Photo by New York Cosmos/NASL
By COLE KELLOGG
The top four sides in NASL face off this weekend, with each team but the New York Cosmos needing every point they can get to secure a playoff spot.
Gio Savarese will have the Cosmos playing for pride, though, as the team visits a surging Minnesota United team. The MLS-elect side is unbeaten in seven games, with its last loss coming against the Cosmos in New York.
In the other top-four game, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers will host an Ottawa Fury side that is losing their grip on first place. These teams fought to a scoreless draw in Ottawa last weekend, and the Strikers played again on Thursday, beating the Jacksonville Armada at home, 2-0.
Elsewhere around the league, the Atlanta Silverbacks will host the Carolina RailHawks, with both teams fighting to enter the post-season race. FC Edmonton will travel to Indy Eleven, in hopes of keeping its playoff fight alive as well. The Tampa Bay Rowdies will also be looking for three points at home over the San Antonio Scorpions.
Here’s a closer look at this weekend’s action:
ATLANTA SILVERBACKS vs. CAROLINA RAILHAWKS (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., WatchESPN)
Both sides come into this weekend just five points out of the playoff picture, with neither managing a victory in the last two matches.
The RailHawks won this fixture at home just two weeks back, with goals coming from Nazmi Albadawi and Connor Tobin. Following that match, the Silverbacks lost 2-1 at home to Minnesota United. The RailHawks have let in six goals in two games since then, recording just a point.
The key for the RailHawks this weekend will be a more cohesive defensive performance, and the Silverbacks will look to forwards Pedro Mendes and Jaime Chavez to find the back of the net.
FORT LAUDERDALE STRIKERS vs. OTTAWA FURY (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., WatchESPN)
These sides will go head to head for the second time in a week after a scoreless draw in Ottawa last Saturday.
Fury coach Marc Dos Santos might have been satisfied with keeping a potent Brazilian Fort Lauderdale attack off the board at home last weekend, but his side will need to put together a better offensive performance to get a result in Florida.
The Strikers had a midweek match against the Jacksonville Armada at home, which ended as a 2-0 win with goals from Marlon Freitas and James Marcelin. Gunter Kronsteiner’s men will try to use that momentum to get all three points this time around against the Fury.
Look out for the Strikers attacking weapons in PC, Stefano Pinho and Freitas, while a solid performance from the Fury’s Tom Heinemann could help the Canadians secure a road result.
INDY ELEVEN vs. FC EDMONTON (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., WatchESPN)
FC Edmonton is right in the middle of the combined table, with three points on either side separating them from the playoffs and 10th place.
After a couple of tough losses, the Eddies have resurfaced in the past two weeks, earning a draw with Minnesota United and beating a resurgent Tampa Bay Rowdies. Both of those results came at home, though, and now Edmonton must attempt to take that form on the road.
The Indy Eleven have just one result in their last four matches, a 3-0 victory at home over the Armada. In that match, Butler graduate Zach Steinberger led the way with a brace and Marvin Ceballos added a last-minute insurance goal. A weak defense has been the Achilles’ heel for this struggling Eleven side, letting in 10 goals during that stretch of four games.
Conventional wisdom says that the Eddies will find a way to win this one, with Lance Laing or Daryl Fordyce likely to get on the scoresheet. If Indy Eleven produce a result at home, though, count on the speed and ability of Dane Richards being a huge factor.
TAMPA BAY ROWDIES vs. SAN ANTONIO SCORPIONS (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., WatchESPN)
After a couple of huge results, the Tampa Bay Rowdies were brought back down to earth after a narrow away loss to FC Edmonton last time out.
Stuart Campbell and his men will be chomping at the bit to get back out there when they host the San Antonio Scorpions on Saturday night.
The Scorpions have been entirely inconsistent in the most recent stretch, winning and losing by a margin of one, drawing with no goals and then with three and finally earning a 2-0 win over the Indy Eleven last weekend. Rafael Castillo scored a brace against Indy in the most recent match.
The Rowdies cannot be counted out of the playoff race, though, after a change in personnel has this team back on track. With Maicon Santos possibly still out with an injury, look for Brian Shriver and Georgi Hristov to lead the scoring charge. Also be on the lookout for an appearance from Freddy Adu, who made the 18-man roster for last weekend’s match.
MINNESOTA UNITED vs. NEW YORK COSMOS (Saturday, 8 p.m., WatchESPN)
The biggest match of the weekend comes between the Spring Season champions and the hottest team in the league.
Minnesota United invite the New York Cosmos to the National Sports Center on Saturday looking to extend its unbeaten streak to seven matches.
The United attack is firing on all cylinders. Everyone is getting on the scoresheet thanks to the fluidity of attack from Manny Lagos’ side. Recent game-changers have been right back Kevin Venegas and Christian Ramirez.
The Cosmos will be looking to break United hearts for the second time this fall, though, after spoiling a five-match unbeaten streak when they posted a 1-0 win against them in August.
If the Cosmos side shows up with a point to prove on Saturday, expect key performances from Lucky Mkosana and Andres Flores Mejia. And, of course, Spanish legend Raul has proved he can pop in with moments of magic in recent weeks.