly buried his shot past the keeper. Kevin Venegas added an insurance goal on his own in the 81st by dribbling through a crowd of defenders and slipping a shot past the keeper.

San Antonio Scorpions 2-0 Indy Eleven

The promise of Indy’s attack in the 3-0 win over Jacksonville last week was dashed away in the Alamo City on Saturday. Dane Richards was the lone man probing for goals on the night, but his efforts were always just wide or thwarted by keeper Daniel Fernandes.

San Antonio had more success relying on one man to handle its scoring. Captain Rafael Castillo recorded a brace on the night to give his team a taste of victory after the disappointing shootout draw with Carolina on Wednesday. Castillo scored first in stoppage time by converting a penalty he drew when keeper Keith Cardona crashed into him on a ball into the box. Castillo extended the lead halfway through the second half when Bill Forbes played a ball from the left flank that split two defenders and Castillo one-timed between the keeper and the near post.

FC Edmonton 1-0 Tampa Bay Rowdies

The Eddies were able to grab an early lead in the 16th minute through a superb volley from Captain Albert Watson from a corner kick. The Rowdies snapped out of their lethargy shortly after and began to build their own momentum. Unfortunately for the visitors, all their possession amounted to little to no shots on frame. Juan Guerra managed a clever curling shot from distance that beat keeper, Matt Van Oekel but was denied by the top left corner of the frame. Other than that one scary moment, Van Oekel never had to sweat in the second half. High-profile signing Freddy Adu made his much anticipated return to the gameday roster, but head coach Stuart Campbell elected to insert three other offensive minded players over Adu when the Rowdies were chasing after a goal.