Tampa Bay Sports Day

NASL: Pair of Top-Four Clashes in New York and Indy Headline Weekend Schedule

While there is still plenty of North American Soccer League (NASL) Fall Season action left on the schedule, this weekend’s games could go a long way in determining which club will end up with the title and an automatic berth into The Championship, the league’s four-team postseason tournament.

The top four sides will face off on Saturday night, starting with the New York Cosmos carrying their long home unbeaten streak into a contest with FC Edmonton. Further west, Indy Eleven will look to extend a lengthy home unbeaten run of its own, taking on a red-hot Miami FC side that has jumped into second place and solidified itself as a bonafide contender for a spot in the postseason.

Several other sides are hoping to gain ground in the NASL Combined Standings over the course of the weekend. Minnesota United currently sits in a postseason position, but inconsistent play in recent weeks has opened the door for others to close the gap ahead of the Loons’ matchup with Ottawa Fury FC. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers are one of the clubs who have had a renaissance on the field and a six-game unbeaten run has them within striking distance of those ahead of them in the table. The Strikers will be in action on Sunday against Rayo OKC.

The Carolina RailHawks and Tampa Bay Rowdies meet in a crucial game for both sides, which each need to pick up points quickly to stay in The Championship hunt. Also on Saturday night, Puerto Rico FC welcomes Jacksonville Armada FC to the Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium.

New York Cosmos vs. FC Edmonton
7 p.m. ET | Saturday, September 17
Shuart Stadium | Hempstead, N.Y.

The New York Cosmos have grabbed the lead in the Fall Season and Combined Standings and it doesn’t look like the club has any plans to let it go any time soon. New York (9W-3D-2L, 30 points Fall; 15-3-6, 48 Combined) is unbeaten in its last eight contests, including six victories, and the club has a chance to extend its 15-game unbeaten run at Shuart Stadium on Saturday night against the Eddies. The Cosmos attack has been dangerous during the recent streak, but it was the defense, and goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, that came up big to hold off Minnesota United, 1-0, last weekend. Maurer racked up his 10th clean sheet, putting him one behind league leader Matt VanOekel of FC Edmonton, which happens to be Cosmos’ next opponent.

The Eddies (7-4-2, 25 Fall; 12-6-5, 42 Combined) had a chance to gain ground on the Cosmos during a Wednesday night contest against Rayo OKC, but the club was unable to find the back of the net in a scoreless draw. FC Edmonton is now winless in its last four games and to make matters worse, it has never beaten the Cosmos in New York. The club, though, will have every reason to think that it can eliminate that skid this weekend after defeating the Cosmos twice in league play in 2016.

Indy Eleven vs. Miami FC
7:30 p.m. ET | Saturday, September 17
Carroll Stadium | Indianapolis, Ind.

Spring Season Champion Indy Eleven (6-3-5, 12 Fall; 10-9-5, 39 Combined) has hit a rough patch over the past five games, alternating between losses and draws. Most recently, the club fell, 2-1, to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers last Saturday. Aside from one game, the recent string of results has come on the road, where the Boys in Blue have had their fair share of struggles this year. At Carroll Stadium, though, it has been a much different story for the Eleven, which is currently unbeaten in all of its contests at home in 2016 and on a 14-game streak without a loss dating back to last year. The team’s leading scorer, Eamon Zayed, has scored on a similar trend to the team’s performances, knocking in 10 of his 12 goals in Indy.
Miami FC was in action on Wednesday night and the side continued its hot streak with a 1-0 win over the Carolina RailHawks. Dario Cvitanich scored his ninth goal of the year as Miami (7-4-2, 25 Fall; 8-8-7. 32 Combined) extended its unbeaten run to six games. With the victory in midweek action, Miami jumped into second place as it continues its push towards a Fall Season title or postseason berth through the Combined Standings. Miami is now five points behind the New York Cosmos and four points back of Minnesota United for fourth place in the Combined Standings.

Puerto Rico FC vs. Jacksonville Armada FC
7:30 p.m. ET | Saturday, September 17
Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium | Bayamón, P.R.

Puerto Rico FC has played well at home over the past two games – against Ottawa Fury FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies – but has just missed out on more points after a pair of scoreless draws. Puerto Rico (1-7-6, 10 Fall; 1-7-6, 10 Combined) has kept clean sheets in three of the last four games since Trevor Spangenberg took over as the starting goalkeeper, resulting in three draws, but Puerto Rico has also been held scoreless in its last four contests. The matchup with Jacksonville Armada FC will end the club’s recent string of home games before playing a surging Miami FC side next weekend.

Jacksonville (2-4-7, 10 Fall; 3-8-12, 17 Combined) had been kept scoreless in two straight games before finding the back of the net twice last Sunday against Rayo OKC. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to claim all three points in a 3-2 loss. The Armada FC closes out its three-game road trip in Bayamón with the goal of ending a four-game winless streak. Jacksonville defeated Puerto Rico, 2-1, earlier in the Fall Season.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Carolina RailHawks
7:30 p.m. ET | Saturday, September 17
Al Lang Stadium | St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies currently sit just outside a potential postseason berth, but will need to build off recent results in order to play beyond October. The club is unbeaten in its last three games ahead of its matchup with the Carolina RailHawks. The Rowdies (3-4-6, 13 Fall; 7-8-8, 29 Combined) were unable to find a goal in a scoreless draw with Puerto Rico FC last Saturday, but English star Joe Cole has shown the ability to pop up with a moment of magic to lift the team. Defensively, the Rowdies have been strong with two clean sheets out of the past three games.

The RailHawks’ struggles on the road continued on Wednesday night in the 1-0 loss to Miami FC. The club is now winless in its last five road games and heads to Tampa Bay for an important game for both sides. With the stretch run of the Fall Season in full swing, both sides need to continue to pick up points in an effort to move up the Combined Standings. The RailHawks (4-4-5, 16 Fall; 8-6-9, 30 Combined) have already been victorious at Al Lang Stadium, earning a 3-1 win in the Spring Season and were also 4-1 winners in a Fall Season contest at WakeMed Soccer Park in July.

Minnesota United vs. Ottawa Fury FC
8 p.m. ET | Saturday, September 17
NSC Stadium | Blaine, Minn.

Minnesota United was unable to find a goal against the Cosmos, leaving New York with a 1-0 loss last Saturday. The Loons, led by the NASL’s leading goalscorer Christian Ramirez, have had trouble finding the back of the net of late. The club has been held scoreless in three of its last five contests and only has two goals during that stretch. Minnesota (5-5-4, 20 Fall; 10-6-8, 36 Combined) is currently holding onto fourth place in the Combined Standings, but pressure is building in the places just below in the table. Ramirez scored in the last meeting against Ottawa Fury FC that ended in a 2-2 draw.

Draws have been a theme for Ottawa (3-5-6, 14 Fall; 5-8-11, 23 PTS Combined) after picking up a fifth straight in a 0-0 affair against the Carolina RailHawks last Saturday. Three of those five games have yielded no goals as the club heads into the first of back-to-back games against Minnesota. Goalkeeper Romuald Peiser has made crucial saves recently, showcasing the form that made him an NASL Golden Glove winner a year ago.

Rayo OKC vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers
8 p.m. ET | Sunday, September 18
Miller Stadium | Yukon, Okla.

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers are one of the most in-form sides in the NASL at the moment. The club is unbeaten in six games, and visits Rayo OKC after four straight in South Florida. More impressively for the Strikers (4-5-5, 17 Fall; 7-8-9, 29 Combined), the results are coming against sides above them in the Fall Season and Combined Standings. Caio Zanardi’s side can close in on a postseason spot if it can continue its hot streak. In Fort Lauderdale’s last contest, Paulo Junior and Maicon Santos scored to lift the Strikers past Indy Eleven, 2-1, last Saturday.

Rayo OKC has picked up momentum in the past two games with a 3-2 win over Jacksonville Armada FC last Sunday and a hard-fought point in a 0-0 draw on the road against FC Edmonton on Wednesday. Rayo OKC (4-5-5, 17 Fall; 7-8-9, 29 Combined) will now look to grab a little revenge after losing, 2-1, to the Strikers in the Spring Season at Miller Stadium.