By Michael Preston
Last week we looked at the advent of the crossbar and how that particular piece of 138-year-old hardware had denied both the Minnesota Stars and San Antonio Scorpions a possible opening NASL weekend victory.
In week two, it was the turn of two posts in Cary, NC, to stand tall and deny FC Edmonton a potentially lucrative road victory against the RailHawks. Eddies forwards Michael Cox and Daryl Fordyce might well have been squabbling on the bus back to the airport after the game over who might be the better contender for NASL Player of the Week with a goal each to their name, had the upright not denied them. Fordyce fired against the right hand post, Cox the left. Last week’s recognized star of the week, Carolina goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald, will of course argue that the frame of the goal is all part of his defense against the opposition.
The near misses proved to be game-changers as the RailHawks scored either side of the woodwork being rattled and delighted the 5,033 fans packed into WakeMed Soccer Park with a 2-1 win. At halftime, Eddies coach Colin Miller had been a picture of contentment with his side taking the first half initiative and standing strong at the back, but left the east coast without reward. It can be a cruel game.
Minnesota United will have been delighted to not slip from fourth in the table despite being inactive. San Antonio sits out this coming weekend, but could climb from the foot of the table to rise above some of their rivals on goal difference without playing, but it is still early in the season to read too much into the early positioning.
Talking of the Scorpions, admission to their shiny new Toyota Park was arguably the hottest soccer ticket on the planet on Saturday night. 8,177 crammed into the realization of Gordon Hartman’s dream soccer venue for his community and rocked the house. Those pesky Rowdies went off-script and spoiled the party at least in terms of the result on the pitch, but away from the field, the Scorpions definitely scored big and took all three points.
During his road trip to Atlanta, the President of Indy Pro Soccer’ NASL team that will hit stride in 2014, Peter Wilt was tweeting out a multitude of photos (follow him @PeterWilt1), including one of three lanes of cars weaving their way into Atlanta Silverbacks Park, such was the clamor to see their home opener.
A source at the game commented that although the Silverbacks have on a couple of occasions pulled in more than the 5,402 who cheered from the stands on Saturday, the atmosphere this past weekend was the best ever. Fans were more engaged than anyone recalls and there are high hopes that all will return, eager to relive the experience. It helped of course that two goals inside the final five minutes created a supercharged atmosphere, but there was no doubting the genuine celebration between players and fans when Silverbacks players were almost leaping into the crowd down on the sidelines at the final whistle.
The first of those Silverbacks goals against the Fort Lauderdale Striker came right out of the playbook of a team in England much maligned for its direct ball approach, Stoke City. Patient approach play had been stifled for 85 minutes, before Shane Maroney hauled a long throw in into the box and Beto Navarro grappled with a defender and poked the ball home. Simple and effective is often the antidote. Then the Silverbacks made the result safe with a classic counter attack as the Strikers pushed desperately for an equalizer.
Atlanta’s win, along with those by Carolina and Tampa Bay leaves the NASL standings with an unusual look after only two weeks. On one hand there are four teams – Saturday’s winners and Minnesota who had a bye – that remain unbeaten on the campaign. Yet only one team, the Silverbacks, boasts a one hundred percent record so early in the season, and that comes down to the fact they sat out opening weekend draw-fest.
It really is too early to start talking about top of the table clashes as the standings are in very early season shape, but it’s hard not to look to St Petersburg this weekend and see the first place Rowdies taking on the Silverbacks who sit third and be excited at the prospect. Neighbors Fort Lauderdale travel again, this time to Carolina where RailHawks boss Colin Clarke mentioned the importance of taking advantage of back-to-back home games and keeping an excited WakeMed Soccer Park crowd in his team’s favor.
FC Edmonton completes a three-game road trip knowing they have played well enough at times to be going home with far greater reward, and faces a Minnesota side likely shaving a few millimeters off the woodwork that denied United in the season opener.
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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|