Tampa Bay Sports Day

NASL: Trio of Top Six Clashes Could Swing Spring Race

The North American Soccer League (NASL) Spring Season championship race is moving closer to the finish line and several matchups in Week 8 will have direct impact on the top of the standings.

Unbeaten Indy Eleven hosts red-hot Minnesota United to kick start the weekend. The Loons haven’t lost since the opening weekend and currently sit at the top of the Spring Season Standings, but Indy could pull even on points with their northern visitors with a victory on Saturday night. The Carolina RailHawks, who are tied on points with Minnesota, make the trip to western Canada to take on FC Edmonton. A win for either club would put them in a favorable position in the chase for the Spring Season trophy.

The New York Cosmos, who sit just a point behind the league leaders, will attempt to get back on track after last week’s loss, hosting the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Shuart Stadium to close out the weekend.

Elsewhere, Rayo OKC has a chance to continue its success against Florida sides when the club plays host to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, while Ottawa Fury FC aims to continue its good run of form at home against Jacksonville Armada FC.

New York Cosmos vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
The New York Cosmos continue to have a roller coaster Spring Season. The club will want to end the pattern of two wins then two losses after dropping a 2-1 result against FC Edmonton last Sunday. Yohandry Orozco was lively throughout his 90 minutes and scored the Cosmos’ lone tally. All three losses for the Cosmos (4-0-3, 12) have come on the road, and they head back to Shuart Stadium to take on their rivals, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, needing to rebound to remain in the thick of the title chase.

Joe Cole made his Rowdies (2-3-1, 9) debut last weekend, but Tampa Bay was unable to secure all three points in a 1-1 draw with Rayo OKC. Tampa Bay has attacking depth, but it hasn’t yet yielded the goals the club needs to move up in the Spring Season Standings. The Rowdies have scored exactly as many goals (five) as they have conceded. Tampa Bay, though, has a chance to exact some revenge after seeing its 2015 postseason hopes dashed in New York during the final weekend of the Fall Season.

Ottawa Fury FC vs. Jacksonville Armada FC
Ottawa Fury FC got off to a slow start this season, but playing in front of the TD Place crowd the past two games has provided the club with a platform to build on. Ottawa won and drew its past two league games, and now remains at home for an encounter with Jacksonville Armada FC. Fury FC (1-2-3, 5) recently had its off week, but earned a come-from-behind 2-2 draw against league-leading Minnesota United in its last outing.

Jacksonville (1-1-4, 4) currently sits second from the bottom in the Spring Season Standings, and may just be feeling snakebit in front of goal. Tony Meola’s men have shown an ability to possess the ball and control the tempo in a majority of the club’s games this season, but finding the back of the net has been the issue. Heading to Ottawa, Matt Fondy and Co. are in desperate need of a breakthrough.

Rayo OKC vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers
Rayo OKC returns to Miller Stadium after a two-game swing in Florida, where the club picked up four points. Now, back at home, Rayo OKC (2-2-2, 8) takes on another side from the Sunshine State: the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The expansion side has had success against Floridian opponents, picking up two wins and a draw in Miami, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay, respectively.

Fort Lauderdale (1-3-2, 6) may have just had its best attacking performance of the year last Saturday, but Caio Zanardi’s side ended up without any goals to show for it. The Strikers were thwarted by an incredible individual effort from Indy Eleven goalkeeper Jon Busch. Maicon Santos has been the main goalscoring threat with three goals on the season, but Jose Angulo has been in fine form as well as the Strikers head to Oklahoma this weekend.

Indy Eleven vs. Minnesota United

Indy Eleven and Minnesota United meet in matchup with big NASL Spring Season title race implications. Still unbeaten, Indy (2-4-0, 10 points) is three points back from the Loons, who are currently in first place. The Boys in Blue received an inspired performance from goalkeeper Jon Busch last Saturday to escape Lockhart Stadium with a point. Busch and his back line will need to be on their game once again in order to slow down a Minnesota attack that is tied for the league lead in goals with 11.

Minnesota enters Carroll Stadium on a five-game unbeaten run after dropping its first game of the year, and four of those five contests have ended in clean sheets and wins. The Loons (4-1-1, 13) have been led by Christian Ramirez, who is tied for the league lead in goals with four. The former NASL Golden Boot winner has played creator too, and his assist in last weekend’s 2-0 win over Jacksonville Armada FC tied him with Kevin Venegas for the club’s all-time lead in assists.

FC Edmonton vs. Carolina RailHawks
FC Edmonton is unbeaten in its last four league games and has worked itself up to fourth place and two points out of first. The Eddies (3-2-2, 11) recently defeated the New York Cosmos, 2-1, after another strong display from center back Papé Diakité, who scored the game-winning goal. The Eddies now match up with Carolina with a chance to leapfrog the RailHawks.

Carolina had a fast start to the Spring Season, but hasn’t recorded a win since Week 4. The RailHawks, after two losses and a draw, are still in the thick of the Spring Season title race but they can ill afford to drop more points. Colin Clarke can take some solace in the chances created against Miami FC, despite the 0-0 score line. Carolina (4-1-2, 13) is behind only Minnesota due to the Loons having a superior goal differential.