WEEK 15 PREVIEW | Trio of Top Six Matchups Headlines Crucial Weekend of Fall Season Play

Postseason hopefuls Minnesota, Tampa Bay host key games; Edmonton heads to Big Apple
NASL Staff | Oct 8, 2015

With just four weekends remaining on the NASL Fall Season schedule, the race to claim the final postseason berths could go in any direction. As the late season drama reaches a fever pitch, the scheduling gods have quite a weekend planned, as three of the league’s five games will feature a pair of top six clubs facing off with plenty on the line.

While two of the four spots in The Championship, the NASL’s four-team postseason tournament, have already been claimed by the New York Cosmos and Ottawa Fury FC, two places are still up for grabs and all of the seeding is yet to be determined.

Two of this weekend’s marquee matchups will take place on Saturday, as the Tampa Bay Rowdies host Fury FC at Al Lang Stadium and Minnesota United FC welcomes the Fort Lauderdale Strikers to NSC Stadium. Rounding out the top six clashes will be a battle between the Cosmos and FC Edmonton at Shuart Stadium on Sunday.

COMBINED STANDINGS | Postseason picture becomes clearer this weekend

A win in Tampa Bay would put Ottawa on the brink of a Fall Season title, while a victory or a draw against Fort Lauderdale would guarantee Minnesota a place in the postseason for a second straight year. Edmonton, which just knocked off New York a few weeks ago at Clarke Stadium, would go a long way towards its hope for the No. 4 seed in The Championship.

Despite the fact that the league’s top six clubs are beginning to emerge as the likely candidates to occupy the four postseason spots at season’s end, others in the bottom half are still in the hunt. In the two other matchups on Saturday, Jacksonville Armada FC visits the Carolina RailHawks and the San Antonio Scorpions pay a visit to Indy Eleven. All four of those clubs are still one strong push away from making the race for the No. 4 spot awfully interesting at the end. 

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Ottawa Fury FC
7:30 p.m. ET | Saturday, October 10
Al Lang Stadium | St. Petersburg, Fla.
Watch | ESPN3 (National – U.S.), (National – Canada), Great 38 (Local – Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg), Rogers TV (Local – Ottawa)

With their Florida counterparts, the Strikers, possessing a game in hand, Saturday’s matchup against league-leading Ottawa couldn’t be more massive for the Rowdies (4W-3D-9L, 15 points Fall; 9-7-10, 34 Combined). Currently even on 34 points with the Strikers and FC Edmonton, the Rowdies have a real opportunity to improve their postseason chances with a win over visiting Fury FC. That won’t be an easy task, though. Ottawa, which is unbeaten in its last eight games overall, brings a four-game winning streak to Tampa Bay. Normally, the Rowdies could bank on the fact that they’re playing at home, but three of Fury FC’s four recent victories came away from home – and in emphatic fashion too. Ottawa (11-4-1, 37 Fall; 13-9-4, 48 Combined) won road games in Fort Lauderdale, New York, and Carolina by a combined score of 9-2. On the bright side for the Rowdies, they have taken seven points from their last three home games. Coach Stuart Campbell will need more from his attack on Saturday, especially against the likes of Ottawa’s Colin Falvey, Rafael Alves, and Romuald Peiser, who have teamed up to create the league’s toughest defensive unit.

Carolina RailHawks vs. Jacksonville Armada FC
7:30 p.m. ET | Saturday, October 10
WakeMed Soccer Park | Cary, N.C.
Watch | ESPN3 (National – U.S.), (National – Canada), CW17 (Local – Jacksonville)  

If Jacksonville and Carolina have any hopes of sneaking into The Championship, this Saturday’s game is an absolute must win. There are only three points up for grabs, though, so if one team wins, the other can kiss their hopes goodbye. Either way, it’s going to take an epic run for either team to have a shot, but that’s why you play the games. The Armada FC (4-3-8, 15 Fall; 7-6-12, 27 Combined) have looked like a new team under interim head coach Eric Dade, ripping off a win over intrastate rival Tampa Bay and nearly knocking off Indy last week. Carolina (3-3-9, 12 Fall; 6-8-11, 26 Combined) enters the matchup on the heels of an off week, which couldn’t have come any sooner after the club had continued its second-half tailspin in the standings. The well-rested RailHawks will be without defender Futty Danso due to the veteran’s call-up to the Gambian national team, while the Armada FC will be without Pascal Millien and Mechack Jérôme, who are both away with Haiti.

Indy Eleven vs. San Antonio Scorpions
7:30 p.m. ET | Saturday, October 10
Carroll Stadium | Indianapolis, Ind.
Watch | ESPN3 (National – U.S.), (National – Canada), WISH-TV (Local – Indianapolis), KSAT MeTV 12.2 (Local – San Antonio)

Indy Eleven (3-5-8, 14 Fall; 6-9-11, 27 Combined) returns home to their loyal fans on the heels of two 1-1 draws in Florida – against Tampa Bay and Jacksonville. Tim Regan’s side has been boosted by the returns of Sergio Peña and Dylan Mares from injury, and one might argue that this is the healthiest and most complete side that Indy has been able to field in a while. Still, the club has struggled to find the net down the stretch, perhaps one of the reasons why it finds itself holding on for dear life in the postseason race. For the Scorpions, scoring hasn’t been the issue, as the team has found the net five times in the last two games. The team has struggled at the other end, conceding nine goals in its last three games – a run that saw them pick up just one point. San Antonio (3-5-7, 14 Fall; 6-8-11, 26 Combined) still boasts one of the most exciting attacks in the league, with Omar Cummings, Marvin Chávez, and Billy Forbes all showing flashes of brilliance in what has been a disappointing year for the defending champions.

Minnesota United FC vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers
8 p.m. ET | Saturday, October 10
NSC Stadium | Blaine, Minn.
Watch | ESPN3 (National – U.S.), (National – Canada), KSTC45-TV (Local – Twin Cities), SFL-TV (Local – Fort Lauderdale)

Just under a year ago, the Strikers (6-5-4, 25 Fall; 9-7-9, 34 Combined) went up to Minnesota and handed the Loons a 2-1 postseason loss in front of a packed crowd at NSC Stadium. With plenty on the line, Fort Lauderdale can expect a similar atmosphere this weekend - only this time it will be facing a Minnesota team that is in the midst of its best run of form yet. The Loons (9-5-2, 32 Fall; 12-10-4, 46 Combined) haven’t lost since August 5, and they are playing an exciting and attractive brand of soccer that few opponents have been able to stop. Forward Christian Ramirez is showing that his scintillating first year in the league was anything but a fluke, while defenders Kevin Venegas and Justin Davis have been tidy in the back and dangerous going up and down the flanks. Like Minnesota, the Strikers look like a team deserving of a postseason spot too. Günter Kronsteiner’s side, which holds a game in hand over the rest of the postseason hopefuls, heads to Minnesota after earning a 4-2 win in San Antonio. Forward Stefano Pinho increased his lead in the NASL Golden Boot race with a hat trick in the victory, and it’s a dynamic player like him that Fort Lauderdale will need to step up if they are going to return from the Twin Cities with three points.

New York Cosmos vs. FC Edmonton
5 p.m. ET | Sunday, October 11
Shuart Stadium | Hempstead, N.Y.
Watch | (National – U.S./Canada), ONE World Sports (National – U.S.)

Going into this week, questions were beginning to swirl about the Cosmos’ form ahead of The Championship. Coach Giovanni Savarese’s side headed to Atlanta for a midweek game without a win in its last four, but the team that showed up against the Silverbacks was much more like the one that NASL fans are used to watching. New York (7-6-4, 27 Fall; 12-11-4, 47 Combined) picked up a 3-0 victory over Atlanta on Wednesday night thanks to goals from Sebastián Guenzatti, Gastón Cellerino, and Leo Fernandes, reclaiming the No. 2 spot in the Combined Standings. Sunday’s game against FC Edmonton (7-4-5, 25 Fall; 9-7-10, 34 Combined) will be no easy task, however. The Eddies, who knocked off the Cosmos, 2-1, on September 27, will come to the Big Apple with three points on their mind. After all, if Colin Miller’s side wants to stay in the hunt for that final postseason spot, it will need to keep pace with the Strikers and Rowdies. Following their win over the Cosmos, the Eddies were brought back down to earth by league-leading Ottawa, who dispatched them, 2-0, at TD Place last weekend. The Cosmos could once again be without Spanish superstar Raúl, who left last weekend’s match with what appeared to be an injury.  

Our Terms and Conditions of Use have changed. By using this Site, you agree to the Terms and Conditions of Use. Agree and Dismiss
Our Privacy Policy has changed. By using this Site, you agree to the Privacy Policy. Agree and Dismiss