Photo by Minnesota United FC/NASL
By COLE KELLOGG
With a win vs. second-placed Minnesota United FC, the New York Cosmos could clinch the NASL Spring Season title Saturday.
The rest of the league will be looking to redeem themselves from midweek US Open Cup losses. Wednesday night was an embarrassing one for the majority of NASL sides, with seven losing out to USL teams in the third round of the US Open Cup. The only two sides to progress were the Cosmos and the Atlanta Silverbacks, who played competition from much lower on the American soccer pyramid.
The Canadian NASL teams will square off Friday night for the third time in a month, with FC Edmonton smashing Ottawa 6-2 over two legs in the Canadian Championships.
Here is what this weekend’s NASL action looks like:
Ottawa Fury FC vs. FC Edmonton (Friday, 7pm, WatchESPN)
This matchup is what Fury coach Marc Dos Santos calls, “The best rivalry in the NASL.” The two teams are both in the bottom half of the league table, and are coming off of a two-leg series in the Amway Canadian Championship just a month ago.
FC Edmonton have had the best of Ottawa this season, winning both legs of the Canadian Championship series, 3-1, but are level on points with Fury FC in NASL action. Edmonton are coming off of a 4-2 win against the Atlanta Silverbacks last week, having lost two straight before that. They lead the league in scoring with 15 goals, largely due to the efforts of forward Toni Ameobi and midfielders Ritchie Jones and Lance Laing.
Fury FC also found themselves a victory last weekend, beating Indy Eleven, 1-0, courtesy of a Nicki Paterson strike. That win gave Ottawa three points for the first time in a month, and it’ll be looking to make it two in a row against their Canadian counterparts this Friday night.
Indy Eleven vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies (Saturday, 7:30pm, WatchESPN)
Indy Eleven are now coming off of four straight losses thanks to a 2-0 defeat to Louisville City in the US Open Cup. Meanwhile, the Rowdies were undefeated in four before a stoppage-time loss to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds midweek.
Indy doesn’t have much else to play for other than pride after another disappointing season, with not many bright spots other than a Sergio Pena wonderstrike and performances by Kristian Nicht that took him to the CONCACAF Champions League final.
Tampa Bay, on the other hand, have impressed with only one NASL loss this season. The Rowdies have gotten the best out of Georgi Hristov with three assists to his name, and both Martin Nunez and former MLS player Maicon Santos have two goals on the season.
Jacksonville Armada FC vs. Carolina RailHawks (Saturday, 7:30pm, WatchESPN)
Jacksonville and Carolina square off in a battle of fourth against fifth on Saturday Night. The Armada are coming off a narrow 2-3 loss against Minnesota last week, while the RailHawks accomplished a smash and grab 1-0 result in Fort Lauderdale.
For the RailHawks, Tiyi Shipalane is coming off of two goals in his last two matches. That puts Shipalane at three goals and three assists on the season.
The Armada are now winless in three, after coming off of back-to-back NASL wins against San Antonio and Indy. Jacksonville will look to Jemal Johnson and Alhassane Keita to stay hot and find the back of the net on the night.
Minnesota United FC vs. New York Cosmos (Saturday, 8pm, WatchESPN)
This is undoubtedly the biggest match of the weekend as first-placed New York travels to MLS-elect side Minnesota United, who are directly below them in the table. If the Cosmos can get a result, they will lock up first place for the Spring Season.
If Minnesota United upset the Cosmos, though, they can come three points closer to the first place team with a game in hand. A win for United would give them a chance to challenge the league’s overwhelming frontrunner in New York.
Cosmos Spanish superstar Raul has two goals in the last three NASL games. On the other end, Minnesota has had six different goalscorers in their last two league matches.
San Antonio Scorpions vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers (Saturday, 8:30pm, WatchESPN)
Fort Lauderdale is a team on a downward trajectory, with three straight losses. The Strikers have only scored two goals in their last four matches.
San Antonio will be looking to move up in the table with three points to make the season less of an embarrassment after last year’s championship.
The Scorpions can hope to find attacking firepower from former MLS star striker Omar Cummings and midfielder Billy Forbes. Cummings has four goals on the season, and Billy Forbes managed a brace against FC Edmonton two matches back.