Tampa Bay Sports Day

Rowdies and Armada Tie; Indy Eleven Captures NASL Spring Season Championship


Tampa Bay and Jacksonville played to a 1-1 draw. While entering the final week of the North American Soccer League (NASL) Spring Season as one of three clubs chasing the New York Cosmos, Indy Eleven needed to pull off a minor miracle to lift their first piece of league silverware.
The Boys in Blue did just that, topping the visiting Carolina RailHawks, 4-1, on Saturday night to move past the Cosmos in the standings on the third tiebreaker – head-to-head record.
Indy Eleven’s Spring Season Championship wasn’t completely confirmed until Sunday afternoon, when the Fort Lauderdale Strikers were unable to get the landslide victory they needed over FC Edmonton at Clarke Field. In fact, the Strikers, who needed to win by six goals or more, didn’t even come out on top on Sunday, falling 2-1 to the Eddies in the Spring Season finale.
With the Spring Season trophy in hand, Indy has guaranteed itself one of the four spots in The Championship, the league’s four-team postseason tournament. The Eleven will host one of the two semifinal games in The Championship as the #1 or #2 seed, with the final seeding determined by the overall records of the Spring Season and Fall Season Champions.

Jacksonville Armada FC 1, Tampa Bay Rowdies 1

Playing a man down, Jacksonville took a 1-0 lead in the 52nd minute on a goal by Junior Sandoval. Charles Eloundou hit a left-footed cross that Sandoval chested to the ground before striking a shot past Tampa Bay goalkeeper Matt Pickens from about 25 yards out. It was the fourth goal this year allowed by the Rowdies in the first 15 minutes of the second half, most in the league.

The Rowdies (4-4-2, 16) drew even in the game on a goal by Junior Burgos from about 35 yards out in the 84th minute. Joe Cole provided the assist. The draw left Tampa Bay two points behind first place Indy in the Spring Season Standings.

The complexion of the game changed seconds into the second half when Jacksonville (1-4-5, 7) defender Shawn Nicklaw was shown a straight red card when he left his feet on a tackle against Cole.

Indy Eleven 4, Carolina RailHawks 1

Indy Eleven used a furious attack to score four goals, powered by Eamon Zayed’s hat trick, and put themselves in position to win the NASL Spring Season.

Needing goals early and often, Indy (4-6-0, 18) came out flying, forcing several saves by Carolina (4-2-4, 14) goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald inside the game’s first 10 minutes. The Eleven broke through minutes later when Nemanja Vukovic’s cross from the left was headed past Fitzgerald by Zayed.

Carolina’s Nazmi Albadawi evened the score in the 29th minute, taking a shot that beat Jon Busch low to the near post after Albadawi could not find a suitable passing option.

Another Vukovic cross led to a goal just before the end of the first half when Justin Braun slipped his marker to side foot a shot past Fitzgerald. The Eleven made it 3-1 in the 65th minute when Zayed nodded a cross from Gordon past Fitzgerald, who had been under intense pressure the entire second half.

Zayed completed his hat trick – and capped Indy’s incredible performance – when he slipped the RailHawks defense at the far post and tapped in a cross from substitute Duke Lacroix in the 86th minute. Indy amassed 26 total shots with 12 of them on target.

Ottawa Fury FC 1, Rayo OKC 1

A misplay in the back by Ottawa’s Julian De Guzman led to the opening goal for Rayo OKC. Ian Svantesson pounced on a loose ball and smacked a left-footed shot past Romuald Peiser only two minutes into the game.

Ottawa (2-3-5, 9) midfielder Carl Haworth put an exclamation point on several weeks of solid play when he scored a superlative goal from a free kick in the 59th minute. His right-footed shot curled off the inside of the near post for his third goal of the season.

Fury FC snapped a two-game losing streak with the draw at home while Rayo OKC (3-3-4, 12) is now unbeaten in its last two.

Minnesota United 3, Miami FC 1

Minnesota closed out the Spring Season with a 3-1 win over visiting Miami FC, snapping a three-game losing streak.

Christian Ramirez gave Minnesota (5-1-4, 16) the lead less than a minute into the second half when he headed a looping cross by Ben Speas past Miami FC (1-4-5, 7) goalkeeper Daniel Vega. The goal by the Loons’ striker was his fifth of the Spring Season, a tally that puts him just one behind league-leading Eamon Zayed of Indy.

Stefano Pinho doubled the lead seven minutes later when he used his chest to turn into the goal a cross from Kevin Venegas, who did some nifty dribbling on the flank to pop free to deliver the pass.

Miami FC cut Minnesota’s lead in the half in the 66th minute when Dario Cvitanich set up a goal from close range by Jaime Chávez. Ibson scored an insurance goal deep into second-half injury time at the end of the multi-pass combination, with the last assist going to Ramirez.