NASL Fall Week 9 Recap: Strikers Crush Indy to Jump into Playoff Picture

IMAGE, FORT LAUDERDALE STRIKERS

by JAKE NUTTING

The biggest winners out of this past week of NASL matches have to be the New York Cosmos and Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

The Cosmos were able to extend their lead in the overall standings to seven points and pulled within two of Ottawa Fury FC in the Fall standings. Ottawa, the current Fall leaders, have only scraped together two points in their last three matches.

Meanwhile, the Strikers’ road to the postseason may be paved with the broken psyche of Indy Eleven. They torched the second-year club for seven goals — the highest output in a single match this year. The victory helped the Strikers pull even with instate rival Tampa Bay on 27 points in the overall standings, but the Strikers took hold of the final postseason spot by virtue of goal differential.

Ottawa Fury FC 2-2 Tampa Bay Rowdies

The Fall Season leaders looked strong in the opening stages on Saturday against the reeling Rowdies. The Fury jumped out to a 2-0 lead through goals by Paulo Junior and Carl Haworth. Tampa Bay’s midfield and back line were on their heels trying to deal with the speed and physicality of Ottawa on the transition.

The Rowdies responded to Ottawa’s second goal in the 33rd minute only two minutes later on a set piece against the run of play. Georgi Hristov played a teasing free kick from Ottawa’s corner that bounced all the way to Romuald Peiser. The keeper punched it away, but it was put back on frame by Maicon Santos  and eventually into the net by Tamika Mkandawire.

The visitors grabbed hold of the match around the 7oth minute mark after the insertion of Darwin Espinal and Brian Shriver from the bench. Espinal tallied the equalizer in the 86th when a ball into the box was headed down into his path by Stefan Antonijevic.

Atlanta Silverbacks 1-0 FC Edmonton

Atlanta and Edmonton entered Saturday’s match even on 15 points in the Fall Season standings and that evenness showed for much of the match. The two sides traded chances on net in the first half. Atlanta’s back held together in spite of the void left by captain Simon Mensing’s suspension and Minnesota’s Matt Van Oekel was in position to thwart any threats.

The pendulum began to swing in the home team’s favor as the second half progressed. Paulo Mendes was only kept off the board by the post on a header around the 70th minute. Junior Burgos eventually tallied the winner and his third goal of the season in the 81st minute. Burgos struck a beautiful free kick that lifted over the wall and straight back down to best Van Oekel.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 7-1 Indy Eleven

The writing was on the wall from the very start in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday when the hottest forward in the NASL, Stefano Pinho, executed a perfect scissor kick to beat Indy’s keeper after only 68 seconds.

PC doubled the lead five minutes later through a penalty after being pulled down in the box.

Indy had a flash of hope in the 16th minute when Dane Richards struck on the counter attack for his third straight game with a goal, but that hope was fleeting.

Marlon Freitas got in into the scoring four minutes after Richards with a brilliant strike from 20 yards that completely froze keeper Kristian Nicht in his tracks.

The wheels really came off for the visitors in the 50th minute when right back Marco Franco received a straight red card for taking PC down.

Freitas grabbed his second of the night in the 67th minute, but it was Pinho who made Indy truly wish they never even got on the flight down to the Sunshine State. Pinho tallied goals in the 77th, 81st and 85th minute to record a second half hat trick. The four-goal outing makes Pinho the leading scorer of the league with 12 goals, two clear of second place Omar Cummings.

Jacksonville Aramada FC 0-0 San Antonio Scorpions

The unbeaten run for the Armada at home this year is no doubt impressive, but it will be pointless if the team cannot start turning those draws into wins.

Jacksonville keeper Miguel Gallardo easily had one of his best outings of the year as San Antonio applied the pressure that they failed to produce last week in the Alamo City. Gallardio thwarted two of the best scorers in the league, Omar Cummings and Billy Forbes, on what seemed like guaranteed goals. The Scorpions continue to utilize Billy Forbes in a substitute role despite the fact that the team always looks exponentially better when Forbes is on the field.

Jacksonville’s defense has been solid since conceding three goals to Tampa Bay several weeks ago, but the attack has seemingly stalled. Leading scorer Alhassane Keita was absent on Saturday. Marcos Flores started in central midfield for the first time since July 15, but the team still failed to put keeper Daniel Fernandes under enough pressure.

Both teams end the week satisfied with the point and defensive effort, but have to be wondering if the goals will show up too late for a payoff push.

New York Cosmos 3-2 Carolina RailHawks

Apparently the best medicine after a punchless 0-0 draw with Ottawa is a match up with Carolina.

The Cosmos took a quick lead in the 2nd minute when Raúl one-timed a perfect ball into tight space for Andres Flores that the midfielder promptly blasted into the net.

The visiting RailHawks eventually gained some composure and even knocked the Cosmos back to earth with a brace from Nazmi Albadawi. The first came in the 23rd minute when Tiyi Shipalane threaded a cross into the box that Albadawi redirected onto frame. Shipalane assisted on the second on the 42nd minute when he lakes a through ball into the box for Albadawi and the forward rifles the shot to the upper 90.

New York got back on level terms through a penalty by Raúl after Lucky Mkosana was pulled down by a Austin da Luz.

Carolina lost its steam midway through the second half when Daniel Scott was ejected for a forearm to the face of Mkosana in a breakaway.

After the ejection the momentum was entirely in favor of the Cosmos. Raúl failed to take he lead when he clanged another penalty off the post. The winner finally came when susbstitute Haji Wright laid off a smart pass for Mkosana in the 85th minute that the forward deftly handled from short distance.