2014 NASL Week 5: Strikers to the Top

With the week 6 games approaching, let’s look at the other NASL results from last week.

But first, a quick mention about cup play. The US Open Cup second-round games were held yesterday. Of interest to Eleven fans is that the Dayton Dutch Lions won 2-0 over AC Schwaben. That means that Dayton will travel to Indianapolis for the May 28 third-round game. We should see news about that game later today. In other cup news, Edmonton took on Montreal in the ACC. The Eddies held on for 90 minutes, but lost 4-2 (5-4 on aggregate) on a stoppage-time penalty to go out of the cup. They’ll be gutted, but congratulations to Edmonton for taking the MLS side to the limit.

But, back to week 5 results. The Spring season is now past halfway, and the race is starting to take shape. Fort Lauderdale take over the top spot, San Antonio take a big step forward, and Cosmos get back on track. Minnesota and Carolina suffer setbacks. Let’s get to it.

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uqoNeqBp_8%5D

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 4-0 Atlanta Silverbacks

Atlanta took a trip to Fort Lauderdale and were soundly beaten by the Strikers, who are on a three-game winning run. The 4-0 victory was fairly comprehensive, and while the Silverbacks did get some chances, they never looked likely to make it a contest. Martin Nunez opened the scoring at 23′ for his third goal in the last three games. Mark Anderson scored the second at 50′ off a throw-in from Ivan Guerrero. The match was sealed at 73′ when Atlanta’s Alex Harlley saw red for a hard tackle on Anderson. Anderson was taken off with an ankle injury — particularly frustrating for the English midfielder as he was just recovering his form after being injured for most of 2013.

With the man advantage, Fort Lauderdale were unlikely to give up their lead. Atlanta fought for a goal, but Carols Salazar added a third goal for the Strikers at 84′ from a free kick, and Fafa Picault sealed the win with a fourth goal off a penalty in stoppage time. The four-goal advantage was crucial for Fort Lauderdale, as they’re tied on points with Minnesota for the league lead, holding first only due to a 6 vs 4 advantage in goal differential. Atlanta falls behind Tampa Bay in the standings, also due to goal differential.

New York Cosmos 1-0 Minnesota United FC

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gqSs3MmZYg%5D

The Monday game saw Minnesota make the trip to Long Island to take on the faltering Cosmos. The game didn’t disappoint, and while Minnesota had some decent chances, it came down to a beautiful Marcos Senna goal that gave Cosmos the win and sent United to their first loss of the season. The game was cagey and neither team wanted to make mistakes. Matt Van Oekel was called into action to save a few early New York attempts, but the game remained a fairly tight affair until 61′. That’s when Marcos Senna collected a deep corner outside the box, just wide of the far post. His first touch was perfect, and his swerving shot found the far corner past a rooted Matt Van Oekel. It’s a beautiful goal and a definite Play of the Week contender. With Minnesota forced to attack, the game opened up a bit, and both teams had chances. United built pressure through the latter stages of the game, but were unable to craft a clear chance, and Cosmos held on for the win.

San Antonio Scorpions 3-0 Carolina RailHawks

San Antonio gathered a comprehensive 3-0 win over Carolina at Toyota Field. After a fairly quiet first half, the Scorpions opened the scoring at 50′, when Billy Forbes cross was turned into the net by Eric Hassli. Forbes gathered his second assist at 59′, when another cross was headed home by Danny Barrera. Tomasz Zahorski scored the third goal for San Antonio on a penalty kick. Forbes was in his debut match for the Scorpions — he had trained with the team in preseason, but returned to college to finish his studies. He was brought on at halftime, and created two goals for San Antonio. Not bad!

The win takes San Antonio to fourth in the table, passing the RailHawks. Carolina might be the most difficult team to figure out this year; they’ve given Fort Lauderdale their only loss in a 4-1 beating, but now have lost 3-0 and 4-0 (to 8th-place Ottawa) on the road. San Antonio have lost twice at home, but won twice on the road; they’ll be visiting Indy on May 31.

Ottawa Fury FC 1-1 Tampa Bay Rowdies

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv0KW2LPhRc%5D

Ottawa and Tampa Bay played to a 1-1 draw in an entertaining match in the Canadian capital. Early chances came to both sides, with Georgi Hristov hitting the bar for Tampa Bay at 15′, and Tony Donatelli putting a 25-yard free kick barely wide for Ottawa at 20′. Ottawa had an even better chance at 23′ when Frankie Sanfilippo handled the ball in the box. Ottawa’s penalty was taken by Oliver, but his PK, taken hard to the right, was well saved by Matt Pickens in a Play of the Week contender.

Tampa Bay got their own chance at a PK just three minutes later. Rowdies forward Lucky Mkosana was pulled back in the box by Omar Jarun. Hristov stepped up to take the penalty, and sent Fury keeper Devala Gorrick the wrong way. Ottawa responded well, and their mounting pressure finally told at 37′ when Ritchie Ryan’s corner was sent home at the far post by Donatelli. The second half saw chances for both sides, and both Pickens and Gorrick were called to make key saves. But Tampa Bay held on for the 1-1 road draw.

Tale of the Table

P Team GP W T L GD PTS
1 Fort Lauderdale Strikers 5 4 0 1 6 12
2 Minnesota United FC 5 4 0 1 4 12
3 New York Cosmos 5 3 0 2 4 9
4 San Antonio Scorpions 5 3 0 2 2 9
5 Carolina RailHawks 5 2 1 2 -3 7
6 Tampa Bay Rowdies 5 1 3 1 -1 6
7 Atlanta Silverbacks 5 2 0 3 -6 6
8 Ottawa Fury FC 5 1 1 3 0 4
9 FC Edmonton 5 1 1 3 -3 4
10 Indy Eleven 5 0 2 3 -3 2

The win for Fort Lauderdale, combined with the Minnesota loss, sees the two teams sitting at 12 points each on a 4-0-1 record. The Strikers take over top spot on goal differential. Cosmos and San Antonio both get a win to advance to nine points to remain within reach of the top two teams, forming a top-table Contenders group.

The mid-table Hopefuls group starts with the RailHawks. Their loss in San Antonio puts them behind the leaders (for now, at least). Tampa Bay’s single point is unable to break them free from mid-table, and Atlanta’s loss sees them drop back even with the Rowdies. These three teams aren’t quite in contention, but they’re close enough that a couple good results could bring them into the fight.

The bottom of the table is, sadly, more relevant for Indy fans. Winless Indy falls to the floor, with two points from five games. Edmonton passes the Eleven, and only its worse goal differential separates the Eddies from the Fury in 8th place. Indy falls to the bottom of the table, the only winless team in the NASL. These three teams aren’t quite mathematically eliminated yet, but they’re at the point when the goals become amassing points for playoff spots and making plans for the Fall season.

The good news is that there’s a lot of points still on offer. It’s pretty much too late for Indy to make a run at the Spring title, but a climb now would help a great deal with a run for a playoff spot in October. The league has remained quite competitive, and the Spring run-in should be quite interesting.

Up Next

We have another Saturday with five evening games, all kicking off within a one-hour window.

Saturday 17 May

  • Indy Eleven vs Ottawa Fury FC (7:30PM EDT)
  • Carolina RailHawks vs Atlanta Silverbacks (7:30PM EDT)
  • Tampa Bay Rowdies vs New York Cosmos (7:30PM EDT)
  • Minnesota United FC vs Fort Lauderdale Strikers (8:00PM EDT)
  • San Antonio Scorpions vs FC Edmonton (8:30PM EDT)

The key matchup is obviously Fort Lauderdale’s visit to Minnesota. The Strikers will look to cement their lead, while United will be fighting to correct last week’s result and regain control of the table. Both teams will want all three points, with New York and San Antonio so close behind.

Cosmos will look for a win in their visit to Tampa Bay, while San Antonio will host a visiting Edmonton team on their third consecutive road game and their fourth game in two weeks. We’ll also see a mid-table clash when Carolina host Atlanta; both teams know that a loss might well see them fall out of contention.

Indy has another winnable game — though of course nothing can be taken for granted. Ottawa’s 4-0 home win over Carolina is certainly laudable, but otherwise they’re 0-1-3, and have averaged a score of 0.75-1.75 in those four games. Indy will attempt to climb out of the cellar, while Ottawa will have hopes of advancing as either Carolina or Atlanta are sure to drop points.

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