Tampa Bay Sports Day

NASL: First-place RailHawks visit Tampa Bay Rowdies

The Carolina RailHawks enter Week 4 of the North American Soccer League (NASL) Spring Season aiming to keep their early momentum going against the Tampa Bay Rowdies after winning three straight.

Coming off back-to-back wins, Minnesota United FC is seeking its first ever victory over the New York Cosmos, who come to town on the heels of a heartbreaking loss to Indy Eleven.

Down in Miami, two of the league’s expansion sides get the weekend underway on Friday night as Rayo OKC plays its first away match in club history against Miami FC.

A pair of rivalry matches are also on the docket for Week 4, as Canadian sides FC Edmonton and Ottawa Fury FC clash in Edmonton and Floridian clubs Jacksonville Armada FC and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers meet at Lockhart Stadium.

Here is a rundown of all the matchups this weekend:

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Carolina RailHawks
7:30 p.m. ET | Saturday, April 23
Al Lang Stadium | St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies (1-2-0, 5) will be the latest team to try to slow down the red-hot Carolina RailHawks. Tom Heinemann scored his first goal in the green and gold to lift the Rowdies to a 1-0 victory over FC Edmonton last Saturday. In 2016, the Rowdies have been difficult to break down, having conceded just once in the first three matches.

Carolina (3-0-0, 9) is the only team to have won its first three matches of the Spring Season. The RailHawks have shown a powerful attack thus far through the combination of Austin da Luz (three goals) and Tiyi Shipalane (two goals). Defeating Ottawa Fury FC, 1-0, at home last Saturday, the RailHawks came close to adding more goals to the scoresheet, but they were thwarted throughout by stellar goalkeeping by Romuald Peiser. The matchup on Saturday is a clash featuring one of the league’s best attacks against one of its stingiest defenses so far.

Miami FC vs. Rayo OKC
8 p.m. ET | Friday, April 22
Ocean Bank Field | Miami, Fla.

Two expansion sides meet with one thought on their minds: earning a first win in club history. Miami FC has let leads slip away late in two of the three matches it has played so far. Dario Cvitanich has scored a goal in each of those games, but he will need some help in the attacking third for Miami to get its first win. Miami most recently fell to Jacksonville Armada FC, 2-1, last Friday.

Rayo OKC is coming off a bye week and should be ready to go in its travels to South Florida. Michel has been the standout performer so far, jetting down the wing and scoring a high-quality goal in the side’s most recent match – a 3-2 losing effort to the Carolina RailHawks.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. Jacksonville Armada FC
7 p.m. ET | Saturday, April 23
Lockhart Stadium | Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers (0-1-1, 1) will want to relive last year’s success against Jacksonville Armada FC after clinching a postseason spot against last year’s expansion side. In 2016, though, the Strikers have had a rough time to start the season. Recently the club added Ramon Núñez, who will bolster the club’s attack moving forward.

The Armada FC (1-0-1, 3) earned its first win under former U.S. men’s national team goalkeeper Tony Meola against Miami FC in a 2-1 victory, giving the team a boot entering another all-Florida affair. Jacksonville, which lost its first encounter on the road, 2-0, to the New York Cosmos, will want to get a win on the road quickly to set a different tone after last season’s troubles away from home.

 

Minnesota United vs. New York Cosmos
8 p.m. ET | Saturday, April 23
NSC Stadium | Blaine, Minn.

After an opening-day loss, Minnesota United (2-0-1, 6) continues to improve. The Loons took advantage of playing the majority of their last match a man up and defeated the Strikers, 3-0. Minnesota, though, is still seeking its first win against the New York Cosmos, and enter the match 0-4-4 in the head-to-head series. Christian Ramirez and Ben Speas – both of whom have two goals this year – have been the driving force in the attack and will look to test the Cosmos’ back line.

New York (2-0-1, 6) seemed destined for a win until the final moments of Saturday’s match in Indianapolis. Two late goals by Indy Eleven handed the Cosmos their first loss of the season. Minnesota will want to take a page out of Indy’s book and stifle New York’s powerful attack, which is led by Juan Arango and Jairo Arrieta. The Cosmos, who will see the return of starting goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, will have a tough task of rebounding against a strong Loons side.

FC Edmonton vs. Ottawa Fury FC
4 p.m. ET | Sunday, April 24
Clarke Field | Edmonton, Alberta

The Canadian Derby is set to heat up again with both sides needing a result to kick start their seasons. FC Edmonton (0-1-2, 1) was unable to convert a late penalty to snatch a point against Tampa Bay and have now played three games without scoring a goal. Led by veteran Canadian international Nik Ledgerwood and a supporting cast of promising Canadian talent, the Eddies will look to grab early bragging rights against Ottawa.

Ottawa (0-1-2, 1) has had a tough start to the season, but can take some positives from the play of last year’s Golden Glove winner Romuald Peiser in the 1-0 loss to Carolina. With a mostly new squad, Fury FC is still in the process of jelling as a team. Forward Idan Vered and his quickness, though, should cause problems for the FC Edmonton defense.