By EVAN REAM
Separated by just two points and two places in the combined standings, the latest edition of the Florida Derby has playoff implications as the NASL season comes down to the wire.
Though the Tampa Bay Rowdies seemingly have the advantage by hosting the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, the Rowdies have struggled lately, losing their last two to cellar-dweller Ottawa Fury FC and middling FC Edmonton.
On the other hand, the Strikers’ form has been decidedly average. Fort Lauderdale has gone 2-0-2 in its last four games, dropping points on the road to the New York Cosmos and Minnesota United before taking down Indy Eleven in Week 12.
If the Strikers are to garner any points away from home, they’ll need a big contribution from Haitian forward Fafa Picault, who has scored in four of the team’s last seven matches.
Here’s a look at the rest of the weekend’s NASL action:
ATLANTA SILVERBACKS vs. SAN ANTONIO SCORPIONS (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
With an 11 point cushion in the combined standings, the Scorpions are all but assured of a playoff spot this season, but two straight losses have put their status as the runaway No. 2 seed into jeopardy.
Three points are a must for San Antonio, which has just a four-point lead on the third-place Cosmos. The second seed would guarantee the Texans at least one home playoff match.
Things couldn’t be more different for the Silverbacks, who are buried in both the combined and fall standings. Failing to get the victory at home would all but eliminate last year’s Soccer Bowl runners-up from another chance in 2014.
INDY ELEVEN vs. CAROLINA RAILHAWKS (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
Like the Silverbacks, Indy Eleven are almost assuredly out of postseason contention, but the home side will be motivated by other means this weekend against the Carolina RailHawks.
Nearly three-fourths of the way through their inaugural season, Indy has yet to record a victory in front of their home crowd.
Meanwhile, the RailHawks are currently holding onto the final playoff position, and depending on how the Florida Derby turns out, could be on the outside looking in after this weekend’s action.
OTTAWA FURY FC vs. MINNESOTA UNITED (Sunday, 3 p.m.)
A trip north of the border has “trap game” written all over it for top-of-the table Minnesota United.
Minnesota has been in terrific form as of late, but Ottawa has flown under the radar, winning back-to-back road matches against the Rowdies and the Silverbacks.
Minnesota has already locked up a spot in the four-team Championship, but with a win the league-leaders could move closer to clinching the No. 1 overall seed and the home field advantage throughout the playoffs that comes with it.
Things look bleak for expansion Ottawa, which is eight points out of the last playoff spot with just seven games remaining. If the Fury are to garner a playoff spot in their inaugural year, they will likely need a win against the best and most consistent team in the league this weekend.
EDMONTON FC vs. NEW YORK COMSMOS (Sunday, 4 p.m.)
The final match of the weekend sees the New York Cosmos travel abroad for the final time this season.
The last two games for New York have seen a combined 14 goals, including seven scored against the Cosmos’ defense. Head coach Giovanni Savarese will look to rectify his team’s defensive woes this weekend against the team with the fewest goals in the combined NASL season.
The Eddies will need to put at least one past the Cosmos back line, as the Canadian side need to start making up points in an effort to climb up the table.