Tampa Bay Sports Day

NASL PREVIEW: Season Continues As FC Edmonton Pushes To Clinch Postseason Berth

Wednesday night’s contest between the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Minnesota United ended in a draw and left the postseason picture firmly in play for a host of teams. The remaining slate of Week 15 games offers up big opportunities to move up the table as The Championship, the NASL’s four-team postseason tournament, inches closer.

The Loons, who are still holding onto fourth place in the Combined Standings by virtue of goal differential, have been unable to close out games in recent weeks, which has hindered their fight for a postseason spot. A red-hot Puerto Rico FC side awaits Minnesota in its next contest as the side looks to pick itself up during the first kickoff of the weekend. The Rowdies will have to wait until Sunday to continue their push for The Championship and they need to take maximum points on the road at FC Edmonton. For the Eddies, another three points would mean sewing up a trip to the postseason, although the club’s seeding would still not be determined.

Miami FC was one of the clubs smiling after Wednesday night’s draw as Alessandro Nesta’s side finds itself just one point behind Minnesota and Tampa Bay. Miami hosts Rayo OKC, which also needs a win to keep any hopes of playing on to November alive. The Carolina RailHawks and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers will square off in a matchup on Sunday that could boost or dent either’s hopes of reaching The Championship.

Also on Sunday, the New York Cosmos head up north to face Ottawa Fury FC as they look to further their grip on the Fall Season and Combined Standings. Jacksonville Armada FC and Indy Eleven were scheduled to play on Saturday night, but the contest has been postponed until next Wednesday.

FC Edmonton vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
4 p.m. ET | Sunday, October 9
Clarke Stadium | Edmonton, Alberta
The meeting between FC Edmonton and the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday night will have a major impact on the postseason race. FC Edmonton (8-6-3, 30 Fall; 13-8-6, 47 Combined) is on the brink of clinching a postseason berth and can do so with a win at home. The Rowdies, on the other hand, are trying to keep their postseason hopes alive. The Eddies snapped a five-game scoreless streak with two goals late in the game against Indy Eleven for a 2-1 win last Sunday. Papé Diakité continued his string of standout performances at the back, while scoring in the win. Recent sparkplug Ben Fisk finally got off the mark as the Canadian youth international scored the winner in the 94th minute. FC Edmonton has played two tight contests with the Rowdies in the past, with each side earning 1-0 wins. The Eddies were victorious in the last matchup, in the Fall Season, on a Daryl Fordyce penalty-kick goal.

Tampa Bay (5-6-6, 21 Fall; 9-10-8, 37 Combined) was staring a big loss in the face on Wednesday night, but Keith Savage rescued a point in the 2-2 draw. The point kept the Rowdies on par with their midweek opponent, Minnesota United, with both sides sitting on 37 points in fourth place in the Combined Standings – the Loons hold the advantage in goal differential, but have played one more game than Tampa Bay. With a log jam in the table for the final postseason place, the Rowdies will need to build upon their current seven-game unbeaten run in one of the toughest places to pick up points: Clarke Stadium.

Miami FC vs. Rayo OKC
8 p.m. ET | Saturday, October 8
Ocean Bank Field | Miami, Fla.
Wednesday night’s contest between the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Minnesota United couldn’t have gone any better for Miami FC. With both teams earning a point in a 2-2 draw, Miami (8-5-4, 29 Fall; 9-9-9, 36 Combined) is only one point back of fourth place and can move into sole possession of that spot should the club win and the other two sides pick up defeats. Miami will continue to lean on its pair of veteran attackers, Dario Cvitanich and Vincenzo Rennella, during the final stretch of the season. Rennella most recently scored a game-winner in a 2-1 result over Ottawa Fury FC a week ago. Miami also picked up a 2-1 win in its last meeting against Rayo OKC.

Rayo OKC (4-8-5, 20 Fall; 7-11-9, 32 Combined) enters the clash on Saturday with a chance for the postseason, but Gerard Nus’ side will need all three points. Rayo OKC is currently riding a five-game unbeaten streak, but the club has been accruing points slowly, with four straight draws. Defender Futty Danso provided late-game drama in Rayo OKC’s last contest, cancelling out a Carolina RailHawks tally in stoppage time with one of his own in the 1-1 draw. The club will certainly head to Miami knowing it can get a result, as it picked up a 3-2 victory at Ocean Bank Field in the Spring Season.

Carolina RailHawks vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers
1 p.m. ET | Sunday, October 9
WakeMed Soccer Park | Cary, N.C.
The Carolina RailHawks and Fort Lauderdale Strikers head into Sunday’s clash with the chance to bolster their postseason chances. The RailHawks (5-5-7, 20 Fall; 9-7-11, 34 Combined) currently sit just three points back of fourth place after Wednesday’s draw between the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Minnesota United. Aside from its recent loss to the New York Cosmos at WakeMed Soccer Park, Carolina has been strong of late at home. The RailHawks’ attacking players will need to rekindle the groove they were in earlier in the Fall Season, though, if the club is to truly push for the postseason. The RailHawks picked up a 1-0 win in the last meeting against the Strikers, but should have a little extra motivation after losing 3-1 to Fort Lauderdale at home in the Spring Season.

The Strikers (4-5-8, 17 Fall; 8-8-11, 32 Combined) have lost three straight contests, which has hampered the club’s postseason chase. Fort Lauderdale is currently five points outside of fourth place, but can use three crucial points to leapfrog Carolina with a win on Sunday. The Strikers have been one of the better clubs on the road in 2016 and, having already gotten a win in Carolina, will have the belief to pick up a positive result at WakeMed Soccer Park.

Ottawa Fury FC vs. New York Cosmos
2 p.m. ET | Sunday, October 9
TD Place | Ottawa, Ontario
Ottawa Fury FC was making a late surge to get back into postseason contention, but two straight losses have put the brakes on the side’s climb up the table. Ottawa (5-5-8, 20 Fall; 7-8-13, 29 Combined) most recently fell, 2-1, to Puerto Rico FC at home and the next test won’t be any easier with the New York Cosmos coming to town. For Ottawa, Ryan Williams and Giuseppe Gentile have provided an attacking lift with each player scoring three goals in the past four games. Ottawa has had trouble dealing with New York’s attack in 2016, conceding five goals in two games in a pair of losses. Sunday, though, will be the first meeting of the year at TD Place.

The Cosmos hold a seven-point lead in the Fall Season Standings and possess an eight-point advantage in the Combined Standings. Picking up points over their next four games should not only land the Cosmos (11-4-3, 37 Fall; 17-4-7, 55 Combined) a Fall Season title, but also a No. 1 seed for the postseason, which would bring the potential to host two home games. Ruben Bover has been in fine form for New York, scoring in back-to-back 2-0 wins last week. New York’s defense has also been strong having claimed five clean sheets from the past six games. The Cosmos booked their ticket to the postseason with last Sunday’s win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
Puerto Rico FC vs. Minnesota United
7:30 p.m. ET | Saturday, October 8
Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium | Bayamón, P.R.
Minnesota United had a big opportunity on Wednesday night, but the club surrendered the lead twice, conceding a sixth goal in the 80th minute or later in the last four games, to walk away with a 2-2 draw with the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The dropped points could prove extra costly with the Loons (5W-6D-7L, 21 points Fall; 10-7-11, 37 Combined) playing more games than any of their nearest rivals in the table. Christian Ramirez did get his name back on the scoresheet, knocking in a rebound for his league-leading 16th tally, but he will miss Saturday’s game in Puerto Rico with a high ankle sprain.

In the past six games for Puerto Rico (4-8-6, 20 Fall; 4-8-6, 20 Combined), the club has been flying high. Heading into the contest with Minnesota, the side is unbeaten in six straight, while winning the last three. Sidney Rivera scored a sensational goal last weekend to down Ottawa Fury FC, 2-1. While Héctor Ramos led the charge early in the Fall Season with goals, other players have stepped up in recent weeks and will provide the Loons with a tough test on Saturday night. The clubs played to a 1-1 draw earlier in the Fall Season at NSC Stadium.