Only One Team Out of Postseason Contention With Two Weeks To Play

Loons’ Fall Season title hopes take hit, Strikers back in driver’s seat for No. 4 seed
NASL Staff | Oct 17, 2015

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers leapfrogged over the Tampa Bay Rowdies and into fourth place in the NASL Combined Standings on Saturday night, erupting for four unanswered goals to defeat the visiting Carolina RailHawks in Week 16 action.

With the victory, the Strikers served notice that they are the team to beat in the race for the last remaining berth in The Championship, the league’s four-team postseason tournament. After the completion of games this weekend, Fort Lauderdale will be one of only three teams with three regular-season games remaining. The New York Cosmos, Ottawa Fury FC, and Minnesota United have clinched the three other postseason berths.

The Cosmos will host one semifinal, but the final seeding will only be determined at the conclusion of what is sure to be an exciting final two weeks. Ottawa and Minnesota trail New York, which is idle this week, by a single point in the Combined Standings as all three teams pursue the No. 1 overall seed and potential home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

Minnesota’s Fall Season title hopes were dealt a blow when it traveled to Indianapolis but ran into a determined Indy Eleven side that came away with a 3-1 victory. Indy’s win snapped the Loons’ 11-game unbeaten streak, but even the full three points could not help the Eleven, who were eliminated from postseason contention. Indy (30 points) has only two games remaining with six points on the table, making it impossible for the side to match Fort Lauderdale (37 points). United remains three points behind Ottawa, which hosts San Antonio on Sunday, in the battle for first place in the Fall Season table and the semifinal home game that goes with it.

Tampa Bay, now in fifth place in the Combined Standings, picked up a point at Atlanta to stay in the race, but the Rowdies have only two games to play (vs. Carolina and at New York) and need help if they have any hope of overhauling their intrastate rival Strikers.

FC Edmonton, the only team in the league with only one game to play in the regular season, most likely has seen its window of opportunity close after it failed to overcome 10-man Jacksonville in a game that featured a flurry of second-half goals by both teams. The match ended the Eddies’ three-game road swing in which they failed to pick up a single point, probably dooming any postseason aspirations.

The Armada FC continued its mastery at home (5-3-0) in the Fall Season. With three games left, Jacksonville has a mathematical chance of taking the final postseason berth, with two of its three remaining games to be played at Community First Park. Jacksonville closes with games against Ottawa, at FC Edmonton and against the Strikers. But Jacksonville, an expansion team, is winless in its 14 road games this year.

Carolina and Atlanta are hanging by a thin thread, but remain alive. Both teams have two games remaining with six points at stake. Fort Lauderdale, with a superior goal differential, would need only one point to eliminate both the RailHawks and the Silverbacks.

Atlanta Silverbacks 0, Tampa Bay Rowdies 0

Tampa Bay (4W-5D-9L, 17 points Fall; 9-9-10, 36 Combined) and Atlanta (6-6-6, 24 Fall; 7-11-10, 32 Combined) kept their hopes of advancing to the postseason alive before 4,111 at Silverbacks Park in Atlanta, Ga., though neither team can be entirely happy. The Rowdies played the match without Darnell King and Juan Guerra, suspended due to a red card and yellow card accumulation, respectively. The Silverbacks had perhaps the best scoring chance in the match when a free kick by the dead-ball specialist Junior Burgos was pushed wide at the last second by Tampa Bay goalkeeper Matt Pickens, who was making his 11th consecutive start for the Rowdies.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 4, Carolina RailHawks 0

Fort Lauderdale (7-5-5, 26 Fall; 10-7-10, 37 Combined) took a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., when Stefano Pinho, the league’s leading goalscorer, hit a diagonal cross from the right that found the head of Frankie Sanfilippo. He nodded it back across the face of the goal, over Carolina (5-3-10, 18 Fall; 8-8-12, 32 Combined) ‘keeper Akira Fitzgerald and into the far corner for his first of the year. Jonathan Borrajo became the second Strikers defender to score a goal when he doubled the lead in the 30th minute. Borrajo and PC played a neat 1-2 combination that sent the native of Clifton, N.J., to the end line where his shot from an extreme angle went high over Fitzgerald. Marlon Freitas made it 3-0 early in the second half, converting a pass from Pinho. After serving as provider earlier in the match, Pinho scored his 16th of the year, in the 56th minute.

Indy Eleven 3, Minnesota United FC 1

Dylan Mares and Daniel Keller combined for an opening goal in the 39th minute by Indy Eleven (4-5-9, 17 Fall; 7-9-12, 30 Combined) before 9,085 at Carroll Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. Mares carried the ball to the top of the Minnesota (10-5-3, 35 Fall; 13-10-5, 49 Combined) penalty area and slid a pass to Keller on the left. His one-touch pass was side-footed by Mares past Loons’ goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock. Indy was the more dangerous team on offense in the first half, playing against a Minnesota defense that was missing defenders Justin Davis and Tiago Calvano, both of whom were suspended for yellow card accumulation. Indy doubled the lead in the 56th minute on a quick counterattack that began when Zach Steinberger stole the ball in midfield. He passed to Don Smart, whose perfect cross found Brian Brown, who first-timed it past Ndjock. Brad Ring capped the scoring for the hosts when his blast from about 25 yards out beat Ndjock in the 82nd minute. The Loons managed to pull one back with less than five minutes to play when Brent Kallman headed Kevin Venegas’ corner kick past Kristian Nicht.

Jacksonville Armada FC 3, FC Edmonton 2

Jacksonville (5-3-9, 18 Fall; 8-6-13, 30 Combined) received a goal from Alhassane Keita in the 31st minute, his seventh of the year, before 6,503 at Community First Park in Jacksonville, Fla. He and Jemal Johnson exchanged passes before Keita tucked a left-footed shot under FC Edmonton (7-4-8, 25 Fall; 9-7-13, 34 Combined) goalkeeper Matt VanOekel. The Eddies tied the game in the 62nd minute, 11 minutes after Keita was ejected, when Daryl Fordyce scored his seventh goal of the year. Frank Jonke’s shot was tipped off the goalpost by goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo and fell to Fordyce, who tapped the ball into the open net. Edmonton took the lead three minutes later when a pass from Dustin Corea split the Jacksonville defense. Sainey Nyassi collected the ball, executed a nifty fake and put a shot past Gallardo in the 65th minute. Only minutes later, Jacksonville’s Akeil Barrett was taken down by Johann Smith in the penalty area and Haitian international Pascal Millien leveled the scored in the 67th minute. Barrett then gave 10-man Armada FC the lead when he scored the game’s fourth goal in eight minutes. The Eddies played all three recent road matches without Lance Laing, the club’s leading scorer who traveled to South Korea with Jamaica’s national team for a midweek friendly match. It was the eighth game this year Edmonton played while Laing was on international duty. The club has taken only five points from those games without Laing in the lineup.

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