Before I cover league action – a quick mention that the Eleven are getting a coach. We’ll see an announcement next Tuesday, 11 June. I don’t know if I’ll make the event or not, but I’ll report it either way.
On to Week 9. Well, that was about all that Atlanta could hope for, wasn’t it? A loss for Minnesota and draws for Carolina and Tampa Bay saw the Silverbacks retain their spot at the top of the table despite their bye week. San Antonio’s win sees them climb into 6th place, with only 5 points separating first and last place.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1-1 Carolina RailHawks
This was an entertaining match in damp conditions; I watched on UStream and had quite a good time with it. The first half saw good attacks on both ends, including a clearance off the line by the Strikers. But Fort Lauderdale put Carolina under surprising pressure, getting behind their high line several times. Carolina keeper Akira Fitzgerald was excellent at keeping the game level for the first 36 minutes. The Fort Lauderdale goal came when Manny Gonzalez’s excellent free kick was adjusted home by a touch from the head of Scott Gordon.
The second half was a bit strange. Carolina began to bring more pressure, but the match was really driven by the antics of referee Sorin Stoica. After three soft yellow cards in the first half, he handed a straight red at 59′ to Fort Lauderdale’s Carlos Salazar for a soft foul on Eddie Ababio. Unsatisfied with that, he returned the favor to Carolina’s Kevin Rutkiewicz at 65′ for a needless tackle from behind on Darnell King, resetting the match at 10v10 and adding two red cards to six yellows.
Fort Lauderdale brought pressure, drawing another fine save from Fitzgerald, but Carolina took advantage of the open space, and they were rewarded with the equalizing goal at 81′. Tiyiselani Shipalane found an excellent pass to feed Brian Shriver’s run; Shriver met the ball at the right edge of the six-yard box with his first touch and neatly lifted it over onrushing keeper Jeff Attinella (with a defender lurking too). The excellent goal from a very tight angle gave Carolina the draw on the road, and kept them just a point behind idle Atlanta for the league lead.
San Antonio Scorpions 2-0 Minnesota United
San Antonio have slowly picked up the scoring pace as the weather’s warmed up, and their two goals at 1′ and 90′ bookended a quality performance against Minnesota. The first goal started with a fine shot from distance by Hans Denissen. United keeper Matt VanOekel could only parry the sharp strike, and Blake Wagner did quite well to collect the rebound and fire it home.
After that, both sides traded chances, including a Scorpions goal disallowed for offsides and great saves by both keepers. (San Antonio’s Pat Hanningan had to be subbed at 22′ after getting kicked in the ribs, but Jeremy Vuolo did a fine job when called upon.) The second San Antonio goal came in stoppage time, when Walter Ramirez collected the ball in the left side of the penalty area, shuffled off two defenders, and fired hard and low into the far post. The excellent goal locked up the victory for San Antonio and will be a good memory as they enter their bye week.
FC Edmonton 0-0 Tampa Bay Rowdies
Let’s put it this way: the highlights video is 45 seconds. Edmonton were unable to bring much pressure on the stifling Tampa Bay defense. Tampa Bay had more pressure, forcing five saves from Edmonton GK John Smits, and seeing a goal disallowed for offsides. Tampa Bay were handed a further advantage at 60′ when Edmonton defender Mallan Roberts was sent off for a second yellow. But 30 minutes of man advantage didn’t help the Rowdies, and the match ended with just the third scoreless draw of the season.
Tampa Bay will rue their missed chances, losing out on the opportunity to climb to the top of the league. Edmonton have the league’s stingiest defense (only 7 goals given up), but they match that with only 7 goals scored (also a league low) that sees them continue to lurk in the middle of the table.
Tale of the Table
The Silverbacks retain a slim 1-point lead, but there are still three other teams within a single win of first place. With a game in hand, Atlanta and Carolina might have an edge over the rest of the pack, but really it’s anyone’s league. Even Fort Lauderdale and San Antonio — sharing the bottom of the table all season — could go on a run and climb into contention.
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||8||3||3||2||2||12|
|Minnesota United FC||8||3||2||3||0||11|
|San Antonio Scorpions||8||2||2||4||-3||8|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||8||2||2||4||-5||8|
Sat 8 June: Tampa Bay at Carolina; Edmonton at Atlanta; Fort Lauderdale at Minnesota
(bye for San Antonio)
Good matches for just about everyone this week. Minnesota is playing in the Metrodome, so it’ll be interesting to see if they get a major crowd for the game. Atlanta will attempt to retain their league lead against Edmonton, while Carolina and Tampa Bay will try to establish an advantage over the other contenders.
Wed 12 June: Next week also sees the fourth round of the US Open Cup. Two NASL teams are still in the hunt — two teams that happen to play each other on Saturday:
- Chivas USA (MLS) at Carolina RailHawks, 7:15 EDT
- Tampa Bay Rowdies at Portland Timbers (MLS), 7:30PM PDT
Carolina should have a real chance at a win. Chivas are a team in disarray — they haven’t won since the end of March, and they fired their coach last week, the day after assistant coaches filed a discrimination lawsuit against the club. Under those circumstances, you have to like Carolina’s chances. Tampa Bay will have a more difficult job. Portland haven’t lost since March 9, and it’s an even longer trip from Tampa to Portland than from LA to Raleigh-Durham. Here’s wishing both teams luck over the bigger sides!