By EVAN REAM
While three of the four NASL playoff spots are all but wrapped up, the last spot could realistically go to any of three teams, two of which meet up this weekend in Cary, North Carolina.
The Carolina RailHawks host the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on Saturday. The winner will be in the driver’s seat for the last playoff spot in the 10-team league.
Unbeaten in their last four, the Strikers should come into the game with confidence as they lead the RailHawks by two points in the standings, meaning that a draw will also move them closer to the promised land.
After three straight wins in which they scored a total of nine goals, the RailHawks have dropped their last two matches with a loss to sixth-place Edmonton to go with a 1-0 loss at the Strikers two weeks ago.
Since that nine-goal outburst, the home side hasn’t scored a goal in 217 minutes, while the Strikers have scored eight goals in the last four matches.
Here’s a look at the rest of the weekend’s action in the NASL:
FURY, EDDIES COLLIDE FOR CANADIAN DERBY
The final Canadian derby of the NASL season features two in-form sides, as the two teams north of the border have combined for just two losses in their previous 10 matches.
While the Ottawa Fury aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet, they have to make up nine points in just three matches and have a horde of other results go their way in order to play past week 17.
Meanwhile, the Edmonton Eddies are very much in the postseason race, and could move to within two points of a playoff spot if Carolina and Fort Lauderdale play to a draw.
SILVERBACKS, ROWDIES PLAY FOR PRIDE
With a combined -29 goal differential, the Atlanta Silverbacks and Tampa Bay Rowdies have been among the worst teams in the spring and fall seasons in the NASL.
The two teams are currently in the worst form in the league, combining for just two points in their last 10 matches, leaving Atlanta out of the playoffs and Tampa Bay in need of a miracle to qualify.
More likely than not, this match will be played for pride only.
INDY ELEVEN LOOKING TO BUILD ON FIRST WIN
Though the Eleven have the lowest point total in the combined NASL season, the Midwestern side has something to be happy about: their first ever home victory.
Hosting the playoff-bound San Antonio Scorpions, who are coming of a 7-0 thrashing of Tampa Bay, Indy is now looking to win back-to-back home matches.
On paper, it seems like San Antonio is a lock to win the game, but the Eleven upset league-leading Minnesota United en-route to that first victory, which prompted a full-scale pitch invasion.
MINNESOTA UNITED, COSMOS CLASH IN POTENTIAL PLAYOFF PREVIEW
This weekend’s matchup between Minnesota United and the New York Cosmos has plenty of playoff implications.
With a win, first-place United can guarantee the No. 1 seed for the playoffs, while the third-place Cosmos can clinch a playoff berth with a victory.
Think the Strikers can stay hot on the road against the RailHawks? Can Indy win back-to-back home matches? Looking forward to any match in particular?
Share your thoughts below.