NASL Week 8 Recap: Spring Field Narrows to Four

IMAGE, MINNESOTA UNITED FC

by JAKE NUTTING
NASL Beat Writer

After a scare in Carolina last week, the New York Cosmos returned to form at home against the San Antonio Scorpions with an emphatic three points, eliminating five other NASL clubs from the Spring title race in the process. Fort Lauderdale was the sixth team to be eliminated when they dropped three points at home to Carolina.

So after eight weeks of NASL action, only the Cosmos, Minnesota United, the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Jacksonville Armada remain in the race for the Spring championship. The fourth place Armada (10 pts.) are a major long shot to win the title with only nine possible points left on the schedule for them.

The Rowdies (12 pts.) sit in third place, behind Minnesota on goal differential. One more victory from the Cosmos (18 pts.) in their remaining two matches would virtually eliminate the Rowdies from the Spring Championship.

On Saturday, Minnesota United became the first team to win three straight matches this year. Even with such terrific momentum on their side, their possible path to overcoming the Cosmos seems insurmountable. Two goals conceded against the Armada this weekend put the Cosmos goal differential essentially out of reach, so the Loons will likely have to take it outright by winning the rest of their fixtures and hoping for a Cosmos loss in the final week of the Spring season.

Ottawa Fury FC 1-0 Indy Eleven

Two of the most woeful scoring teams continued their unfortunate struggles again on Saturday afternoon. True chances on net were few and far between for both teams in the match; Ottawa had three efforts on goal to Indy’s one.

The game was back and forth for much of the first half and the first shot on goal came from the visitors when Brad Ring forced keeper Romuald Peiser to make a save on a shot from a tight angle. And only two minutes later, Indy had to take midfielder Sergio Pena off the field due to a leg injury.

Despite the loss of Pena, Indy held control of the ball for much of the second half until the final 10 minutes when Ottawa charged back. The winner came in the 88th minute after an attempted clearance deflected off Ottawa’s Sinisa Ubiparipovic and fell to substitute Nicki Paterson. The midfielder buried his shot into the top corner with conviction to seal Ottawa’s first victory since week three against Minnesota.

New York Cosmos 3-0 San Antonio Scorpions

The Cosmos extended their unbeaten streak in convincing fashion over the visiting Scorpions. Even with Marcos Senna sidelined with a hamstring injury from last week’s match, the Cosmos were dominant on both sides of the ball.

New York’s back line put in another superb performance to quell San Antonio’s dangerous attackers and help keeper Jimmy Maurer earn his 18th clean sheet in a Cosmos shirt – a new NASL modern era record.

The home side got on the board in the 18th minute when former Cosmo Joseph Nane was whistled for a foul on Lucky Mkosana in the box. Raul slotted the penalty into the net to take the early lead and bring his 2015 goal tally to three.

The final two goals came for New York in the final 10 minutes of the match. In the 81st minute, Roversio beat keeper Daryl Sattler by getting a head on a magnificent free kick from Ayoze. And then in the 86th minute, Raul lofted a cross to Mkosana, whose attempted header was redirected onto net by midfielder Leo Fernandes.

Carolina Railhawks 1-0 Fort Lauderdale Strikers

The once promising Strikers attack has hit a major snag over the past month of NASL action. Saturday was Fort Lauderdale’s third straight scoreless effort — a big reason why the Strikers now find themselves in the bottom half of the table.

A big factor in this week’s attacking impotence, though, was Carolina’s Akira Fitzgerald. The longtime Railhawk arrived on loan from New York City FC earlier this week and, despite not playing a single competitive minute in 2015, looked like he hadn’t lost a single step. The keeper made six huge saves to stymie the Strikers, including a point blank save on a sure goal after a horrendous Carolina turnover.

Carolina’s most consistent contributor, Ty Shipalane, came through once again to net the game winner just before the halftime whistle. Midfielder Wells Thompson delivered a beautiful ball into the box that Shipalane chested down for forward Nacho Novo. Shipalane slashed toward goal and Novo played it back to him with a nifty back-heel and the winger managed to convert the chance despite keeper Lionel Brown getting contact on the shot.

Minnesota United FC 3-2 Jacksonville Armada FC

Two of the most potent attacks in the league played to surprising scoreless stalemate in the first half of Saturday’s match in Minnesota. The crowd of 9,012 got their money’s worth in the second half though, with both teams combining for a total five goals.

The Loons managed to take a two goal lead in the span of only five minutes. In the 53rd minute, a penalty was awarded to the home side when Kalf Alhassan was tripped up in the box. Pablo Campos capped off that easy chance. The second goal was scored on controversial terms. An Armada defender scuffed an attempted clearance that fell to Tiago Calvano for a simple tap-in. Calvano was initially flagged for offside, but after a discussion between the referee and his assistant, the goal was allowed.

Jacksonville bounced back in the 71st minute after fortuitous deflections in Minnesota’s penalty area fell to Pascal Millien, whose shot was just enough to beat an outstretched Sammy Ndjock.

Miguel Ibarra extended Minnesota’s lead only five minutes later, though, when Campos played a clever chip over the Armada’s back line to find Ibarra running at full pace toward goal. Keeper David Sierra rushed off his line to close down Ibarra, but the midfielder calmly parried the ball past him for the goal.

The visitors pulled one back to make matters interesting in the 83rd minute off of a perfect free kick goal from Jemal Johnson, but the equalizer eluded them.

FC Edmonton 4-2 Atlanta Silverbacks

The sturdy damn that is the Atlanta Silverbacks defense was blown apart in Edmonton on Sunday afternoon. The Eddies were only one goal shy of matching the total number of goals that the Silverbacks back line had conceded all year heading into the match.

Edmonton’s star winger Lance Laing was the man to kick off the flow if goals in the 41st on a powerful free kick to beat a diving Steward Ceus.

The home side would score two more unanswered goals in the 54th and 66th minutes. Ritchie Jones finished off a simple header when forward lofted a header across goal off of a Laing cross. 12 minutes later, Daryl Fordyce got a free kick goal of his own when he sent in a low shot to the near post that Ceus was unable to handle.

The bright side of the afternoon for Atlanta was that its typically tame attack was more lively than usual in the second half. They were able to pull two goals back, both from headers, one from Jamie Chavez in the 76th minute and another in the 88th by Christopher Christian. The Silverbacks may have been able to find an equalizer if not for Edmonton keeper John Smits making several crucial saves in the second half.

The final blow was struck by the head of Edmonton’s Kareem Moses in the 85th minute. Fans will need to savor the victory. Due to the Women’s World Cup this summer, the Eddies won’t another home game at Clarke Stadium until July 26th.