NASL Fall Week 15 Recap: Loons Playoff Bound, Rowdies, Cosmos Improve Table Position

IMAGE, MINNESOTA UNITED FC

by JAKE NUTTING

The top half of the NASL combined table clashed this weekend and the results were decidedly in favor of the clubs in the top three spots of the table.

Minnesota United FC (35 pts Fall, 49 pts Combined) and the New York Cosmos (30, 50) handled their business with decisive wins at home. The victorious Loons were rewarded with a guaranteed spot in the postseason, while the Cosmos regained a lead in the race for home field advantage throughout the postseason.

Ottawa Fury FC (38, 49) didn’t lose its match, but a dramatic late equalizer to the Tampa Bay Rowdies (16, 35) leaves the club behind the Cosmos in the combined standings for the first time in a few weeks. However, the Fury still have three matches remaining on the schedule, while the Cosmos are left with only two.

As the only team to survive the top half battle, Tampa Bay now has sole possession of the fourth and final playoff spot in the combined standings. That lead is an awfully precarious one, though, as the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (23, 34) has a game in hand and a nearly insurmountable goal differential lead on the Rowdies. And in spite of getting shelled by the Cosmos, FC Edmonton (25, 34) is by no means out of the running yet.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-1 Ottawa Fury FC

Ottawa stuck with their tried and true formula that has carried them to the top of the standings in the NASL. The Canadian side ceded most of the possession to their hosts, but closed down any channels in the final third and easily knocked any crosses that made their way into the box. And as they have done so many times this year, the Fury jumped out to a lead against the run of play with one of the few chances they created. Leading scorer Tommy Heinemann notched his eighth of the year minutes before halftime when he collected a blocked shot and took a low shot that deflected off a teammate and past the keeper.

Tampa Bay struggled to recuperate after going down a goal, and eventually down a man when Darnell King was ejected in the 77th minute for a second yellow. The Rowdies battled back though, and were able to steal a point in the 88th minute through a brilliant chip over the back line from Freddy Adu, and an equally brilliant finish from Brian Shriver.

Carolina RailHawks 3-0 Jacksonville Armada FC

Carolina came out of their off week with an emphatic win that is, in all likelihood, too late in the season. The RailHawks were able to run roughshod over the Armada on the back of regular star Tiyi Shipalane, but also on the backs of three recent additions. Forward Daniel Jackson, right back Steven Miller and holding midfielder Alex Perez all had stellar outings in their debuts.

The recent signings all contributed greatly on Saturday, but it was Nazmi Albadawi who was the star of the scoresheet. Albadawi provided the assist on Shipalane’s opening goal in the 35th minute, and he followed up with two goals of his own in the 42nd and 90th minutes.

From Jacksonville’s perspective the match is the first loss under Interim Coach Eric Dade, but it is an all too familiar result on the road. The first year club now holds 12 losses and two draws in all matches away from home.

San Antonio Scorpions 2-1 Indy Eleven

As they have many times this year, the Scorpions successfully jumped out to a lead against the run of play with a well executed counter attack. Marvin Chavez sprung Giuseppe Gentile on a breakaway in the 19th minute and the attacker made no mistake picking his spot on the far post to beat the keeper. Indy was able to equalize through a chaotic sequence in the 69th minute. Marvin Ceballos was swarmed by several San Antonio defenders and the keeper six yards from goal, yet the ball somehow popped up and floated to an unmarked Dylan Mares in front of goal for a tap in finish. San Antonio  regained the lead only 10 minutes later when Chavez provided his second assist. Kris Tyrpak was the finisher this time, notching his second goal in as many appearances for his new club.

Minnesota United FC 2-1 Fort Lauderdale Strikers

With the knowledge of a playoff spot only one point away, Minnesota came out swinging at home against Fort Lauderdale. Kevin Venegas fed a perfect cross to the left side for his fellow fullback Justin Davis, who penetrated into the box before sliding the ball across goal. Keeper David Meves dove to nullify the cross, but his deflection fell to the ready and waiting feet of Pablo Campos for a simple tap in. Campos turned around and provided a rare assist on the eventual game winner through a cut back pass to the center of the box for Daniel Mendes in the 27th minute.

The Strikers were finally able to mount some pressure on the Loons in the second half. They cut the lead to one when PC one-timed a cross from Stefano Pinho between the keeper’s head and the crossbar. The visitor’s second half rally came up short, however, and the Loons celebrated a playoff berth in front of their home supporters.

New York Cosmos 3-0 FC Edmonton

The Cosmos did their best to prove that Wednesday’s 3-0 result over Atlanta was no fluke by earning the same scoreline against the visiting Eddies.

Edmonton was able to maintain its shape through the opening half hour of Sunday’s match, but they could only hold on for so long before the massive amount of chasing they were forced to do wore them out. Sebastian Guenzatti opened the scoring for New York in the 37th minute when he placed a driven shot to the far post. Raul doubled the lead with his seventh of the year one minute before halftime by blasting a corner to the far post on frame that Matt Van Oekel was unable to handle.

New York’s domination only became more apparent in the second half, but they were unable to score again until substitute Ruben Bover scored what has to be a goal of the year candidate. The youngster intercepted a botched clearance in the 85th minute and penetrated down the right side of the box. As a defender came to close him down, Bover struck a ball with so much backspin that it dipped back under the crossbar and clanged off the inside of the far post before crossing the line.