Photo by Minnesota United FC
By COLE KELLOGG
With only three points now separating the top three sides in the combined standings, each team will be looking to hit their stride to earn the top playoff seed.
Ottawa Fury FC, the Fall Season leaders, sit just one point behind the New York Cosmos for the first seed. Marc Dos Santos and his men will travel to the Carolina RailHawks to try and earn their second road victory this week, while the RailHawks will just try to avoid a third straight defeat.
Gio Savarese will take his Cosmos side to FC Edmonton, looking to avenge the beating they took at home to the Fury during the midweek. The Eddies will be looking for their third straight win as they fight for a playoff spot.
Minnesota United will travel to the grueling atmosphere of southern Florida, where Gunter Kronsteiner and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers will be looking to get back on track following a home loss to the Fury last week.
Here’s a closer look at this weekend’s action:
CAROLINA RAILHAWKS vs. OTTAWA FURY (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., WatchESPN)
Little more than pride will be on the line for the Carolina RailHawks this Saturday as they host one of the most potent offenses in the league.
The RailHawks have lost two matches in a row and sit seven points out of the final playoff spot with six games to go.
On the other side, the Ottawa Fury will be feeling unstoppable after an outstanding midweek 4-1 thumping of the Cosmos. A brace from Paulo Junior accompanied an own goal and a final Tom Heinemann strike in that match, with the latter two coming in consecutive minutes.
The Fury now have three wins in their last four games and are out to catch the Cosmos as the top overall seed.
FORT LAUDERDALE STRIKERS vs. MINNESOTA UNITED (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., WatchESPN)
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers have everything to play for on Saturday when they host the hottest team in the league.
Gunter Kronsteiner’s men have taken four points from their last three matches, but that will be little consolation if the team can’t earn a result against Minnesota United this weekend. Look for the usual presence of Marlon Freitas, Stefano Pinho and James Marcelin to be the difference makers this weekend.
Going into last Sunday’s scoreless draw against the Cosmos, Minnesota United had collected 16 points from just six matches. After failing to score in front of a record home crowd, United will be ready and raring to earn all three points and stay in contention for first place.
Kevin Venegas, Christian Ramirez and Kalif Alhassan have been the hot commodities to watch from United as of late.
JACKSONVILLE ARMADA vs. TAMPA BAY ROWDIES (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., WatchESPN)
While there are still a few weeks until the Jacksonville Armada are mathematically eliminated from the playoff race, it can be assumed that the NASL newcomers will not be able to leapfrog the number of competitive sides standing between them and the postseason.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies are still very much in need of results, though. After last weekend’s 2-0 home win over the San Antonio Scorpions, the Rowdies hold the fourth and final playoff spot. With the Strikers sitting just two points behind them, three points will be considered a must against the last place team in the combined standings.
Look for the leadership of Brian Shriver and Georgi Hristov to continue to put the Rowdies in a position to win matches. And after two consecutive weeks on the bench, be prepared for a possible cameo from none other than Freddy Adu.
SAN ANTONIO SCORPIONS vs. ATLANTA SILVERBACKS (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., WatchESPN)
The San Antonio Scorpions and the Atlanta Silverbacks both have recorded a win and a loss in their last two matches. Those results can sum up what has ultimately been inconsistent seasons for these two NASL sides.
The Scorpions, through Billy Forbes, Omar Cummings and Rafael Castillo, do have talent at their disposal. The Soccer Bowl 2014 champions have struggled to replicate last year’s form this fall, though.
The Silverbacks have a weapon in the form of Pedro Ferreira Mendes. The versatile attacker has found the back of the net in two of Atlanta’s last three games and will be looking to carry that form on until the final whistle of 2015.
FC EDMONTON vs. NEW YORK COSMOS (Sunday, 4 p.m., WatchESPN)
This weekend’s Sunday match sees the first-place Cosmos travel to Canada to face off against FC Edmonton.
After a midweek meltdown against the Fury, Gio Savarese will be looking to get revenge against the league’s second Canadian side.
There is no hiding the disappointing result from Wednesday, but the Cosmos are a side well prepped to mentally recover. Under the leadership of veterans Raul and Marcos Senna, and with red-hot attacker Lucky Mkosana well rested, expect a much different Cosmos performance this weekend.
The Eddies will be hoping that their visitors are still in the grieving process, though. Edmonton sits just two points out of the final playoff spot, and a result against the top side in the league would provide the perfect momentum going into the final stretch.
The Edmonton attack has found its groove in the last month through the work rate of Dustin Corea, the speed of Tomi Ameobi and the finishing of Daryl Fordyce.