By MIKE GRAMAJO
With the North American Soccer League Fall season entering its last week, the New York Cosmos look to have the momentum they need as they enter the final stretch.
After conceding an early goal on Saturday, Giovanni Savarese’s men responded by scoring two goals in less than five minutes in the second half, which helped them clinch a spot in the Soccer Bowl.
While 2013 wasn’t ideally a great year for Colin Clarke’s Carolina RailHawks, their unbeaten record at home has kept them as a side to be reckoned with when they play at WakeMed Soccer Park.
SBI NASL POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 13)
1. NEW YORK COSMOS (8-4-1)
LAST WEEK – beat San Antonio Scorpions, 2-1, on Saturday (10/26)
THIS WEEK – at Atlanta Silverbacks on Saturday
LAST FIVE – W-W-W-T-W
OUTLOOK – The Cosmos are siting eight points clear from second place and have a record high 28 points in the NASL standings. There’s no denying that the Cosmos are the hottest team in the NASL, and their 10-game unbeaten streak is much to be credited for. They go into Atlanta Silverbacks Park with momentum, while also adding the last time they lost was back in August.
2. CAROLINA RAILHAWKS (6-2-5)
LAST WEEK – beat Atlanta Silverbacks, 4-0, on Saturday (10/26)
THIS WEEK – vs. San Antonio Scorpions on Saturday
LAST FIVE – W-L-L-W-W
OUTLOOK – Unbeaten at home in 15 games, which includes NASL and U.S. Open Cup, has kept the RailHawks as a team to take serious. They can conclude their season and make it 16 games unbeaten at home when they host the Scorpions. With forward Brian Shriver back in the picture, that can add more momentum to Colin Clarke’s men.
3. TAMPA BAY ROWDIES (5-5-3)
LAST WEEK – lost at FC Edmonton, 2-1, on Sunday (10/27)
THIS WEEK – vs. Minnesota United FC on Saturday
LAST FIVE – L-L-W-W-L
OUTLOOK – Once the Rowdies received word that their game on Sunday wouldn’t have any Soccer Bowl implications, not only did the reality of them defending their championship go cold, but a 2-1 defeat at Edmonton for sure didn’t warm things up. They are, however, unbeaten at home this fall season and face a Minnesota side that’s looking to end the season on a high.
4. MINNESOTA UNITED FC (5-2-6)
LAST WEEK – beat Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 3-1, on Saturday (10/26)
THIS WEEK – at Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday
LAST FIVE – W-L-L-L-W
OUTLOOK – After going through a three game losing streak, Many Lagos’ men snapped that skid after defeating the Strikers 3-1. They’re back on the road on Saturday when they visit the Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium and look to poise a threat.
5. FORT LAUDERDALE STRIKERS (5-2-6)
LAST WEEK – lost at Minnesota United FC, 3-1, on Saturday (10/26)
THIS WEEK – vs. FC Edmonton on Saturday
LAST FIVE – L-W-L-W-L
OUTLOOK – With the Soccer Bowl out of reach, the Strikers host FC Edmonton at Lockhart. Despite the Strikers season looking promising early in the fall, I think it’s safe to say next season that they can turn things around.
6. FC EDMONTON (3-6-4)
LAST WEEK – beat Tampa Bay Rowdies, 2-1, on Sunday (10/27)
THIS WEEK – at Fort Lauderdale Strikers on Saturday
LAST FIVE – L-W-L-T-W
OUTLOOK – Despite freezing cold temperatures the Eddies managed to grab a 2-1 victory against the Rowdies on Sunday. Despite remaining mostly near the bottom of the standings for much of the season, their match at Lockhart Stadium on Saturday has potential to be the most important road match.
7. ATLANTA SILVERBACKS (4-4-5)
LAST WEEK – lost at Carolina RailHawks, 4-0, on Saturday (10/26)
THIS WEEK – vs. New York Cosmos on Saturday
LAST FIVE – W-L-W-L-L
OUTLOOK – The Soccer Bowl is around the corner and coincidently they play their opponents on the final week of the NASL fall season. However, Brian Haynes’ men have to make a statement come Saturday, knowing their last two games saw the Silverbacks concede 10 goals.
8. SAN ANTONIO SCORPIONS (3-1-9)
LAST WEEK – lost vs. New York Cosmos, 2-1, on Saturday (10/26)
THIS WEEK – at Carolina RailHawks on Saturday
LAST FIVE – L-W-W-L-L
OUTLOOK – The Scorpions will have a tough task when they visit a Carolina side that has not lost at home so far in 2013. San Antonio’s Hans Denissen, who’s in second place in the Golden Boot race with 12 goals, will square off against the RailHawks’ Brian Shriver and his 13 goals. Expect a whole lot of goals on Saturday.
I hate that the Railhawks aren’t in the Soccer Bowl. However, they had plenty of chances to secure that spot in the spring, and couldn’t capitalize. As well, their road record hurt them. Having said that, I think they are a better team than Atlanta. They dealt with some significant injuries at inopportune times during the year. Atlanta had better work really hard in the next couple of weeks, because if their current form holds, the Cosmos will wipe the pitch with them.