All six teams have punched their cards for the playoffs. With the results over the weekend, San Antonio, Tampa Bay, Puerto Rico, Carolina, Fort Lauderdale and Minnesota have all clinched playoff berths. San Antonio has also secured a first round bye but any other team can finish in 2nd to 6th place at this point.
Over the past week, the RailHawks have had two games: one at home on Saturday and one in Edmonton on Wednesday. The RailHawks fell to the league-leading Scorpions 1-0 in a tightly contested match.
For the vast majority of the match, the play was back-and-forth between the two teams. But after a two-hour rain delay and on a wet field, neither team was able to create many dangerous chances with only a combined four shots on goal.
The Scorpions’ goal was the first in the NASL for Jeff Cunningham, the MLS’ all-time leading scorer.
Before the game, the RailHawks also hosted the first ever Homebrew Soktoberfest. The winner of the competition was “Lights Out,” brewed by Ken Baseley of Triangle Soccer Fanatics.
Despite the loss, the RailHawks were assured a spot in the playoffs during the game because of ties by both Atlanta and Edmonton.
Atlanta pulled off a tie at second-place Tampa Bay, managing to gain a point. Tampa Bay was without a couple of their regular starters, but Takuya Yamada’s performance on the back line was enough to garner him NASL Defensive Player of the Week.
Both teams scored early in the game, with the Rowdies’ goal in the 11th minute and the Silverbacks reply in the 29th. Tampa Bay’s Eddie Ababio was sent off in the 67th minute when he received his second yellow card, but the Silverbacks were not able to capitalize on their man-up advantage.
Also on Saturday, the Minnesota Stars hosted FC Edmonton as both teams were still fighting for a playoff spot. The game ended in a tie, not helping either team’s playoff bid and further disappointing Stars fans, who hadn’t seen a win since July 12.
The Stars scored first to go up 1-0, but lost their lead in stoppage time at the end of the game. Shaun Saiko’s goal kept the Eddies’ playoffs hope still alive at that point and awarded him NASL Offensive Player of the Week.
Early goals and a tie would also be the story in Fort Lauderdale as the Strikers and Islanders played to a 1-1 draw. Puerto Rico got on the board in the second minute, as Nick Addlery blasted a shot from 35 yards out. Fort Lauderdale was quick to answer just six minutes later with a goal from Pecka. The result ensured a playoff spot for the Strikers.
As usual, all the action from the weekend is wrapped up on the NASL Weekly Rewind, as well as on Inside Minnesota Soccer and MLS Reserves. Also, the Indy Week took a good look at the new split-season schedule for 2013.
This week also featured some mid-week action as the RailHawks traveled to Edmonton and Minnesota hosted Puerto Rico. The Stars and Islanders played first, with the hosts finally getting the win that they had been looking for with a big 4-0 result. With the win, the Stars clinched the final spot in the playoffs.
Edmonton’s hopes of a spot were dashed, but they didn’t let up on the field as they tied the RailHawks 2-2. Both of the RailHawks’ goals were scored by Nick Zimmerman, bringing his season total to 15, which is good for second place in the league. Edmonton’s Michael Porter matched Zimmerman with two goals of his own (highlights here).
The Edmonton game moved the RailHawks up to fourth place and marked the NASL debut for midfielder Luke Sassano. Sassano was just announced this week to be on loan from MLS team Sporting Kansas City.
This coming weekend, the RailHawks are still on their long road trip, playing at San Antonio on Sunday. The RailHawks can move up to third place in the league with a win. After the game, the RailHawks will continue their road trip with the final stop in Tampa Bay.
The Silverbacks, who are looking to fans to determine their team name for next season, will host Fort Lauderdale. The Silverbacks are eliminated from playoffs, but the Strikers can gain three valuable points with a win.
Puerto Rico has the chance to avenge their 4-0 loss this Saturday as they host the Stars in a rematch of Tuesday’s game. And also, Tampa Bay travels to FC Edmonton to try to further distance themselves and keep their second-place standing.
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