Tampa Bay Sports Day

NASL: Cosmos Back On Top As Wild Spring Season Hits Home Stretch

Three teams spent time in first place in the North American Soccer League (NASL) Spring Season Standings on Sunday, but when the dust settled in Week 8 it was the New York Cosmos at the top of the table by a single point over FC Edmonton. Only two points separate the top five teams – New York, Edmonton, Minnesota, Indy and Carolina – with three weeks left.
New York received goals from Yasmani Duk and Ruben Bover to spoil Joe Cole’s New York debut and rebound from last week’s loss at Edmonton. The Cosmos’ victory ended the Eddies’ two hours in first place after they rode Daryl Fordyce’s penalty kick to a 1-0 victory against visiting Carolina.
In Sunday’s opening game, Ottawa Fury FC extended its home unbeaten streak in the NASL to nine games, sending Jacksonville Armada FC to its fourth straight loss.
Despite losing at Indy, 4-2, on Saturday, Minnesota United spent the night in first place, but only on goal differential over the Eleven, the league’s only unbeaten team. In the only other Saturday game, Fort Lauderdale won its second straight, going to Rayo OKC and leaving with all three points in a 2-1 win.
New York Cosmos 2, Tampa Bay Rowdies 1
 New York scored two goals eight minutes apart late in the first half and this time made the lead stand up in a 2-1 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Rowdies on Sunday night. The victory sends the Cosmos back into first place in the Spring Season Standings, leading FC Edmonton by a single point.
The Rowdies (2W-3D-2L, 9 points) took a 1-0 lead after a crisp counterattack culminated in Tom Heinemann’s second goal of the season. After the Cosmos buzzed near the Tampa Bay goal, a clearing pass found Heinemann at the center stripe. He trapped, and left the ball for Kalif Alhassan, who hit a quick return pass that sent Heinemann in alone on Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer.
It was Heinemann’s first game back at Shuart Stadium, where he scored both goals for Ottawa Fury FC in The Championship Final loss to the Cosmos a year ago. The veteran forward’s night ended relatively early when he had to leave with a hamstring injury after 37 minutes.
New York (5-0-3, 15) drew even in the 32nd minute when Yasmani Duk, making his first start for the Cosmos, scored into an empty net after a beautiful four-pass combination. Duk leaves the club after the game to join the national team of Bolivia for next weekend’s friendly against the United States and for next month’s Copa América Centenario.
Eight minutes later, Ruben Bover, who replaced the injured Niko Kranjcar in the fourth minute, put a flying left-footed volley past Tampa Bay goalkeeper Matt Pickens after a lead pass from Juan Arango. The match was Bover’s return to play after missing six games because of injury.
FC Edmonton 1, Carolina RailHawks 0
 FC Edmonton vaulted to the top of the Spring Season Standings, at least for a few hours, after the Eddies defeated Carolina, 1-0. The win was the second straight for Edmonton, which is on a five-game unbeaten streak overall. The RailHawks are winless in their last four, including three losses.
Both teams probed the opposing defense in the first half, but no one succeeded in breaking through during the wet and cold matinee on Sunday. But near the end of added time, Edmonton’s Dustin Corea unleashed a left-footed shot that Carolina (4-1-3, 13 points) goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre parried away as the half was whistled to a close.
As the rain picked up in intensity at Clarke Field, Carolina came close in the 50th minute when Nazmi Albadawi’s crossing pass was headed inches over the crossbar by Kareem Moses.
The Eddies (4-2-2, 14) grabbed the lead in the 78th minute on a clinical penalty kick by Daryl Fordyce. The spot kick was called after Carolina’s Connor Tobin wrestled Albert Watson to the turf during an Edmonton corner kick.
Indy Eleven 4, Minnesota United 2
 Indy Eleven remained unbeaten in the Spring Season with a scintillating win over first-place Minnesota United. Indy earned a 4-2 victory to pull even, at the time, with the Loons on points at the top of the table.
Eamon Zayed put Indy Eleven (3-4-0, 13 points) in front in the 16th minute. Defender Nemanja Vukovic played Justin Braun through the center of Minnesota’s defense and slotted the ball to his right past the on-rushing goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock. Zayed then tapped the ball into the open net for the first goal of the game and his third of the season. Vukovic had started the move from around his own 18-yard box before driving the Eleven forward.
Zayed turned provider shortly after halftime. He found Jamaican forward Omar Gordon, who also was able to slot into an empty net to double the advantage in the 49th minute.
The two-goal lead, however, didn’t last long. Stefano Pinho scored for the second week in a row with a cracking effort in the 54th minute. Kevin Venegas picked up the assist – his 14th in a United (4-1-2, 13) kit – to grab the all-time lead for the club.
Center back Damion Lowe equalized the game in the 69th minute when he connected on a volley to the far corner off a corner kick. It was his second goal of the season for the Loons. Venegas also added his second assist of the game.
Indy would regain its lead, though. Vukovic’s free kick was initially stopped by Ndjock, but Braun pounced and fired his shot past the ‘keeper at the near post in the 75th minute.
Deep into stoppage time, Justin Davis was sent off after receiving a second yellow card. From the ensuing free kick, substitute Nicki Paterson curled his shot just inside the far post to seal the victory.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2, Rayo OKC 1
 The Fort Lauderdale Strikers earned a hard-fought win on the road with a 2-1 victory over Rayo OKC. The Strikers are now unbeaten in their last three matches.
Jose Angulo scored his first goal of the year to open the scoring in Yukon, Okla. The Strikers (2-3-2, 9) forward nodded home at the back post from Nana Attakora’s cross in the 33rd minute. Dalton had prevented the home side from taking the lead with his goal-line clearance in the 10th minute.
Michel knotted the score on his league-leading fifth goal for Rayo OKC. He converted a penalty kick in the 62nd minute after Billy Forbes was taken down in the box.
The Strikers would restore their lead in spectacular fashion. Honduran international Ramón Núñez fired his free kick into the top corner, leaving Rayo OKC (2-2-3, 8) goalkeeper Daniel Fernandes with no chance in the 70th minute.
Ottawa Fury FC 1, Jacksonville Armada FC 0
 Canadian international Marcel de Jong scored from an acute angle deep in the penalty area in the 88th minute as Ottawa Fury FC snatched a late 1-0 victory against visiting Jacksonville Armada FC on Sunday afternoon.
Jacksonville (1-1-5, 4) had perhaps the best chance of the first half, coming in the 40th minute when Charles Eloundou cracked a shot from just outside the penalty area that forced Fury FC goalkeeper Romuald Peiser to parry clear.
In the 63rd minute, Ottawa’s Israeli striker Idan Vered took a lead pass from Jonny Steele and broke into the penalty area. From the center of the penalty area, he guided a left-footed shot toward the near post before Armada FC goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo stretched out to push the ball over the end line for a corner kick.
Gallardo came up big again nine minutes later when a crossing pass from the left by Steele set up Dennis Chin’s flying, right-footed volley that bounced in front of the Jacksonville ‘keeper and was smothered.
As strong as he was for most of the game, Gallardo would finally be beaten just a few minutes before time. De Jong rifled a shot from the left side off Gallardo’s hands and just inside the near post to clinch all three points for the home side.
Ottawa (2-2-3, 8), which had last week off, now has a nine-game NASL home unbeaten streak. Jacksonville has lost four straight and been outscored, 5-0.