Tampa Bay Sports Day

NASL Postseason Race Takes Center Stage This Weekend

The New York Cosmos created some breathing room for themselves in the postseason race after a busy Wednesday night slate around the North American Soccer League (NASL). While the Cosmos hold the advantage in both the Fall Season and Combined Standings as action picks back up on Saturday night, the race to The Championship, the NASL’s four-team postseason tournament, remains wide open.

Five teams are currently separated by a mere four points for fourth place in the Combined Standings and a postseason berth. Two of those sides square off as Miami FC, fresh off a dramatic midweek win, heads to Al Lang Stadium to face the Tampa Bay Rowdies to start off the weekend. Also on Saturday, Minnesota United looks to get back on track after seeing its hold on fourth place shrink significantly over the last few weeks.

On Sunday, the weekend ramps up with four contests kicking off. Puerto Rico FC carries a two-game winning streak into its matchup with Ottawa Fury FC. FC Edmonton hosts Indy Eleven as both sides look to move within striking distance of the Cosmos, who host the Fort Lauderdale Strikers with a chance to tie their own league record for most games unbeaten in a row at home. Rounding out Week 14, the Carolina RailHawks and Rayo OKC aim to improve their stock in the postseason chase when the clubs meet at Miller Stadium.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Miami FC
7:30 p.m. ET | Saturday, October 1
Al Lang Stadium | St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies welcome Miami FC to Al Lang Stadium in a crucial game in the race to The Championship, the NASL’s four-team postseason tournament. Tampa Bay and Miami are tied on 35 points in the Combined Standings – one point behind Minnesota for fourth place and a postseason berth. The Rowdies (5W-4D-6L, 19 points Fall; 9-8-8, 35 Combined) ran rampant in their last game, scoring often against rival Fort Lauderdale to win, 4-1, last Saturday. Georgi Hristov scored the first hat trick for the club in the NASL Modern Era in the victory. The Rowdies have been strong at home, losing just once in their last nine games in front of their home supporters.

Miami (8-4-4, 28 Fall; 9-8-9, 35 Combined) picked up a big win at home on a last-gasp goal from Vincenzo Rennella to defeat Ottawa Fury FC, 2-1, on Wednesday. With the win, Miami also climbed to second place in the Fall Season Standings, giving the club an improved chance for the title. Alessandro Nesta’s side still trails the New York Cosmos by seven points. The club has been strong away from home in the Fall Season as well, only losing one game in eight contests.

Minnesota United vs. Jacksonville Armada FC
8 p.m. ET | Saturday, October 1
NSC Stadium | Blaine, Minn.
Minnesota United enters Saturday night’s clash needing all three points after dropping back-to-back games against Ottawa Fury FC. The Loons’ advantage in fourth place in the Combined Standings has shrunk to just one point, but they have a chance to right the ship against a side that they have never lost to: Jacksonville Armada FC. The clubs played to a 0-0 draw in their last meeting, which took place at Community First Park. The Loons (5-5-6, 20 Fall; 10-6-10, 36 Combined) earned a 2-0 win in the last contest at NSC Stadium.

Jacksonville heads to Minnesota with a three-game unbeaten streak – all draws – and have been led by Charles Eloundou. The Cameroonian forward has scored three times in the last four games and has looked dangerous throughout his time on the field during that stretch. The Armada FC (2-7-7, 13 Fall; 3-11-12, 20 Combined) picked up a point in a scoreless draw with FC Edmonton on Wednesday night and will look to keep the same defensive organization against the Loons, who boast the league’s leader in goals, Christian Ramirez.

New York Cosmos vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers
4 p.m. ET | Sunday, October 2
Shuart Stadium | Hempstead, N.Y.
The New York Cosmos extended their lead atop both the Fall Season and Combined Standings with a 2-0 win over the Carolina RailHawks on Wednesday night. Adam Moffat and Ruben Bover scored a minute apart to shake off the recent 3-0 loss to Indy Eleven. With the win, the club also ended the RailHawks’ nine-game home unbeaten streak. New York (10-4-3, 34 Fall; 16-4-7, 52 Combined) can tie its own home unbeaten record with a result on Sunday, with the club currently unbeaten in its last 17 games at Shuart Stadium.

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers are coming off a tough loss to Puerto Rico FC on Wednesday in a 2-1 result. Fort Lauderdale (4-5-7, 17 Fall; 8-8-10, 32 Combined) let its early lead slip and it could prove costly. After two successive losses, the side’s chances to make the postseason took a hit, but the Strikers are still only four points out of fourth place in the Combined Standings. Fort Lauderdale heads into Sunday unbeaten against the Cosmos in 2016 after a 2-1 win in the Spring Season and more recently a 0-0 draw in early September.

Ottawa Fury FC vs. Puerto Rico FC
2 p.m. ET | Sunday, October 2
TD Place | Ottawa, Ontario
Ottawa Fury FC was on a roll, running off a streak of seven games unbeaten and making a late push for the postseason. That run, though, was halted on Wednesday night after a late goal from Miami FC ended Fury FC’s streak in a 2-1 loss. Forward Giuseppe Gentile kept up his goalscoring run in the defeat and now has a goal in the last three games. Ottawa (5-5-7, 20 Fall; 7-8-12, 29 Combined) earned a point on the road in its last meeting with Puerto Rico FC in a scoreless draw.

While Ottawa’s streak came to an end, Puerto Rico (3-8-6, 17 Fall; 3-8-6, 17 Combined) is in the midst of its own. Entering Sunday’s clash, the club is unbeaten in five games and has picked up back-to-back wins for the first time in club history following a 2-1 victory against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on Wednesday. Tyler Rudy scored his second goal of the year, while Bljedi Bardic, who was making only his second appearance for the side, scored the game-winner with an effort from distance. Puerto Rico is also unbeaten in four games in a row away from Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium.

FC Edmonton vs. Indy Eleven
4 p.m. ET | Sunday, October 2
Clarke Stadium | Edmonton, Alberta
FC Edmonton picked up a vital point on the road in the 0-0 draw with Jacksonville Armada FC on Wednesday, but a worrying trend has emerged for the Eddies. The club has not scored a goal in five straight games, which has set it back in both the Fall Season and Combined Standings. The Eddies (7-6-3, 27 Fall; 12-8-6, 44 Combined) dropped to fourth place in the Fall Season, but retained third position in the Combined table. The positives remain with FC Edmonton’s defense, which has kept three clean sheets in the last four games and goalkeeper Matt VanOekel equaled an NASL record with his 14th clean sheet. The club now heads back home, after two consecutive road games, to square off with Indy Eleven in a crucial swing game for either side.

Indy (8-3-5, 27 Fall; 12-9-5, 45 Combined) heads to Edmonton with plenty of momentum after a 3-0 defeat of the New York Cosmos last Saturday. Eamon Zayed increased his goal total to 13, while Dylan Mares remained influential in midfield with a goal and an assist. Justin Braun also notched a goal and an assist in the win. The Eleven beat FC Edmonton by the score of 1-0 in the last matchup between the sides at the beginning of the Fall Season.

Rayo OKC vs. Carolina RailHawks
7 p.m. ET | Sunday, October 2
Miller Stadium, Yukon, Okla.
Rayo OKC hosts the Carolina RailHawks on Sunday with the club gaining traction over the last few weeks. Rayo OKC (4-7-5, 19 Fall; 7-10-9, 31 Combined) is unbeaten in its last four contests and has an outside chance of reaching The Championship, sitting five points back of fourth place. Michel scored his team-leading 10th goal after converting from the penalty spot for the sixth time this year in Rayo OKC’s 1-1 draw against Jacksonville Armada FC last Saturday.

The RailHawks (5-4-7, 18 Fall; 9-6-11, 33 Combined) will need to dust themselves off after a midweek loss that ended the club’s nine-game home unbeaten run in the 2-0 loss to the New York Cosmos. Three points on the road would go a long way for Carolina, which sits just three points back of Minnesota United for fourth place in the Combined Standings. The RailHawks, though, will have to get their attack back in gear as they have scored just once in the last five contests.