By Michael Preston
The number 13: unlucky for some, but not for fans of the NASL if you were following Saturday’s games from Minnesota, Carolina and Tampa Bay via the live Ustream feed here at NASL.com.
Minnesota United scored two to win at home to FC Edmonton, Carolina beat Fort Lauderdale 3-1, as twice as many goals were generated at WakeMed Soccer Park, and then the Silverbacks edged a back and forth seven-goal thriller away to the Rowdies. That’s 13 goals in three games, making for an entertaining day’s soccer and plenty of excitement in the stands.
That number – an average of 4.33 goals per game – will appease those with a lust for seeing the ball hit the back of the net and perhaps even those people who ask how a nil-nil draw can possibly be considered great entertainment when neither team scored.
Of course, goals aren’t the be all and end all, but they certainly help when it comes to enticing fans through the turnstiles. The NASL opening weekend produced two goalless draws and a 1-1 stalemate, but also gave us plenty of heart-stopping moments when the post or the crossbar denied a team. But if it’s goals you’re after, the latest tally brings the NASL season average after nine games and that barren start up to 2.44 goals per game, which will keep you on your toes.
The RailHawks struck twice from the penalty spot against the Strikers and the first finish from Floyd Franks was as clinical as you can ask a player to be from 12 yards out. Then eight minutes later, when the referee pointed to the spot again, Franks would have had every confidence in hitting the target again, but instead forward Brian Shriver stepped up to put Carolina ahead against his former club.
Shriver is one of many players standing out as being very early leading candidates for the NASL player of the year award. His two goals against Fort Lauderdale and stunning free kick to beat FC Edmonton last week make him the league’s leading scorer and a clear threat in front of goal for the league leaders.
Luke Mulholland of the Rowdies will wonder what more he might have done to have finished on the winning side having scored twice and assisted on another goal in a 4-3 home defeat to the Silverbacks. The midfielder has impressed consistently for Ricky Hill’s side and is one to watch this season.
Building on his NASL Player of the Week award having shut out the Rowdies to kick off the campaign, RailHawks keeper Akira Fitzgerald remains in outstanding form and leads the league with 15 saves so far. And in Minnesota, Daryl Sattler has yet to concede in two games for United, holding both San Antonio and FC Edmonton at bay.
The UEFA Champions League is a popular focus for U.S. soccer fans tuning in midweek for the best the European continent has to offer and of course CONCACAF has its own version of the competition. Canada’s representatives will be determined in May when the nation’s four professional clubs battle it out in the 2013 Amway Canadian Championship.
The semi finals kick off this week with FC Edmonton of the NASL up against the Vancouver Whitecaps at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on Wednesday night.
The Eddies are arguably the unluckiest team in the NASL this season. They return north of the border from a three-game road trip to open the season having failed to collect more than the point they took in Fort Lauderdale on opening weekend, when they scored the season’s first goal through Wes Knight.
New coach Colin Miller has argued quite correctly that his team has played well enough in each game to deserve better reward than the solitary point they currently hold. A disputed penalty and a goal on the counter attack as Edmonton pressed for an equalizer sunk them in Minnesota on Saturday. A week earlier, the post twice denied Miller’s forwards when the Eddies were on top in Carolina.
Defensively, despite conceding five goals in three games (which on a positive note is well below the league average), Miller’s team looks sturdy at the back. With the added bonus of home field advantage and perhaps a little complacency on the part of the visiting Whitecaps this midweek if they focus more on the league table than on-field form, perhaps the NASL underdogs can spring a surprise. The two clubs will meet again in Vancouver on May 1 in the second leg of their semi-final, while Montreal Impact and Toronto FC contest the other pairing. You really can’t beat the excitement of a cup run.
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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|