I spent the evening watching the Carolina-Atlanta game, and then catching the end of Fort Lauderdale-San Antonio. Results broke in a very interesting way and regardless of what happens Sunday night, there will be at least three teams playing for a shot at the Spring title on July 4.
Carolina RailHawks 1-1 Atlanta Silverbacks
A buzzing WakeMed Park hosted the critical match between Carolina and Atlanta, and the game lived up to the hype. Both teams were evenly matched, trading spells of possession through the first half but with no goals to show. The second half continued at the same pace, but Atlanta broke through first at 63′ off a 35-yard free kick from Danny Barrera. The dangerous ball found its way through the six-yard box and past Carolina keeper Akira Fitzgerald for Bobby Reiss to poke home under pressure.
Atlanta attempted to slow the game, and for a long time their plan was successful. Carolina were eager but a bit disorganized, and Atlanta had a couple quality counterattack chances. But Carolina kept building pressure, and finally it told at 89′. Ciaran O’Brian fired a dangerous corner kick into the box, and Austin da Luz fought off keeper Joe Nasco for the header and tying goal. More than 4′ of stoppage time led to chances for both sides — and a red card for Atlanta’s Beto Navarro — but the draw was the fair result.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1-4 San Antonio Scorpions
Fort Lauderdale had a good crowd at Lockhart Stadium, but they proved unable to withstand the Scorpions. With goal differential key to the San Antonio hopes, the lopsided score will lift their spirits and keep hope alive going into the July 4 matchup with Carolina.
The Strikers got a quick start, with the goal coming from Darnell King at 11′. But San Antonio leveled the match at 35′, with Hans Denissen providing the assist to none other than Westfield’s own Eriq Zavaleta, former national champ with IU, on loan from the Seattle Sounders for a few matches. (I hope his MLS career takes off, but otherwise it’d be great to see the local boy in an Indy Eleven shirt, wouldn’t it?)
The half that started well for Fort Lauderdale ended sourly when Shavar Thomas was sent off on a straight red card at 44′. Facing the Scorpions for the entire second half with a man disadvantage proved too much for the Strikers. San Antonio took the lead at 56′ with a goal from Hans Denissen (assist Stephen DeRoux). Goal 3 came at 67′ through Kevin Harmse (assist Zavaleta), and number 4 came at 90′ from Bryan Jordan (assist Fabrice Noel). The win and three points were crucial, but the +3 swing in goal differential changes San Antonio’s task from virtually impossible to merely improbable.
We still have Edmonton hosting Minnesota tomorrow night; while that game will tell us whether Minnesota has a shot at the title on July 4, it doesn’t affect the rest of the picture too much. So where are we?
Tale of the Table (Saturday edition)
|San Antonio Scorpions||11||5||2||4||17||2||17|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||11||4||3||4||17||1||15|
|Minnesota United FC||10||4||2||4||17||0||14|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||11||2||2||7||17||-10||8|
Carolina retains the league lead by two points over Atlanta. San Antonio climbs into third, and Minnesota can leapfrog idle Tampa Bay with a win over Edmonton tomorrow. So, we’ll have 3 or 4 teams within 3 points of the league lead, and that makes next weekend’s matchups critical.
Next Up (Spring Season Finale!)
Sunday 30 June: Minnesota at Edmonton
Friday 4 July: Atlanta at Minnesota, Carolina at San Antonio, Fort Lauderdale at Tampa Bay. (Bye for Edmonton.)
The key game will be Carolina at San Antonio. If Carolina wins, they are Spring champs and host the Soccer Bowl in the fall.
If Carolina and San Antonio tie, only Atlanta can beat the RailHawks to the title. The Silverbacks would have to win by at least 4 goals, and might need +5. Goals scored is the second tiebreaker, and Carolina currently leads Atlanta by +3 in the GF category. (Third tiebreaker is head-to-head and Atlanta have the advantage there.) So a tie might be just enough to see Carolina through to the Spring title.
But if San Antonio can beat Carolina — in Texas — then things get really interesting. First, if Carolina loses, Atlanta can win the season by beating Minnesota. If Atlanta can’t win, then San Antonio could win the season… but they’ll need to win by 3 or more goals over Carolina to do it. And in that scenario, they could still lose out… to Minnesota, if they win tomorrow, also beat Atlanta on July 4, and score enough goals in the process to beat San Antonio and Carolina on goal differential. Whew!
Should make for a crazy Fourth of July. Let’s hope for some goalscoring fireworks!