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NASL semifinals: First-leg preview



Half of the teams in the NASL have already started their winter breaks while the four remaining teams are left to battle for a place in the inaugural NASL final.

The sixth-seeded NSC Minnesota Stars and No. 4 Fort Lauderdale Strikers survived the pressure of a one-off quarterfinal against No. 3 FC Tampa Bay and No. 5 FC Edmonton, respectively, last weekend to advance. The Stars welcome a semifinal challenge from the top-ranked Carolina Railhawks, while the No. 2 Puerto Rico Islanders play host to Fort Lauderdale with both games taking place Saturday.

After nearly playing its way out of the playoffs, Minnesota finished the season on a three-game unbeaten streak and pulled off a surprising 1-0 upset of FC Tampa Bay. The suddenly hot Stars have found a great deal of success against Carolina this season, winning two and drawing two in four contests with the regular-season champions.

Puerto Rico and Fort Lauderdale have been much more evenly matched during the regular season, with each team winning one and drawing two of the four regular-season games. Fort Lauderdale exploded in the quarterfinals with a five-goal thrashing of FC Edmonton but need to shore up an occasionally leaky defense to contain Puerto Rico.

Here is a look ahead to the first leg of the NASL semifinals:

Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Puerto Rico Islanders (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)

The Islanders have had a first-round bye for nearly a month now, so it will be interesting to see how they respond to playing a competitive fixture again. Jonathan Fana and David Foley lead the Islanders attack against Fort Lauderdale's defense. Brian Shriver and Eduardo Coudet form a potent attacking threat for Fort Lauderdale.

Puerto Rico has turned its home ground into something of a fortress, going undefeated at the Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel during the regular season. 

Carolina Railhawks at NSC Minnesota Stars (Saturday, 8:30 p.m.)

The Railhawks rattled off a 10-game winning streak in the middle of the season but have faltered down the stretch, losing four games in a row to end the season. Whether the league's top-scoring offense and stingy defense can bounce back from a bout of complacency remains to be seen.

The Stars have played well when desperate and are hoping to keep this unlikely run of form going for another week. Late-season signing Luke Mulholland has been one of the driving forces behind Minnesota's resurgence and will have to come up big if the Stars are to beat Railhawks' goalkeeper Brad Knighton.


What do you think of this weekend's games? Which teams do you see grabbing the edge heading into the return legs? 

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Who writes this crap anyhow. The Strikers leaky defence hasn’t yielded more than two goals in about 10 games. As a matter of fact the 2 goals they gave up at Tampa while down a man (a blatant off sides and an 90th minute opening) were the only time they’ve given up two in the last month of the season. And by the way, Coudet, has started only one game in the past 12 and hasn’t scored a goal since, maybe June. Yes Brian Shriver has been on Fire and Abe Thompson scored Three in the playoff game last week. The Strikers are good when Bryan Arguez is playing the way he should be and making it easy for Tony Stahl and Lancaster to defend in the Middle. When Restrepo and Mayen are settled in the midfield and the outside backs are getting up the wing. Puerto Rico and the Strikers are as evenly matched as the coaches are good friends. It will be a great series and you might even see some extra time when it comes to the 2nd leg in Fort Lauderdale. Hoping for the Strikers and an upset in the other series although highly unlikely. Carolina has scored 1 goal in last 4. Minnesota is Stingy and Joe Warren is the best in the league when he is on. Depends on if the two weeks gave Carolina a chance to get their groove back or whether their coach is already thinking about who his starting 11 is in Vancouver next year.

  2. Matt, unfortunately for anybody-but-Strikers fans, I suspect Puerto Rico is going to be missing some key performers for the 1st leg of the semis … the PR MNT has a couple games tonight and Tues. Carolina might also be missing a couple guys.

    I hope Millien lands well, too … it helps the entire league when a lot of players and coaches move to leagues and teams that can offer more pay and prestige. Though it sucks no matter what the circumstances are when you lose a home-town kid.

  3. “Owned them?” A younger childhood friend once told everyone he “killed me” in wiffleball … after winning by 1 run. You 2 related? Minn. outscored the Railhawks by whole 5-3 over 6 hours of play.

    That said, this series will likely be a couple of very tight, low-scoring games (Railhawks just haven’t had their previous dominance since they lost Rusin to Denmark), but they’re also now rested and healthy.

  4. carolina is a team in desperate need of leadership in the form of JONNY STEELE!

    but really, they’re gonna lose to minnesota, despite all their dirty play.


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