Tampa Bay Sports Day

NASL: Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Tampa Bay Rowdies Highlight Saturday Action

The race to The Championship, the NASL’s four-team postseason tournament, is in full swing and several postseason contenders will square off in Week 13. Spring Season Champion Indy Eleven hosts Fall Season leader New York Cosmos in a showdown on Saturday night at Carroll Stadium – both teams have claimed a win against the other in 2016.

FC Edmonton, which is hoping to catch the Cosmos at the top of the Fall Season and Combined Standings, visits the Carolina RailHawks, who need points to make their move in the Combined Standings. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers host rival Tampa Bay Rowdies with both teams in arm’s reach of fourth-place Minnesota United in the Combined Standings. The Loons will be in Ottawa after conceding late goals in a loss to Fury FC a weekend ago.

On Friday night, Miami FC aims to get back on track at home after suffering its first loss on the road in the Fall Season, against Indy Eleven in Week 12. Miami, another side in striking distance of fourth place in the Combined table and a potential postseason berth, welcomes Puerto Rico FC to Ocean Bank Field.

Also in Week 13, Rayo OKC can make it three wins in a row against Armada FC when Gerard Nus’ men head to Jacksonville on Saturday.

 

Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
7 p.m. ET | Saturday, September 24
Central Broward Stadium | Lauderhill, Fla.

Games between the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies are always intense, but even more so on Saturday. Both enter with identical records in the Combined Standings and both are four points back of Minnesota United for fourth place and a potential berth in The Championship. The Strikers (4-5-5, 17 Fall; 8-8-8, 32 Combined) head into the Florida Derby with a seven-game unbeaten streak after a 1-1 draw with Rayo OKC last Sunday. Maicon Santos has spearheaded the attack and has scored in back-to-back games to increase his team-leading goal total to seven in 2016.

The Rowdies (4-4-6, 16 Fall; 8-8-8, 32 Combined) also have an unbeaten streak, picking up points in their last four games, before facing the Strikers. Eric Avila scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win over the Carolina RailHawks last Saturday. Tampa Bay begins a crucial three-game stretch against sides near them in the Combined Standings – Fort Lauderdale, then Miami FC and Minnesota United – to stake a claim for a postseason berth. Tampa Bay already has two wins against their rivals, earning a 1-0 victory in the Spring Season and more recently defeating the Strikers, 2-1, at Al Lang Stadium.

Jacksonville Armada FC vs. Rayo OKC
7 p.m. ET | Saturday, September 24
Community First Park | Jacksonville, Fla.

Jacksonville Armada FC lost to Rayo OKC, 3-2, on Sept. 11, but gets a chance to make amends on Saturday. Jacksonville (2-5-7, 11 Fall; 3-9-12, 18 Combined) has yet to take points from Rayo OKC, losing by 1-0 in the Spring Season, but Jacksonville’s attack has awoken lately, scoring five goals in the past two contests – most recently a 3-3 draw with Puerto Rico FC. Cameroonian forward Charles Eloundou has scored in back-to-back games and also added an assist in the draw with Puerto Rico. The Armada FC wrapped up a three-game road swing last weekend and carries a three-game home unbeaten streak into the matchup with Rayo OKC.

The visitors enter with a three-game unbeaten run overall after picking up successive draws in Week 12 – a 0-0 draw at FC Edmonton and a 1-1 draw at home to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Defender Sebastien Ibeagha has been a standout performer in recent weeks, scoring in the win against Jacksonville and putting in strong shifts to help Rayo OKC (4-6-5, 18 Fall; 7-9-9, 30 Combined) pick up points in the last three contests. The club’s leading goalscorer Michel returned to the lineup and the scoresheet in the draw with Fort Lauderdale, converting from the penalty spot, and was the main creator throughout his 90 minutes on the field.

Ottawa Fury FC vs. Minnesota United
7 p.m. ET | Saturday, September 24
TD Place | Ottawa, Ontario

Ottawa Fury FC stormed back to defeat Minnesota United a week ago, claiming a 3-2 victory. Ottawa (4-5-6, 17 Fall; 6-8-11, 26 Combined) now welcomes Minnesota to TD Place looking to build on the momentum from the recent win and six-game unbeaten run. Canadian international Jamar Dixon was at the forefront of the late-game heroics, picking up assists on the club’s final two goals. Ottawa’s comeback against the Loons was the second time in 2016 the club was able to overturn a deficit to earn points – Fury FC fought back for a 2-2 draw at home in the Spring Season.

Minnesota’s late-game hiccup could prove costly. Three teams are now nipping at the Loons’ heels in the Combined Standings for the right to play in the postseason. Minnesota (5-5-5, 20 Fall; 10-6-9, 36 Combined) has also dropped two straight games and only holds a four-point lead over the next closest teams in the Combined table. Forward Christian Ramirez added to his league-leading goalscoring tally, converting from the penalty spot for his 15th goal of the year, and also picked up his fourth assist of the year in the losing effort. Ramirez has scored in five straight games against Ottawa, including postseason play.

Carolina RailHawks vs. FC Edmonton
7:30 p.m. ET | Saturday, September 24
WakeMed Soccer Park | Cary, N.C.

The Carolina RailHawks suffered a tough 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Saturday, but the club returns to WakeMed Soccer Park, where Carolina (4-4-6, 16 Fall; 8-6-10, 30 Combined) has an eight-game unbeaten streak. The RailHawks’ attack has cooled after a hot start to the Fall Season and has been shut out in the past three games, losing two games in a row by identical 1-0 scores. Carolina is only six points back of fourth place in the Combined Standings and will look to use its strong home-field advantage to close the gap on Saturday night.

FC Edmonton (7-5-2, 26 Fall; 12-7-5, 43 Combined) is sitting in a strong position in second place in both the Fall Season and Combined Standings – the Eddies are five and six points back, respectively, of the New York Cosmos. FC Edmonton was unable to take advantage of one of its games in hand with a 0-0 draw to Rayo OKC last Wednesday and played to a 0-0 draw at New York which could have been a loss had it not been for heroics from goalkeeper Matt VanOekel. The recent pair of clean sheets moved VanOekel’s league-leading total for the year to 13, one shy of an NASL record. Also in the past two games, Ben Fisk has started and provided two bright displays in the attack for the Eddies, although his efforts didn’t yield goals in Week 12.

Indy Eleven vs. New York Cosmos
7:30 p.m. ET | Saturday, September 24
Carroll Stadium | Indianapolis, Ind.

Indy Eleven hosts the New York Cosmos in a matchup of title contenders – Indy has clinched its berth in The Championship with its Spring Season title, while New York is leading the pack in both the Fall Season and Combined Standings. The Boys in Blue ended a five-game winless streak with a key 2-1 win over Miami FC last Saturday on goals from Dylan Mares and Don Smart, stretching Indy’s unbeaten run at The Mike to 15 games since the end of last year. The Eleven (7-3-5, 24 Fall; 11-9-5, 42 Combined) also broke a six-game draw streak with the Cosmos when the team’s leading goalscorer Eamon Zayed scored twice late in the game for a 2-1 victory in the Spring Season.

The Cosmos (9-4-2, 31 Fall; 15-4-6, 49 Combined) got some revenge earlier in the Fall Season with a 3-0 win in New York as Juan Arango found the net twice. That win was just one statement in a run of nine games without a loss, while the Cosmos also have a lengthy home unbeaten run, which stands at 17. Shuart Stadium is where the team has picked up the bulk of its points in recent weeks, but now the hard part begins with the first road game of a stretch that sees the Cosmos finish out the Fall Season with five of their last seven games away from home. The Cosmos have had troubles on the road with only a 3-2-6 record, but the club is unbeaten in its last two as the tide is possibly changing.