The Carolina RailHawks moved to the top of the NASL standings with a 3-1 victory over the winless Fort Lauderdale Strikers at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Reigning NASL champions the Tampa Bay Rowdies surrendered a 3-1 halftime lead to fall to a 4-3 home defeat to the Atlanta Silverbacks, who have won both their games of the 2013 NASL Spring Season to now sit in second place in the table.
The league’s only other unbeaten team, Minnesota United, opened the third weekend of NASL action earlier on Saturday with a 2-0 win, scoring once in each half as FC Edmonton again impressed but went home without a point for their troubles.
Carolina RailHawks 3 Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1
Two first half penalties earned the RailHawks a 2-1 interval lead and Brian Shriver made the game safe with a second half strike.
“It’s what we know we’re capable of and some of the play in the second half was pretty special,” said RailHawks coach Colin Clarke. “We could have scored a couple more goals, but we will take 3-1.
“The defenders were good tonight and we knew that they were a good team and were able to pass around us in the first half, but then we were able to force them into mistakes in the second half and score. Its fun to watch and I know for them its fun to play in and they’ve had a great game tonight.”
The Strikers had taken the lead after only eight minutes when Jemal Johnson received the ball on the edge of the area from midfielder Pecka and had time to turn and fire his finish past the despairing grasp of keeper Akira Fitzgerald. The home keeper had been sharp to deny Stefan Dimitrov after two minutes of play, but had no answer to Johnson’s finish.
A minute before Fort Lauderdale went in front, Franks had charged through the middle as the visiting defenders backed off and was allowed to shoot from 25 yards out and his rising shot cannoned off the cross bar.
The half swung in the RailHawks’ favor in the 25th minute when an Austin Da Luz shot was handled and despite the ball ending up in the net a penalty was awarded. Skipper Franks sent keeper Matt Glaeser the wrong way to level the score then after 33 minutes after a push in the box by Toni Stahl, Shriver stepped up to take an identical penalty, to earn a 2-1 lead.
The RailHawks moved into what turned out to be a decisive 3-1 lead 12 minutes after the interval when a Shipalane cross found Shriver, whose shot was not cleared and the striker claimed the rebound and his second goal of the NASL season.
“That was probably the best half of soccer we have put together so far and it was fun to play in,” said Shriver. “If we can now get a point on the road it will be great and three will be even better. We need to take all the points we can here at home.”
Tampa Bay Rowdies 3 Atlanta Silverbacks 4
The reigning NASL champion Rowdies failed to win or draw for the first time in 14 home games as they blew a 3-1 lead and fell to a 4-3 defeat to the Atlanta Silverbacks.
Tampa had led the Silverbacks 3-1 at the interval through an Evans Frimpong strike and a Luke Mulholland double and looked good value for their lead until the visitors replied with three goals that rocked Al Lang Stadium.
“I saw the warning signs in the first half and we didn’t deserve to be 3-1 up,” admitted Rowdies coach Ricky Hill. “The disappointing thing was they scored goals from outside the box and we backed off and let them have shots. When you’re 3-1 up you should take something from the game and we haven’t done that through our own inability as a team."
The Rowdies took the lead just eight minutes into their second home game of the NASL campaign as Frimpong chested down pass from Mulholland after great ball in from Amani Walker and looped a finish over keeper Joe Nasco with his first career goal for the Rowdies.
The Silverbacks were level through a Ruben Luna header on the end of a Borfor Carr cross with 23 minutes played, but less than a minute later a Georgi Hristov pull back from the byeline found Mulholland just outside the 18-yard box and his left foot drive made it 2-1.
Three minutes before halftime, Mulholland claimed his second goal and opened a 3-1 advantage for the Rowdies with a perfectly struck free kick that caught Nasco out of position from 25 yards out.
In the 53rd minute striker Mendes caught Rowdies keeper Andrew Fontein off his line and blasted a superb 35-yard finish into the home net to pull Atlanta within a goal of tying the contest.
With 63 minutes played, a hopeful Silverbacks through ball was clipped past Fontein, who rushed from his goal to clear the danger but collided with his own player Jay Needham as Luna applied the finishing touch to fill an empty net and level the score at 3-3.
Mendes then completed the remarkable Atlanta comeback by earning the Silverbacks a 4-3 lead with 20 minutes still remaining. There was drama at the end as Jahbari Willis was red-carded during injury time, but the clock ran out on the Rowdies’ comeback attempt.
“I’m very proud for their discipline and I have to give a lot of credit to the guys at the back and then the forwards did their job,” said Silverbacks coach Brian Haynes. “We’ve beaten one of the best teams in the league and we’ve done it with a lot of class.”
Minnesota United 2 FC Edmonton 0
Minnesota United FC returned from a bye week to delight home fans at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome with a 2-0 win over winless FC Edmonton playing their third successive road game to open the season.
Simone Bracalello earned the hosts a halftime lead with a disputed penalty and just as FC Edmonton was pressing for an equalizer after 73 minutes, Lucas Rodriguez doubled Minnesota’s lead on the counter attack.
“It was an important win for us,” said United coach Manny Lagos. “I really was proud of the guys, finding different ways to create chances and win the game. Our back four were outstanding today and didn’t let up.”
On the half hour mark, FC Edmonton midfielder Neil Hlavaty was judged to have committed an infraction as his side defended a corner kick, and the hosts were awarded a penalty, a decision that did not sit well with the Canadians. Italian Bracalello stepped up and drilled the resulting spot kick inside the right post of Lance Parker, who had guessed and dived the right way but could not cope with the pace of the finish.
On the counter attack, Rodriguez arrived at far post to slam home a loose ball crossed by Aaron Pitchkolaninto the roof of the net despite Lance Laing’s diving attempt to make a last ditch tackle.
“When you see the development of that play and a clever finish by Aaron Rodriguez, that was a fun goal to watch,” added Lagos. “It was a very important goal too because we were up against a team that was handling us and we came through.”
Edmonton coach Miller added: “I thought we were still the better team and looked more dangerous. I’m very disappointed. That’s three different away games we’ve had and I thought today was two teams that were committed to winning.”
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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|