Photo by Tampa Bay Rowdies/NASL
By COLE KELLOGG
The battle for the postseason heats up this weekend, as two teams currently in unsecured playoff positions will have to fight against sides chomping at the bit to unseat them.
The Ottawa Fury will be looking for another win as they host the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on Saturday, but the visitors from Florida are ready and raring after putting up seven goals their last time out.
The Jacksonville Armada travel to the New York Cosmos, with the expansion team looking to replicate the heroics of a Tampa Bay Rowdies side that dominated the Cosmos last weekend.
FC Edmonton will be desperate to earn a home win on Sunday, but the recent form of visitors Tampa Bay Rowdies makes that anything but a certainty. With the postseason looming, the Eddies will need to return to their best to collect three points this weekend.
Elsewhere around the league, Minnesota United host the Carolina RailHawks, and Indy Eleven travels to Texas to face the San Antonio Scorpions.
Here’s a closer look at this weekend’s action:
OTTAWA FURY FC vs. FORT LAUDERDALE STRIKERS (Saturday, 3 p.m., WatchESPN)
The Ottawa Fury still lead the league by five points this fall, but anything could happen with nine game to go.
The Fury recorded a 1-0 win in San Antonio last weekend, with a strike from Oliver Minatel proving to be the difference against the Scorpions. The week before, the Fury gave up a 2-0 lead at home to draw the surging Rowdies. Minatel also scored in that match, and the Canadian side will hope his and Andrew Wiedeman’s recent form can produce a win on Saturday.
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers dominated the Indy Eleven last time out, winning 7-1 in southern Florida. Stefano Pinho recorded an incredible hat trick in that match, with PC and Marlon Freitas each scoring a brace for themselves. The all-Brazilian trio is absolutely on fire, and it will take a stout performance from the Fury defense to keep the attackers quiet.
NEW YORK COSMOS vs. JACKSONVILLE ARMADA (Saturday, 7 p.m., WatchESPN)
The New York Cosmos may have already qualified for the postseason, but the side will certainly be looking for a result at home against the Jacksonville Armada on Saturday.
After losing 2-0 to the Tampa Bay Rowdies last weekend, Gio Savarese’s men will want to prove that result was a fluke. Look for a return to form from Lucky Mkosana, Leo Fernandes and Andres Flores Mejia in this match. Expect to see the debut of new Cosmos forward Gaston Cellerino, an experienced Argentinian striker who has scored goals in Italy and Spain.
The Jacksonville Armada are winless in three games, after winning two back-to-back in mid-August.
The side from Florida lost 3-0 away to Indy Eleven last weekend. Before that match, the Armada demonstrated expert work in the defense, only allowing a single goal in a four-match span.
The problem for the Armada recently has been scoring, but talented attackers Akeil Barrett or Jaime Castrillon could pop up with a goal any minute now.
MINNESOTA UNITED vs. CAROLINA RAILHAWKS (Saturday, 8 p.m., WatchESPN)
Minnesota United will look to stretch their winning streak to four matches when they host a Carolina RailHawks side that has struggled to find consistency.
United has been on fire as it hunts for a high playoff seeding, and it is undefeated since a 2-1 loss to the Cosmos at the beginning of August. The Minnesota attack has been clicking this fall, with a number of contributors benefiting from the side’s free-flowing attack. Look for the performances of Ibson and Christian Ramirez to impact the outcome of this match.
After suffering four straight losses, the Carolina RailHawks have now earned four points in two games.
Strikes from Nazmi Albadwi and Connor Tobin led to a 2-0 win over the Atlanta Silverbacks last weekend, while goals from Nacho Novo and Tiyi Shipalane helped the side to a midweek draw in San Antonio.
The RailHawks are only four points behind the last playoff berth, but the side will have to show its strength to close the gap against United this weekend.
SAN ANTONIO SCORPIONS vs. INDY ELEVEN (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., WatchESPN)
After a lifeless streak that saw them only score twice in three matches, Indy Eleven put three goals up at home against the Jacksonville Armada last weekend.
A brace from Butler graduate Zach Steinberger followed by a 90th-minute strike from Marvin Ceballos gave the Eleven an important win in front of over 9,000 dedicated fans. Look for Steinberger to start a scoring streak, alongside the attacking talents of speedster Dane Richards.
The San Antonio Scorpions were hoping for a win on Wednesday against the RailHawks, but the 3-3 draw means positive things for the team’s attack. Marvin Chavez recorded a brace, with goals on either side of a Rafael Castillo strike.
The Scorpions currently sit at the bottom of both the Fall Season and Combined tables, and Alen Marcina’s men know that a home match against the Eleven is as good a chance as any to get things rolling. The side could very well come out the victors, especially if Omar Cummings and Billy Forbes come up big on the night.
FC EDMONTON vs. TAMPA BAY ROWDIES (Sunday, 4 p.m., WatchESPN)
In just two matches, Stuart Campbell has his Tampa Bay Rowdies side looking like the team that finished a point behind the Spring Season champions.
The Rowdies have now taken four points off of the top three teams in back-to-back games against the Fury and the Cosmos. Darwin Espinal has scored a goal in each of those matches, with Georgi Hristov and Brian Shriver also being vital to the Rowdies’ success.
FC Edmonton has slipped from Fall Season title contenders into the lower end of the table due to problems with consistent performances.
Leading goal scorers Lance Laing and Tomi Ameobi are popping up here and there with important goals, but the side has failed to produce the dominant performances needed to compete in the league.
Perhaps, though, the side can capitalize on the emotional high of Daryl Fordyce’s 90th minute equalizer last weekend against the second place Minnesota United.