Tampa Bay Sports Day

NASL: Loons Fly North To Ottawa, First-Place RailHawks Return Home


 Ottawa Fury FC and Minnesota United gave the fans at TD Place a breathtaking semifinal last year, and on Saturday, the red-hot Loons will make their way to Ottawa for a rematch of that back-and-forth affair last November. Minnesota has won three straight, while Ottawa hopes to ride its home crowd to a second consecutive victory.
The Carolina RailHawks head back to WakeMed Soccer Park to host the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The league leaders will look to bounce back after suffering their first loss of the year to the New York Cosmos. The NASL’s only remaining unbeaten club, Indy Eleven, is set to clash with a confident FC Edmonton side in a matchup featuring two clubs that have picked up a maximum six points in their last two encounters.
Rayo OKC travels to Florida – where it picked up its first win – to face off against Jacksonville Armada FC, while Miami FC seeks its first win in league play against the visiting New York Cosmos.
Here is a full rundown of this weekend’s matches:
Ottawa Fury FC vs. Minnesota United
Ottawa Fury FC and Minnesota United meet in a rematch of one of The Championship Semifinals from last year. Both teams are picking up momentum as the 2016 Spring Season progresses. Fury FC (1W-1D-3L, 4 points) notched its first win with a 2-0 result at TD Place on Saturday, and now has three more home matches in a row. Ottawa turned in a complete performance last week, shutting down Miami’s attack and looking dangerous going forward. Defender Fernando Timbó and forward Dennis Chin were each on the scoresheet in the comfortable win. In last year’s semifinal, Ottawa recorded a 2-1 extra-time win over Minnesota behind a pair of Tom Heinemann goals.
Minnesota (3-0-1, 9) is coming off its bye week, but previously won three matches in a row after an opening weekend loss in Carolina. Forward Christian Ramirez has led the way with three goals so far, including a dramatic game-winner in stoppage time for the 10-man Loons against the New York Cosmos.
Jacksonville Armada FC vs. Rayo OKC
Jacksonville Armada FC (1-1-2, 4) was unable to win its midweek clash with FC Edmonton, despite controlling the lion’s share of the possession. The Armada FC conceded on a corner kick in the 1-0 loss, but now remains at home with a chance to rebound against expansion side Rayo OKC.
Rayo OKC (1-1-2, 4) looked dynamic against Indy Eleven on Saturday, despite the loss. Billy Forbes was dangerous with every touch of the ball, while Michel continued to be a bright spot, scoring his third goal of the season. The club now heads to Florida, where it picked up its only win of the Spring Season (against Miami FC). If the expansion side continues to stay the course, more positive results should come sooner rather than later.
Carolina RailHawks vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers
The Carolina RailHawks suffered their first loss of the season on Sunday, falling to the New York Cosmos, but they remain in pole position atop the Spring Season Standings. Carolina (4-0-1, 12) nearly came back to earn a point in the 1-0 loss, but was denied by strong goalkeeping from Jimmy Maurer. Carolina’s attack, led by Austin da Luz (three goals), Tiyi Shipalane (two goals), and captain Nazmi Albadawi (four assists) aims to get back on track against the last-place Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
Fort Lauderdale (0-2-2, 2) is coming off a 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies, as the team has yet to hit its stride in the Spring Season. Captain Jean Alexandre returns after serving a one-game suspension and should help solidify the Strikers’ midfield. Fort Lauderdale’s back line has looked strong early on, aside from the loss in Minnesota. The team now needs its attack to hit its stride, with Maicon Santos scoring the team’s only two goals thus far.
Indy Eleven vs. FC Edmonton
Sitting as the only unbeaten team left in the Spring Season, Indy has won its last two matches. Defender Nemanja Vukovic (two goals) and the Eleven have shown a never-say-die attitude as they continue to pull out results late in matches. Indy won its last match, 2-1, over expansion side Rayo OKC and head into the contest with FC Edmonton with sky-high confidence.
FC Edmonton (2-1-2, 7) has also won its last two matches after picking up a 1-0 win over Jacksonville Armada FC. The Eddies have two consecutive shutouts on the strength of center backs Albert Watson and Papé Diakité’s strong play. It was Diakité that scored the lone goal in the midweek win. The Eddies have been an organized side that is capable of hitting on the counterattack as they head to Indianapolis next.
Miami FC vs. New York Cosmos
Miami FC (0-2-3, 2) is still chasing its first win as a club after some hard-luck defeats. The club went on the road last weekend and fell, 2-0, against Ottawa Fury FC. Miami boasts one of the league’s top scorers, Dario Cvitanich, and a spark plug in Ariel Martinez, and the club will need both to perform to take points from the visiting New York Cosmos.
New York (3-0-2, 9) has had a Jekyll and Hyde start to the season. The club has looked untouchable at home, but lost twice, conceding late goals, on the road. The Cosmos are coming off a big win over the Carolina RailHawks, which kept their Spring Season title ambitions in play. Yohandry Orozco was the latest player to shine for the Cosmos, scoring the game-winner in the triumph over Carolina, but the club may only be getting stronger.
Danny Szetela has recently returned from injury, Croatian international Niko Kranjčar is gaining form with each match, and Bolivian international Yasmani Duk, who was named to the country’s preliminary Copa Centenario squad, is beginning to settle into the team.