NASL Fall Week 12 Preview: Quick Turnarounds Could Spell Standings Shuffle for Strikers, Minnesota

IMAGE, FORT LAUDERDALE STRIKERS

by JAKE NUTTING

The dog days of summer are over for the NASL, but that doesn’t mean teams won’t face harsh tests in the final stretch of the regular season.

Minnesota United FC (22 pts. Fall, 36 pts. Combined) and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (17 pts. Fall, 28 pts. Combined) will be tasked with tough turnarounds in this round of action, and if either team comes out the side of the challenge unscathed, they could be sitting in much more advantageous positions in the gridlocked postseason race.

The Loons have a shot to pull even with the league leading New York Cosmos on points and also hope of completely leapfrogging Ottawa Fury FC in the Fall Season standings.

For the Strikers, it’s all about creating space between themselves and the rest of the clubs chasing that final playoff spot in the combined standings. Fort Lauderdale sits only two points back of the Tampa Bay Rowdies for that fourth spot, so a full six-point week has the potential to greatly aid their postseason effort.

Atlanta Silverbacks vs. Minnesota United FC, Tuesday 7:30 p.m.

Minnesota’s busy week begins with a trip down south to square off against the mid-table Silverbacks. The last time that the Silverbacks took the field, it ended in a demoralizing 2-0 defeat at the hands of the RailHawks. Atlanta should have the upper hand in terms of fitness as Minnesota is entering the match after needing a late-game rally to take three points on Saturday night. The Loons will be without Head Coach Manny Lagos on the sideline after his ejection in the last match, but that should have little impact on the most proficient attack in the NASL. Led by Christian Ramirez and Pablo Campos, Minnesota leads the league in goals scored in both the Fall Season (25) and overall year (40).

Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. Jacksonville Armada FC, Wednesday 7:30 p.m.

The Strikers kick off their potential six-point week with a match that has huge implications for the Coastal Cup, the annual competition between all the Florida based NASL clubs. A win against Jacksonville this week would all but clinch the competition for the Strikers. Fort Lauderdale and Tampa Bay are even at nine points, but the South Florida side has a commanding lead from tiebreakers. The Rowdies also only have one Coastal Cup fixture left on their schedule while the Strikers have two.

Besides the fact the Strikers are unbeaten in their last six matches, the deck seems stacked against the Armada because they are winless on the road the entire year and have yet to take any points from the in-state rivals. The first-year club will be without defender Lucas Trejo after his straight red card on Saturday. The vulnerable back line could have its hands full trying to quell the lethal Stefano Pinho and PC.

Indy Eleven vs. FC Edmonton, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

Edmonton has been on both ends of the spectrum in the Fall Season, but the Eddies still find themselves in the thick of things in both tables. The key to their postseason hopes may rest with the back line. The Eddies were among the worst defenses in the Fall Season, though they’ve found sturdier form in recent weeks. In their two most recent matches, the Eddies held the high-flying Loons attack scoreless while down a man and shutout the Rowdies in the face of 60 minutes of sustained pressure. Keeper Matt Van Oekel seems to have found his groove and has now recorded five shutouts for the year.

If the defense can continue to keep the Eddies in matches, then a team that already boasts one of the most lethal attacks in the league will only be tougher to knock out of the playoff hunt.

Atlanta Silverbacks vs. Carolina RailHawks, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

Carolina is struggling to find the late-season consistency that many Colin Clarke squads have achieved in past years. The club has let leads slip away in six of 13 matches played in the Fall Season and has conceded an astounding 18 goals in their last seven matches. Luckily for the RailHawks, their matching up with the team that they blanked less than two weeks ago. They’ll need to break down the stingy Silverbacks in their home park, where the club has not finished on the losing yet.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. San Antonio Scorpions, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

After failing to rise to the task in another road match, the Rowdies return home hoping to get sweet revenge against the team that embarrassed them 3-0 in week two of the Fall Season. Midfielder Cesar Elizondo recorded San Antonio’s league leading ninth red card of the year on Saturday and will be unavailable for the match. It was forward Omar Cummings, though, who torched the Rowdies in the previous Fall Season encounter. Cummings has cooled off considerably since that match, but his pace could expose a Rowdies back line that has been vulnerable to the counter attack all year.

Freddy Adu could be in line for his second appearance for the Rowdies after returning to the gameday lineup last week. He wasn’t picked to come off the bench in that match, but the Rowdies are in desperate need of the kind of vision and technical ability he can provide to break down the back line.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. Ottawa Fury FC, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET

After hosting Fort Lauderdale in the Canadian capital this past weekend, the Fury will make the long flight down to South Florida for a quick rematch. The Strikers will undoubtedly be hoping they can muster more at home after being held scoreless by keeper Romuald Peiser and company. With the Cosmos and Loons inching closer and closer in the Fall Season standings, Ottawa doesn’t have the luxury of bunkering for draws anymore. It will be interesting to see Head Coach Marc Dos Santos chooses to approach the match in the face of an extremely potent attack. Ottawa is capable of applying offensive pressure on the opposition when it chooses to do so.

Minnesota United FC vs. New York Cosmos, Saturday 8 p.m. ET

Perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the week gets the primetime billing. When the Loons and Cosmos met on Long Island earlier in the Fall Season, it produced one of the most exciting and well-played matches of the NASL season. The Cosmos prevailed in that contest with one of their patented comeback performances and did the same to draw with Minnesota in the Spring Season. The Cosmos will need to replicate that magic to hold off the charging Loons, who have a chance to pull off a six-point swing this week. Goals have not been easy to come by in recent weeks for the Cosmos, though.

Fall addition Gastón Cellerino could be a game changer for the NASL pace setters after making his debut for the club last week. A consistent second scoring option has been lacking for the Cosmos all year.