NASL Fall Week 3 Preview: Tumbling Jacksonville Finally Returns Home, More

IMAGE, MINNESOTA UNITED FC

by JAKE NUTTING
NASL Beat Writer

The third weekend of the NASL Fall Season begins with an unlikely team atop the table.

FC Edmonton has overcome a depleted roster and two away deficits to remain unbeaten in three matches, with a one point lead over the rest of the league. They face combined points leader Tampa Bay in one of the marquee match ups of the weekend.

After sitting out last week, the New York Cosmos reenter the fray with a seemingly easy fixture against the reeling Jacksonville Armada FC.

Minnesota United FC is following up its convincing 4-0 victory over Jacksonville on Wednesday with a bye from league action. However, the club will be hosting a friendly with former start winger Miguel Ibarra’s new side León of Liga MX on Saturday night.

Carolina RailHawks vs. San Antonio Scorpions, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

The RailHawks return home hoping to quickly right the ship after having their six-game unbeaten streak snapped in Indy. The main engine to the club’s attack Tiyi Shipalane is questionable after exiting that Indy match with an early injury. Injuries have nagged the RailHawks all season, but the good news is that midfielder Austin da Luz looks ready to start contributing right away after sitting out the entire Spring Season with a broken foot. Da Luz already has two goals under his belt in only three appearances.

San Antonio has looked anything but shaken after being blown out by Edmonton in the Fall opener. Two stellar outings from midfielder Billy Forbes and forward Omar Cummings helped the club pick up four points in a two-game home stand, including a 2-2 draw with Edmonton on Wednesday. Forbes is now tied with Tampa Bay’s Georgi Hristov for most assists in the league (5) and Cummings has sole possession of the top scoring spot with eight goals.

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

Atlanta’s 1-0 result over Jacksonville last week may not have been the most inspiring performance, but it must be somewhat of a confidence builder considering it is the club’s first win since April 18. Kosuke Kimura looked solid in his debut on the right flank of the new 3-5-2 formation. The Silverbacks will need to glean as much from last week’s positive result as Saturday’s match up will be the first of a four-game road trip.

The Strikers have held steady in the two matches since Gunter Kronsteiner’s return, drawing 1-1 on both occasions. It’s hard to tell how long this current Strikers roster will stay intact, though. Kronsteiner has already spoken about wanting to make changes in key areas if ownership is willing. Given their track records this year, it’s difficult to see either Atlanta or Fort Lauderdale running away with the match.

Jacksonville Armada FC vs. New York Cosmos, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

Jacksonville is hurting and the club will get no respite with the New York Cosmos coming to town, looking to regain their lead on the combined points table. The expansion side is winless since May 2nd and has opened the Fall Season with three lackluster scoreless outings, including an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Minnesota on Wednesday night.

Armada FC will be without its two leading scorers as Pascal Millien moves on to the Gold Cup Quarterfinals with Haiti this weekend and Alhassane Keita faces suspension after his red card in Minnesota.

After sitting last weekend out, the Cosmos should be rested and hungry to take a full three points from Jacksonville after settling for a draw against them in the Spring finale. New York still remains the only unbeaten team in league play this year, but they have not captured a victory on the road since the Spring opener in Fort Lauderdale.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. FC Edmonton, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

Al Lang Stadium will play host to a battle between the current combined points and Fall Season table leaders on Saturday night. Despite laying an egg in San Antonio last week to end its eight-game unbeaten streak, Tampa Bay holds a one point advantage over the Cosmos on the combined table. Meanwhile, Edmonton has overcome countless absences due to injury and international duty to remain unbeaten and gain a one point lead over the rest of the league in the Fall.

Midsummer addition Thiago de Freitas has helped the Eddies significantly reduce their turnover rate and maintain possession. The Eddies, though, face the task of their third match in seven days with a limited roster to choose from. The Canadian side only traveled with 15 players for its draws in Fort Lauderdale and San Antonio this past week.

The Rowdies created some big waves in the American Soccer community with the signing of creative midfielder Freddy Adu on Tuesday. Adu still needs to receive international clearance and needs time to adjust to his new squad, so he’s unlikely to suit or contribute on Saturday. Head coach Thomas Rongen still has an interesting choice to make in the playmaking role after his side was shut out for the fourth time this year. He can stick with Brian Shriver after a tame performance or he can return Georgi Hristov to the starting eleven after weeks of serving as a substitute.

Ottawa Fury FC vs. Indy Eleven, Sunday 3 p.m. ET

Ottawa saw their record shutout run come to an end last in Minnesota, but the team showed good composure to fight for an equalizer and remain unbeaten in the Fall Season. Captain Julian de Guzman should be back in the midfield for Sunday’s matinee after Canada’s exit from the Gold Cup.

Fury FC was able to grab a full three points against Indy in the Spring Season from a Nicki Patterson goal in the fading moments of the match. This time, though, Indy heads to the Canadian capital with a new found form. Indy has gone unbeaten in the five league matches since that loss to Ottawa. The coaching shake up has undoubtedly given Indy a boost, but the club could be due for another boost with the likely injection of speedy attacker Dane Richards into the lineup. Richards was acquired on loan from the New York Red Bulls late last week.