Tampa Bay Sports Day

NASL: Final Weekend To Decide Fourth And Final Spot In The Championship

The final weekend of the North American Soccer League (NASL) Fall Season will determine which club will join the New York Cosmos, Indy Eleven, and FC Edmonton in the postseason. Heading into the last round of games, Rayo OKC is in the pole position to reach The Championship, the NASL’s four-team postseason tournament. The club will be in action on Sunday night against Indy, but may know its postseason fate after Saturday night’s results. At least a point against the Eleven, though, would ensure the club plays on in November.
Minnesota United, which trails Rayo OKC by three points in the Combined Standings, needs a victory against the Cosmos to have a chance at a possible return to The Championship for a third successive season.
Week 18 action gets underway with the Eddies visiting Miami FC on Friday night. Ottawa Fury FC plays host to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and the Carolina RailHawks close out their season against Puerto Rico FC on Saturday. Jacksonville Armada FC then takes on the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Sunday.
 
Miami FC vs. FC Edmonton
8 p.m. ET | Friday, October 28
Ocean Bank Field | Miami, Fla.
Watch | ESPN3 (National – U.S.), NASL.com (National – Canada), *International outlets
Miami FC hit a bump in the road in the Fall Season at a crucial stretch in the year as the first-year side came up just short of reaching The Championship, the NASL’s four-team postseason tournament. Hosting one last home game of 2016, Miami (8W-6D-7L, 30 points Fall; 9-10-12, 37 Combined) will look to end a five-game winless skid to close out the campaign. Miami recently lost, 4-0, to the New York Cosmos, but the club has had success against its next opponent, FC Edmonton, so far this year. Miami defeated the Eddies, 1-0, in the Spring Season and picked up a 2-0 win at Clarke Stadium just over a month ago.
FC Edmonton (10-6-5, 36 Fall; 15-8-8, 53 Combined) is hoping to iron out its form before heading to Indianapolis for a semifinal game on Nov. 5. The Eddies returned to the win column last Sunday with a 1-0 result over Jacksonville Armada FC on a late penalty by Daryl Fordyce. Coach Colin Miller is expected to give some regulars a rest before the club embarks on its first contest in the postseason since 2011.
Ottawa Fury FC vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers
2 p.m. ET | Saturday, October 29
TD Place | Ottawa, Ontario
Watch | ESPN3 (National – U.S.), NASL.com (National – Canada), Rogers TV (Local – Ottawa), *International outlets
Ottawa Fury FC helped end the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ bid for the postseason last week with the 1-1 draw at Al Lang Stadium and now Fury FC (5-7-9, 22 Fall; 7-10-14, 31 Combined) is looking to wrap up the year with a win. The club will have to shake off a five-game winless streak that has included three losses. Canadian international Maxim Tissot scored his second goal of the year in the recent draw and has combined well in the attack with Ryan Williams, Giuseppe Gentile, and Carl Haworth.
Fort Lauderdale (6-5-10, 23 Fall; 10-8-13, Combined) was in the mix for the final spot in The Championship as the Fall Season wound down, but a 2-0 loss to Rayo OKC last Saturday ended the club’s bid to return to postseason action for a third straight year. The Strikers now close out the year facing a side that they’ve had success against in 2016. Fort Lauderdale won the two previous meetings in 2016, earning a 2-1 road victory in the Fall Season and a 3-1 win earlier in the Fall Season, a game that was notable for Amauri’s stunning bicycle kick.
Puerto Rico FC vs. Carolina RailHawks
7:30 p.m. ET | Saturday, October 29
Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium | Bayamón, PR
Watch | beIN SPORTS en Español (National – U.S., Canada), beIN SPORTS CONNECT (National – U.S., Canada), WAPA 2 (National – Puerto Rico), TWC SportsChannel (Regional – North/South Carolina), WRAL2 (Local – Cary/Raleigh)
Puerto Rico FC was wrapping up the Fall Season as one of the hottest clubs in the NASL, but the surge has stalled over the past two games – both defeats. Recently the club was downed, 3-0, by Indy Eleven, but coach Adrian Whitbread heads into the last game of the year with plenty of positives from the course of the Fall Season. Several young players have shown promise and Puerto Rico (4-9-8, 21 Fall; 4-9-8, 21 Combined) has a strong core in place moving forward. Before that, though, the club hosts the Carolina RailHawks at Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium. .Puerto Rico enters the contest on a five-game unbeaten run at home.
The RailHawks (7-5-9, 26 Fall; 11-7-13, 40 Combined) finished their slate of home games for the year with a 1-0 win over Minnesota United, but it was a bittersweet victory. Despite claiming all three points, other results ended the club’s chances to reach the postseason. Matt Fondy scored his seventh goal of the year in win. Carolina now heads to a familiar place for its coach, Colin Clarke, who coached on the island from 2007-2011. The RailHawks played to a 2-2 draw with Puerto Rico back in August.
Minnesota United vs. New York Cosmos
8 p.m. ET | Saturday, October 29
NSC Stadium | Blaine, Minn.
Watch | ONE World Sports (National – U.S.), ONEWorldSports.com (National – U.S., Canada), MY29 (Local – Twin Cities)
Minnesota United looked destined to claim a berth in the postseason, but a dip in form – and only three wins in the past three months – have taken control away from the Loons. Minnesota (6-7-8, 25 Fall; 11-8-12, 41 Combined) now trails Rayo OKC in the Combined Standings by three points and now faces off against the Fall Season Champion in a do-or-die situation. Anything less than three points for the Loons will put an end to the club’s ability to reach the postseason. Minnesota has defeated the Cosmos at NSC Stadium, where the sides will play on Saturday, pulling out a 1-0 win, despite playing the majority of the second half down a man.
New York (13-5-3, 44 Fall; 19-5-7, 62 Combined) visits the Loons aiming to continue its momentum before The Championship. The Cosmos are unbeaten in five games and set a new league record for most games unbeaten at home in a row (19) after a 4-0 thrashing of Miami FC. New York, though, is still awaiting its opponent for the semifinal game on Nov. 5, but can help determine its postseason fate this weekend. If the club can draw or win at Minnesota, the Cosmos will know that Rayo OKC will await them in the postseason.
Jacksonville Armada FC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
4 p.m. ET | Sunday, October 30
Community First Park | Jacksonville, Fla.
Watch | CBS Sports Network (National – U.S., Canada)
Jacksonville Armada FC has several burgeoning talents and coach Mark Lowry will get one more look as he prepares to build for his first full year in charge of the club. Forward Charles Eloundou has continued to impress late in the year and has a team-leading six goals. The club has certainly had a new energy over the past few weeks and Jacksonville (4-8-9, 20 Fall; 5-12-14, 27 Combined) will look to close out the campaign on a strong note against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Tampa Bay (5-8-8, 23 Fall; 9-12-10, 39 Combined) had been fighting for the final berth in the postseason, but the club was unable to pick up any wins down the stretch, spanning the last six games. The club played to the 1-1 draw with Ottawa Fury FC, but lost leading goalscorer Georgi Hristov, who earned a red card in the contest. The Rowdies now close out the year on the road and have played in a pair of 1-1 draws against Jacksonville so far in 2016.
Rayo OKC vs. Indy Eleven
7 p.m. ET | Sunday, October 30
Miller Stadium | Yukon, Okla.
Watch | ESPN3 (National – U.S.), NASL.com (National – Canada), Cox Channel 703 (Local – Oklahoma City)
Heading into the final weekend, Rayo OKC is poised to reach The Championship in the club’s first year. The club has been red-hot, winning the last four games, and is on a nine-game unbeaten run overall. Defender Sebastien Ibeagha was in the right spot to score the eventual game-winner in the 2-0 defeat of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers that helped move the side past Minnesota United in the Combined Standings. Rayo OKC (8-8-5, 32 Fall; 11-11-9, 44 Combined) needs at least a point on Sunday night, but will clinch the final postseason spot if Minnesota fails to get a win on Saturday.
Indy Eleven (11-4-6, 37 Fall; 15-10-6, 55 Combined) is picking up steam at the right moment before hosting a semifinal game on Nov. 5 against FC Edmonton. The side has won the past three games, while scoring three goals apiece in the victories. With the postseason looming, Indy will look to continue its momentum at Miller Stadium, where the side has won previously, 2-1. The Boys in Blue also defeated Rayo OKC by the same scoreline earlier in the Fall Season.