A busy couple weeks sees me playing catchup on the NASL updates. I’ll grab two weeks at once to get back on track – getting us across the midpoint of the spring season and on to Week 8.
Carolina got their first loss at the hands of Atlanta, Tampa Bay pulled out a thriller in Minnesota, and San Antonio maintained their resurgence with a win over Fort Lauderdale. Week 7 was a fine end to an exciting first half of the Spring season.
Atlanta Silverbacks 2-0 Carolina RailHawks
This was an excellent game, with a breakaway goal by Ruben Luna at 5′ putting the Silverbacks in front early. Fine work by Carolina keeper Akira Fitzgerald keeping the RailHawks in the game, while Carolina saw an equalizer disallowed for offsides.
The match turned at 52′ when Floyd Franks was sent off for Carolina on a straight red. Atlanta eventually took advantage at 76′ when defender Martyn Lancaster headed in the cross from Danny Barrera. The fine goalkeeping by Fitzgerald didn’t result in a win, but it kept Carolina in first place for Week 7 with a slim advantage in goal differential.
Minnesota United 2-3 Tampa Bay Rowdies
The best match of the week! Minnesota and Tampa Bay traded goals, beginning with a Tampa Bay goal from Shane Hill in first half stoppage time. It was a fine goal; when Amani Walker pumped a long ball to the edge of the 18-yard box, Minnesota keeper Daryl Sattler came a long way to punch it clear. But Hill caught the ball on the volley and his sidefoot lob from 25 yards found the back of the net to give the Rowdies the halftime lead.
Minnesota equalized at 54′ through a fine finish from Michael Reed (off a nifty spin and pass from Simone Bracalello), but Tampa Bay restored the advantage a minute later through a Luke Mulholland strike when the Loonies couldn’t clear their lines. Bracalello equalized again for Minnesota at 65′ with another great move, but Tampa Bay found the winner at 90′ through Keith Savage.
San Antonio Scorpions 3-1 Fort Lauderdale Strikers
San Antonio started quickly at 2′ when Striker keeper Jeff Attinella could only parry Blake Wagner’s short-range header; Javier Saavedra found the rebound first to poke home for the early Scorpion lead.
Saavedra helped double San Antonio’s lead at 54′ by heading on a free kick to Luka Vucko for the short-range goal. Fort Lauderdale pulled one back just a minute later, when Scott Gordon poked home from a goalmouth scramble. But Gordon cancelled his own contribution at 58′ when he turned a cross from into his own net.
So ended Week 7, with Carolina holding a slim lead at the halfway point of the Spring season. On to…
With Carolina idle in Week 8, it was up to Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Edmonton to attempt to take advantage. Atlanta hosted San Antonio, Edmonton hosted Fort Lauderdale, and Tampa Bay hosted Minnesota for a rematch of Week 7.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-3 Minnesota United FC
The replay of last week’s match saw Minnesota travel to Tampa Bay. Another 2-3 match resulted in another win for the visitors, but this time, the Loons were smiling at the end. Minnesota got a lucky break off a corner at 10′. The corner was headed across the goal towards the far post by Brent Kallman, where Cristiano Dias was able to put a looping lob of a header back towards the other post, over the head of the defender on the line. But Tampa Bay struck back at 14′, when Georgi Hristov beat Minnesota keeper Matt VanOekel to his near post with a lashing shot to even the match.
The first half continued at a breakneck pace. VanOekel stepped up his game with a fine save one-on-one with Devin Del Do at 22′. But Minnesota took the lead again just a minute later; Simone Bracalello (who else?) broke open the Rowdie defense with a fine pass to Pablo Campos, whose crafty backheel found the trailing Geison Moura for the goal.
The Loons struck again at 26′, again down the left side. This time Campos fed Bracalello for a really composed finish, giving Minnesota the advantage. Tampa Bay got their second goal just 3 minutes later, at 29′. Raphael Cox found himself all alone on the left wing; his cross found defender Luke Mulholland. Mulholland’s drive was well saved by VanOekel, but Georgi Hristov was well positioned to fire the rebound into the goal.
The second half saw half-chances for both sides, but Minnesota were able to see out the match to get the away win and recover their disappointment from the previous match. The win pulled Minnesota into a tie with Tampa Bay (and idle Carolina) for second place at 11 points.
Atlanta 1-0 San Antonio Scorpions
Despite a lot of Atlanta pressure, and a toothless San Antonio attack, the Silverbacks had to wait until 86′ to get the three points that puts them atop the table. Kellen Gulley’s shot was blocked by a San Antonio defender, but Danny Barrera got to the loose ball first and fired a hard shot off Scorpions keeper Pat Hannigan and into the net.
Atlanta continues to find ways to win games even when the going is rough. But San Antonio will be nervous about a soft attacking performance that’s reminiscent of their scoreless first three games of the season. The loss sees the Scorpions fall to the bottom of the table.
FC Edmonton 0-1 Fort Lauderdale Strikers
The Sunday match saw Fort Lauderdale make the 2,500 mile trip to Edmonton and come home with a win. The Strikers brought pressure early and put Edmonton on the back foot. The situation wasn’t helped when Edmonton defender Carlyle Mitchell was injured, forcing an early substitution for Adrian LeRoy. Life got even worse for the Eddies at 26′. LeRoy’s poor back header to keeper Lance Parker was seized by Stefan Dimitrov. Parker ‘fouled’ Dimitrov in the box, resulting in a penalty, a red card for Parker, and a second substitution for Edmonton. It was a soft foul – Parker’s right leg just tapped Dimitrov as he passed, and the striker made a meal of it. But replacement keeper John Smits saved the poor penalty from Dimitrov with a trailing leg to keep the home side level.
Fort Lauderdale took a second bite at the apple on 68′, when Darnell King was tripped in the box by defender Albert Watson. This time the penalty was taken by Carlos Salazar, who did just enough to put it past Smits’ reach. The goal was enough to see the Strikers to victory and off the bottom of the table.
Tale of the Table
Atlanta’s late winner sees them to the top of the table as the second half of the Spring season starts. Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Minnesota are in a virtual dead heat for second place, with Carolina’s superior goal differential seeing them take the tiebreaker. Tampa Bay and Minnesota are deadlocked on goal differential, goals scored, and head-to-head record. The table is rounded out by Edmonton, Fort Lauderdale, and San Antonio.
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||7||3||2||2||2||11|
|Minnesota United FC||7||2||2||2||2||11|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||7||2||1||4||-5||7|
|San Antonio Scorpions||7||1||2||4||-5||5|
Today and tomorrow sees US Open Cup matches for four NASL teams against MLS opposition:
Tue 28 May: FC Dallas at Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta at Real Salt Lake
Wed 29 May: Seattle Sounders at Tampa Bay, Carolina at LA Galaxy
We’ll see if any of the NASL teams can overturn their D1 opposition. I’ll try to give a recap later in the week. Atlanta has a bye, but the other teams will have to overcome the midweek game for their league matches.
Sat 1 June: Carolina at Fort Lauderdale, Minnesota at San Antonio
Sun 2 June: Tampa Bay at Edmonton
(bye for Atlanta)
For the second week in a row, the league leaders have a bye and are unable to defend their spot. Atlanta could find themselves in fourth place by Sunday evening. Carolina, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay will all try to leapfrog the Silverbacks, while San Antonio will try to climb off the league floor at the expense of Fort Lauderdale. If the Scorpions can find their shooting boots again, their match against Minnesota should prove exciting!