An action-packed opening to the North American Soccer League spring season left six teams deadlocked with a point each from three draws on Saturday night.
Soccer fans in Florida and Minnesota who flocked to enjoy the start to the new season set a new average attendance record of 5,395 over the three games as the opening weekend saw a significant increase over the two previous seasons.
The goals at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minnesota lived a charmed life as both the home team United FC and visiting San Antonio Scorpions rattled the woodwork numerous times but failed to make a breakthrough in a 0-0 finish.
The second half saw clear opportunities for each side as Edin Husic hit the crossbar with a header for the Scorpions midway through the second half and Simone Bracalello did likewise for United a few minutes later. The goalkeepers each earned their paychecks for the night, with San Antonio’s Hannigan denying Aaron Pitchkolan and Kevin Venegas from close range and Daryl Sattler at his best to save shots from Ramirez and substitute Nikola Vaslic.
“The MVP of the game was the crossbar for both teams,” said Scorpions coach Tim Hankinson. “A game like tonight certainly shows what we’re capable of.”
Minnesota coach Manny Lagos said: “I was proud of the guys in terms of fighting. We had some chances, but it was a tough day. We didn’t get the result that we wanted. We can get better in order to get three points next time.”
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers came back from a goal down to tie FC Edmonton 1-1 in front of a packed house of 5,201 fans. David Foley scored with a screaming finish for the Strikers on his debut, cancelling out a Wes Knight strike that found the target after a quarter of an hour.
“I’m very proud of the players and the way that they’ve started and overall I’m delighted to get a point away from home,” said FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller, who inherited a team that finished bottom of the table in 2012. “It’s a very positive start for our young team.”
David Foley scored the equalizer with a long-range effort, beating Lance Parker with a high shot into the far corner. The Strikers pressed for a winner, but the goal did not come.
“I thought once we got a little bit more comfortable towards the end of the first half, we did better, but Edmonton are a good team and made it difficult for us,” explained Strikers coach Daryl Shore. “We felt that if we stayed patient in the second half, our chances would come.
The reigning NASL champion Tampa Bay Rowdies thought they had got off to the perfect start against the Carolina RailHawks, but defender Jay Needham saw his 18th minute header canceled out for offside.
Neither side could break the deadlock and settled for a point each from a 0-0 draw.
Overall I was happy with our performance, apart from not getting that all-important first goal,” said Rowdies coach Ricky Hill. “I felt defensively we looked sound and solid and offensively, with a little more composure, we might have opened them up. We’d like to win out home games, but a point is a good start to the season.”
The Rowdies continued to dominate the second half as they held off the RailHawks while creating a lot of chances on goal and their best scoring chance came in the 79th minute when Devin Del Do’s header deflected off of the crossbar.
RailHawks centre back and new signing Paul Hamilton was sent off after receiving a second yellow card.
“Any time you come here you know what they’re going to do,” said RailHawks coach Colin Clarke. “They’re going to play it long and win second balls but we didn’t do a good job of winning those second balls. Our goalkeeper and defenders did very well.”
Saturday, April 6 – North American Soccer League Week One Results
Tampa Bay Rowdies 0 Carolina RailHawks 0
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1 FC Edmonton 1
Minnesota United FC 0 San Antonio Scorpions 0
Bye week: Atlanta Silverbacks
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|New York Cosmos||14||9||4||1||10||31|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||14||5||5||4||3||20|
|Minnesota United FC||14||6||2||6||2||20|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||14||5||3||6||-2||18|
|San Antonio Scorpions||14||3||1||10||-9||10|
|San Antonio Scorpions||12||6||2||4||4||20|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||12||5||3||4||5||18|
|Minnesota United FC||12||4||2||6||-5||14|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||12||2||2||8||-14||8|