By JOHN BOSCHINI
With their closest challengers dropping points left and right, the Carolina Railhawks are threatening to pull away before the season even reaches the midway point.
Carolina scored twice within the mid-way through the second half to put the game out of FC Tampa Bay's reach, eventually winning 2-1. Striker Etienne Barbara got back on the scoresheet with his 12th goal of the season. The Railhawks have won six games in a row and have established an eight-point lead over second-place Minnesota.
The NSC Minnesota Stars took advantage of Atlanta's horrendous form with a straight-forward 2-0 victory. Atlanta is still winless in its first nine games while Minnesota snapped a three-game winless streak.
Early favorite Puerto Rico continue to struggle with a shootout loss to Fort Lauderdale. The Strikers move up to fourth in the standings while Puerto Rico is down to fifth with a -1 goal differential.
Montreal continued its inexplicable domination over FC Edmonton with a 2-0 victory. The Impact has scored seven goals in two games against Edmonton while only managing two in its other six matches.
Here is a look back at the weekend action in the NASL:
Montreal Impact 2, FC Edmonton 0
Montreal's defense continued to impress while finally getting some offensive support in the Impact's comfortable victory. Senegalese forward Mignane Diouf gave the Impact the lead in the 34th minute with his first goal for the club. Diouf got on the end of a Antonio Ribeiro pass and finished from close range.
Defender Philippe Billy gave the Impact an insurance goal with his first career goal in the 83rd minute. Montreal goalkeeper Bill Gaudette recorded his fourth shutout of the season. Montreal now sits two points away from sixth place while Edmonton slumped to third.
Carolina RailHawks 2, FC Tampa Bay 1
Early goals from Barbara and Nick Zimmerman extended the RailHawks' unbeaten run to nine games and saw them take a commanding lead in the NASL.
Barbara struck first with a well-taken penalty kick in the 63rd minute after he was brought down by Tampa Bay defender Takuya Yamada. With Tampa Bay still reeling from the controversial penalty call, Zimmerman headed the ball past Jeff Attinella just two minutes later.
FC Tampa Bay got a goal back with a penalty kick from Mike Ambersley penalty kick but Carolina held out for the victory. The game was an offensive affair with the teams combining for 18 shots on goal.
NSC Minnesota Stars 2, Atlanta Silverbacks 0
Devin Del Do scored twice, and Minnesota keeper Joe Warren came up with a couple of good saves to give the Stars an easy victory over the Atlanta Silverbacks.
Del Do opened the scoring in the third minute after receiving an Andrei Gotsmanov cross and chipping goalkeeper Felipe Quintero. Atlanta controlled possession for much of the first half and almost equalized in the 33rd minute but hit the crossbar.
Del Do added some insurance with his fourth goal of the season in the second half. The California native headed in from six yards out in the 64th minute.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 3, Puerto Rico Islanders 2
The Strikers rallied for a thrilling comeback victory with two goals in the final 10 minutes.
Fort Lauderdale went up early with a goal from Abe Thompson in the 12th minute. Thompson took advantage of a spilled save from Ray Burse and put away the rebound.
Puerto Rico took the lead after goals from Nick Addlery and substitute Jonathan Fana in the second half. The Strikers held their lead until the 80th minute when Cristian Arrieta headed home his first goal of the season. The comeback was completed in the 87th minute when David Santamaria scored with a nifty left-footed finish.
What did you think of this weekend's results? When do you foresee Carolina losing a game? Can Montreal find some consistency? Is Minnesota capable of making a run?
Share your thoughts below.