On Independence Day, one team shall stand apart from their North American Soccer League rivals as champions of the NASL Spring Season.
The Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks and San Antonio Scorpions all head into the final games of the final week of the first half of the split season with the championship and the right to host Soccer Bowl on the line. There will be Fourth of July fireworks and celebrations for one team and their fans.
“It’s a big, big game,” said RailHawks coach Colin Clarke, whose side can be crowned champions with a win on Thursday night away to the Scorpions. “San Antonio is playing their best of late, so it won’t be easy for us traveling there in the final week of the Spring Season.
“Each week was a tough match and one you had to work hard for. We have put ourselves in a good position going into this final week and now we need to take advantage of being at the top of the table. If we do that, we will have achieved our goal of winning the spring and hosting Soccer Bowl.”
A win for the RailHawks will make them uncatchable at the top of the standings on 23 points, but they can also celebrate with a draw or a loss provided other results and mathematical equations go their way. Current NASL standings
Teams finishing level on points – which could happen between Carolina and Atlanta or Carolina and San Antonio - are separated first by goal difference, followed by goals scored, head to head record with their tied opponent and then away goal difference and away goals scored.
Standing in Carolina’s way is San Antonio, the NASL form team that has won four straight games and five of their last six to be in a position to overhaul the RailHawks at Toyota Field, provided they make up an inferior goal difference of a six-goal swing. They also need the Atlanta Silverbacks to only manage a draw or be beaten away to Minnesota United FC.
“Thursday's game can obviously decide a title,” said Scorpions coach Tim Hankinson. “We can't control what Atlanta does, but we can certainly control our own park and what we have to do. Scoring three goals in any match is always a mountain to climb, but I feel that the team is ready to reach for that and they have been all season.”
If the Atlanta Silverbacks beat host Minnesota United FC, they will need Carolina to lose in order to steal the title from the RailHawks, who currently have a two-point lead at the top. Or if Carolina is held to a draw by San Antonio, Atlanta must overcome a goal difference that is currently in Carolina’s favor by four goals.
“If we stick to the game plan in Minnesota, I think we’ll get a result that is favorable to us,” said Silverbacks coach Brian Haynes. “We don’t care where the goals from. It’s going to be a concentrated effort from all of the guys.”
Every match matters: just consider the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The defending champions might have been ruled out of title contention two weeks ago, but they head into one of the most passionate rivalries in the NASL against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers knowing second place is within their grasp.
A Rowdies win coupled with an Atlanta loss and a San Antonio loss or draw gives them a chance to take the runners up spot and 18 total points that could prove crucial at the end of the Fall Season. If the Spring Season winner also triumphs in the fall, the team with the best overall record from both campaigns advances to the Soccer Bowl, making second place an attractive target.
“Our fans love the traditional July 4th match, and we hope to finish the Spring Season with a win on Thursday,” said Rowdies coach Ricky Hill. “Rivalries are one of the best things in sports and this historic derby between the Strikers and the Rowdies is an example of that. Our players are looking forward to the match and finishing this Spring Season with a bang.”
The Florida derby provides the first outing for interim Strikers head coach Richard Lopes, who is in his eighth season with Fort Lauderdale, having served as the team’s goalkeeping and assistant coach.
Week 14 Schedule (All kickoff times US EST)
Thursday, July 4
Tampa Bay vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers
Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg, Fla. 6:30 pm
Minnesota United FC vs. Atlanta Silverbacks
NSC Stadium, Blaine, Minn. 8:00 pm
San Antonio Scorpions vs. Carolina RailHawks
Toyota Field, San Antonio, Tex. 8:30 pm
Bye week: FC Edmonton
All games will be streamed live and can be watched via the NASL official website www.NASL.comand at each respective team website.
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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|