By MIKE GRAMAJO
There’s a new team at the top of the NASL standings and it is a team few would have projected before the season began.
The Atlanta Silverbacks defeated the San Antonio Scorpions, 1-0, on Saturday, leap-frogging past the Carolina RailHawks and Tampa Bay Rowdies to the pole position in the North American Soccer League.
Minnesota United made up for last Saturday’s defeat to the Tampa Bay Rowdies at the Metrodome by returning the favor, defeating the Rowdies on the road by a 3-2 margin, the same as the prior week’s result.
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers defeated FC Edmonton, 1-0, on Sunday, which snapped the Eddies’ three-game unbeaten run and suffered their first home loss this season
Here’s a closer look at this past week’s NASL action:
SILVERBACKS STING SCORPIONS
For the the first time in their distinct history, the Silverbacks sit atop the NASL standings after midfielder Danny Barrera’s 86th minute goal gave his side the victory in front of 4,422 fans at Atlanta Silverbacks Park on Saturday.
Silverbacks forward Kellen Gulley took a shot that deflected off a Scorpions defender that fell right to the feet of Barerra, who sent a left footed strike into the net off the hands of Scorpions goalkeeper Pat Hannigan.
“To get a win from that game is fantastic,” Silverbacks head coach Brian Haynes told NASL.com. “It’s the kind of game that can get bad if you make a defensive mistake and we got the win and I’m proud and happy for them.”
The Scorpions are now 1-3-1 in their last five matches as they make a return to league celler where they sit with five points. The Silverbacks, who have won two-consecutive matches, sit two points clear atop the table and will face against Real Salt Lake during the third round of the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday.
UNITED EDGE ROWDIES ON THE ROAD
Minnesota United halted the Rowdies from getting further in the table by defeating them, 3-2, on Sunday thanks to three goals in the first half, two of which came in a span of two minutes.
“What a great series,” United coach Manny Lagos told NASL.com. “To have ten goals in two games, it was great and obviously we’re delighted that tonight we came out on top.”
Defender Cristiano Dias opened up the deadlock for United after 10 minutes of play when his header proved too much for Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo. Rowdies forward Georgi Hristov level the game moments later after striking a through ball from midfielder Keith Savage.
Forward Pablo Campos helped architect United’s next two goals, finding Geison Moura in the 23rd minute to give United the lead, only to set up Simone Bracalello two-minutes later to make it 3-1. Georgi Hristov bagged his brace for the Rowdies in the 29th minute, but it was enough to be a consolation goal after United kept the Rowdies from scoring.
STRIKERS GRAB VICTORY IN EDMONTON
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers bagged their first road victory of the season, topping FC Edmonton 1-0 at Clarke Stadium after midfielder Carlos Salazar buried a penalty kick in the 70th minute
“We are obviously very pleased with the result,” Strikers head coach Daryl Shore told the team’s website. “To come on this long journey and take all three points speaks volumes about our team. I thought the result was very fair the way our guys played today.”
With the defeat, the Eddies take a heavy blow in the table as the Strikers now move up to sixth in the table, one point below Edmonton who sit in the fifth spot with eight points.
SBI’S NASL POWER RANKINGS: WEEK EIGHT
- ATLANTA SILVERBACKS (Last week -5) – The Silverbacks victory over the Scorpions put them atop the NASL table while also giving them their second straight victory.
- CAROLINA RAILHAWKS (1) – The RailHawks had a bye-week in week eight, so a return to action next week at Lockhart Stadium can be the momentum they need to keep going.
- MINNESOTA UNITED (4) – United made sure they continued the Rowdies misery at home, edging them out 3-2 thanks to Pablo Campos’ master-class performance which set up two goals to power United towards victory.
- TAMPA BAY ROWDIES (2) – To remain in the top, you must win at home, right? The Rowdies have yet to register a victory at home this season and with four matches left in the spring campaign, something has to be done if they want another shot at the Soccer Bowl.
- FC EDMONTON (3) – Snapping their three-game unbeaten run and losing their first match at home take a big blow for the Eddies, which helped the Strikers get close to them in the standings.
- FORT LAUDERDALE STRIKERS (7) – The Strikers took an important road victory over the weekend, defeating the Eddies at Clarke Stadium. They have a tough challenge next when they kickoff against the RailHawks.
- SAN ANTONIO SCORPIONS (6) – Just when you thought things would get better for the Scorpions. The 2012 regular season champions just haven’t found consistency throughout the season, hopefully a victory at Toyota Field next week against United can change things.
What do you think of this week’s action? Do you see Silverbacks keep their unbeaten run going? Do you believe the Scorpions find a way to see glory toward the end of the season?
Share your thoughts below.