By EVAN REAM
While most of the weekend’s NASL action kicks off Saturday, Sunday’s FC Edmonton versus Carolina RailHawks matchup carries the biggest playoff implications.
The sixth-place Eddies host the fifth-place RailHawks at 4 p.m., with both teams needing all three points to have any hope of getting back into playoff race. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers won midweek to give them a one-point lead over the RailHawks and a six-point lead over Edmonton.
Edmonton enters the weekend undefeated in their last four games, but has only managed a single win despite letting up just three goals over that stretch.
Here’s a look at the rest of the weekend’s NASL action:
ATLANTA SILVERBACKS vs. FORT LAUDERDALE STRIKERS (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
Fresh off lifting the Coastal Cup thanks to a midweek victory at the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the Strikers visit another struggling side as they look to bolster their playoff chances.
Strikers forward Fafa Picault has been on fire, scoring three goals in the team’s last three games – all victories.
The Strikers’s win on Wednesday eliminated the Atlanta Silverbacks from the playoffs, completing their fall from grace just one season after hosting the Soccer Bowl.
INDY ELEVEN vs. MINNESOTA UNITED (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
Time is running out for the Indy Eleven to record the first home victory of their inaugural season. It’s not getting any easier, as first-place Minnesota United travels to Indiana on Saturday.
Indy does catch a break, as Minnesota United will be missing playmaker and September NASL Player of the Month Miguel Ibarra, who is currently with the U.S. national team. The Eleven will still need to find a way to slow down striker Christian Ramirez, who is looking to add to his league-leading 17 goals.
Indy Eleven has already been eliminated from playoff contention.
NEW YORK COSMOS vs. OTTAWA FURY (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
Once a lock for the playoffs, the Cosmos have been dropping points left and right, leading to an all-important home clash against the eighth-place Fury, who have picked up 10 points from their previous five matches.
With a New York loss and a Fort Lauderdale win, the two teams would end up tied for the third-place spot in the combined NASL season with just four games remaining.
The Cosmos still own a four-point cushion for the playoffs, but travel to first-place Minnesota and second-place San Antonio in the last three weeks of the season, meaning that three points against the improved Fury is a must for the league’s marquee franchise.
SAN ANTONIO SCORPIONS vs. TAMPA BAY ROWDIES (Saturday, 8:30 p.m.)
With just two points in their previous five games, including a home loss to the rival Fort Lauderdale Strikers for the first time, the Rowdies are arguably in the worst form of any team in the NASL.
Without a win, the Rowdies will almost assuredly miss the playoffs for the second consecutive year after winning the 2012 Soccer Bowl.
Meanwhile, the second-place Scorpions will clinch a playoff spot with a win at Toyota Field on what is expected to be a hot and humid day in San Antonio.
What do you think of this weekend’s slate of matches? Do you believe the Cosmos can right the ship? Do you see Edmonton taking care of business against the RailHawks?
Share your thoughts below.