By RYAN TOLMICH
After watching the league’s other 10 teams kick off the season last week, Minnesota United is set to enter the fold this Saturday for the first game of its 2015 season.
Led by Miguel Ibarra, Christian Ramirez and a slew of veteran signings, Minnesota will look to assert itself as the league’s dominant side yet again against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, a team that made a heck of a first impression by knocking off the San Antonio Scorpions last week.
Also riding high off a stellar debut is the Jacksonville Armada, who look to continue their winning ways against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
Elsewhere, the New York Cosmos travel to take on Indy Eleven, the Atlanta Silverbacks host Ottawa Fury FC and FC Edmonton hosts the Carolina RailHawks.
Here is a closer look at this weekend’s NASL action:
ATLANTA SILVERBACKS vs. OTTAWA FURY FC (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
After kicking the season off on a bit of a sour note, Ottawa Fury FC are set to benefit from the introduction of a trio of reinforcements.
Midfielders Ottawa midfielders Mauro Eustaquio and Nicki Paterson will join forward Oliver Minatel in returns from suspension, bolstering a Fury FC lineup that will be without Julian de Guzman following a red card in a controversial loss to the RailHawks last game. In their path will be an Atlanta Silverbacks side that came just seconds from a victory, only to settle for a draw after giving away a late penalty in Gary Smith’s first game in charge of the team.
FORT LAUDERDALE STRIKERS vs. JACKSONVILLE ARMADA (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
The Armada kicked off their inaugural season with a record-breaking debut in Jacksonville, and their sophomore effort is set to come with a trip south down the Florida coast.
Following a 3-1 victory over FC Edmonton, the Armada face the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the first game of this season’s Coastal Cup. Adding to the fire will be the return of last week’s goalscorer Jemal Johnson, who featured 11 times for the Strikers in 2013.
INDY ELEVEN vs. NEW YORK COSMOS (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
Last week’s effort provided a bit of an injury scare, but it appears Raul is all set to go for the New York Cosmos.
The Spanish forward left last week’s contest early with tweaked hamstring, but the former Real Madrid star looks set to feature this weekend. In his path will be Indy Eleven, whose veteran roster showed plenty of toughness last time out to snag a stoppage-time equalizer.
TAMPA BAY ROWDIES vs. MINNESOTA UNITED (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
The Tampa Bay Rowdies were the league’s most impressive team in week one, but Thomas Rongen’s side has no time to rest on laurels heading into their second contest.
Miguel Ibarra, Christian Ramirez and Minnesota United stand in the Rowdies path following an offseason that saw the acquisitions of Kalif Alhassan, Ibson and Johnny Steele. The Rowdies, meanwhile, boast a new-look roster of their own, with offseason signings Stefan Antonijevic, Darwin Espinal and Corey Hertzog each contributing a goal last time out.
FC EDMONTON vs. CAROLINA RAILHAWKS (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
FC Edmonton’s 2015 campaign couldn’t have started out any worse.
In last week’s opener, FC Edmonton struggled from the start, conceding just 12 seconds into clash with the Armada in Jacksonville. Their opposition Saturday, the Carolina RalHawks, topped another Canadian foe, Ottawa Fury FC, in a match that saw Ty Shipilane, Nacho Novo and Simone Bracalello each register goals.