Currently even on points atop the 2014 North American Soccer League (NASL) Fall Season Standings, the San Antonio Scorpions and Minnesota United FC will look to further distance themselves from the field, clashing with the Atlanta Silverbacks and New York Cosmos respectively.
The Scorpions, who are three points behind first-place United in the NASL Combined Standings (Spring and Fall), have never lost at home to the Silverbacks, who pay a visit to Toyota Field on Saturday at 7:30 pm CT (8:30 pm ET). Fans can tune in to www.NASLlive.com to watch the game in San Antonio, as well as all four of the other league matchups this weekend, which will take place in Edmonton, Indy, New York, and Tampa Bay.
The Scorpions, who are unbeaten at home in their last six games, and the Silverbacks enter Saturday’s game on the heels of earning 1-1 draws on the road. San Antonio couldn’t get past Ottawa Fury FC at TD Place last Sunday, while the Silverbacks split the points with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Lockhart Stadium last Saturday. Atlanta is four points off the pace for the last berth into The Championship, the league’s four-team postseason tournament, so a result in San Antonio would go a long way in their fight for contention.
“Obviously they're doing very well. I think there's a lot of parity in this league - anybody can beat anybody on the given day,” said Silverbacks coach Jason Smith. “So we're not going with the mindset 'Oh, this is a top team, let's just play it safe.' We're going to go there like any other week and say ‘We can get three points,' and then employ the strategy to make that happen.”
Week 7 Fall Season action kicks off on Saturday with the NASL’s ‘Match of the Week’ on ESPN3 . Featured this time around will be Minnesota United FC looking to extend its current unbeaten streak to 11 games when they visit the defending NASL champions, the New York Cosmos, at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium at 7 pm ET.
After already earning a berth into The Championship as the NASL’s Spring Season winner, United hasn’t let its foot off the gas. Head coach Manny Lagos’ club is the only remaining unbeaten team in this Fall Season. In fact, Minnesota’s last and only defeat in 2014 was against New York, who is currently third in the NASL Combined Table. The Cosmos earned a 1-0 win over United on May 12 at James M. Shuart Stadium, and certainly they will be looking for the same result this Saturday in front of their home fans.
“They're [New York] a very good team, they're the defending champions, and I think that is something we’re aware of,” said United coach Manny Lagos. “Every game is important and this one is obviously going to be important for them because of where they are in the table. They've had our number in very close games the last couple of times, so we're going to do our best to prepare well for a big week.”
Cosmos coach, Giovanni Savarese, whose club has won all three previous matches against United commented: “We have a very big challenge ahead of us this weekend against Minnesota, the league leaders. This is a crucial game for us and we can’t wait to play it.”
Two more teams in the close race for the final few berths into ‘The Championship’ are the Carolina RailHawks and Tampa Bay Rowdies, who will do battle at Al Lang Stadium at 7:30 pm ET.
The Rowdies, who are fourth in the NASL Combined Table, are coming off their second consecutive home victory last week after topping the Cosmos, 3-1. Meanwhile, the RailHawks, who trail the Rowdies by two points for the final spot in The Championship, dropped their second game in a row at home last weekend when they fell, 3-2, to FC Edmonton.
The RailHawks lead the all-time head-to-head series, however, the Rowdies won the last meeting, 4-3, two weeks ago at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.
“This is a massive game for us and we want all three points,” said Rowdies coach Ricky Hill. “If we take the three points from them, it puts us in a better position in relation to them. It would be a fantastic flip for us moving forward and an extra reward for our great fans at home. We are geared up for what a massive game it is."
Saturday’s slate of games concludes with a pair of NASL expansion clubs looking to get back in the win column as Indy Eleven hosts Ottawa Fury FC at IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium at 7:30 pm ET.
Indy, who dropped a 5-1 decision on the road last week to Minnesota, is still searching for its first league victory at home, while Ottawa is aiming to end its seven-game winless streak. The inaugural meeting between the two teams came this past spring when Ottawa posted a 4-2 win in Indianapolis on May 17.
“The only thing we want to take away from the Minnesota loss is how we recover from it, how quickly everyone, players and coaches, can put it behind us and prepare positively for Ottawa,” said Indy Eleven coach Juergen Sommer. “I think our guys will look forward to getting back in front of the home fans and use that energy to come firing out of the gates and give Ottawa some payback for grabbing three points here back in May.”
Rounding out Fall Week 7 action will be a Sunday afternoon matchup as the Fort Lauderdale Strikers head north of the border to face FC Edmonton at Clarke Stadium at 2 pm MT (4 pm ET).
The Strikers are unbeaten in their last seven games against the Eddies, including the last meeting this past spring at Clarke Stadium when they posted a 3-1 win on May 3.
“This is going to be a tough game for us,” said Strikers coach Günter Kronsteiner. “Edmonton has been playing better lately. We’ll have to see how the rest of the week goes in practice, but we’ll need some players to step in and help us get some points on the road.”
Fort Lauderdale, who played to a 1-1 draw at home against the Silverbacks last week, is level with the Rowdies on points (22) in the NASL Combined Table. The Rowdies, however, occupy the fourth-place spot due to the tiebreaker of away goal differential.
Meanwhile, FC Edmonton, who is six points from the final spot in The Championship, is coming off its first road victory of the Fall Campaign when they topped Carolina, 3-2, last Saturday.
“We have another very difficult fixture against a team that has been very consistent so far at home and away from home,” said FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller. “We were poor against Fort Lauderdale last time they came to town. We’ve had a good run in the last few games and we’re looking to continue that this weekend at home against the Strikers.”
Soccer fans around the world are able to ‘Watch Every Match Live’ – all 90 NASL matches -- throughout the 2014 North American Soccer League season, including all the Week 7 matches on www.NASLLive.com .
NASL Fall Season Week 7 Schedule (All kickoff times EST)
Saturday, August 23
New York Cosmos vs. Minnesota United FC
Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium; Hempstead, N.Y. 7 pm
Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Carolina RailHawks
Al Lang Stadium; St. Petersburg, Fla. 7:30 pm
Indy Eleven vs. Ottawa Fury FC
IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium; Indianapolis, Ind. 7:30 pm
San Antonio Scorpions vs. Atlanta Silverbacks
Toyota Field; San Antonio, Tex. 8:30 pm
Sunday, August 24
FC Edmonton vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers
Clarke Stadium; Edmonton, Alberta 4 pm