THE CHAMPIONSHIP SEMIFINALS PREVIEW | New York Hosts Fort Lauderdale; Top Defense Meets Top Attack In Ottawa

Cosmos, Strikers, and United look to return to an NASL Final, while Fury FC aims to teach its first
NASL Staff | Nov 6, 2015

The field for The Championship was set on the final day of the Fall Season and now four teams remain with hopes of lifting the Soccer Bowl trophy in 2015.

The New York Cosmos welcome the Fort Lauderdale Strikers to New York with a 2 p.m. (all times Eastern) kickoff at MCU Park in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. The Cosmos will have confidence from their four wins to close out the Fall Season, but the Strikers will be no pushovers. Despite entering the postseason as the No. 4 seed, Fort Lauderdale was in a similar situation last season and reached The Championship Final.

On Sunday, Ottawa Fury FC and its league-best defense hosts Minnesota United and its league-best attack at 3 p.m. All three meetings between the sides were  incredibly tight, separated by a goal or less. Ottawa conceded just 23 goals all season, setting a host of defensive records, while Minnesota scored 54 goals – a Modern Era record – this season.

For a full match preview, read below:

New York Cosmos vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers
2 p.m. | Saturday, Nov. 7
MCU Park | Brooklyn, N.Y.
Watch | (International), ESPN3 (National – U.S.), ONE World Sports (National – U.S.), (National – Canada), SFL-TV (Local – Fort Lauderdale)

The Cosmos earned the No. 1 seed during the final weekend of the Fall Season and the home-field advantage throughout The Championship, the NASL’s four-team postseason tournament. First, though, New York will need to get past the Strikers if it is to go on to claim the Soccer Bowl trophy. The Cosmos have not lost to Fort Lauderdale since 2013 (6W-2D-0L) and will host their first postseason match.

The Strikers will have to slow down the Cosmos’ attack that is led by Raúl and Leo Fernandes, who both have eight goals on the season. Fernandes, in particular, has enjoyed playing against the South Florida side, scoring in all three appearances against them earlier in the year. The Cosmos will have a bit of extra motivation, hoping to send Raúl and Marcos Senna into retirement as champions.

Fort Lauderdale, however, boasts plenty of firepower. Brazilian forward Stefano Pinho led the league with 16 goals, while his compatriots Marlon Freitas and PC have added creativity as well as goals. The key matchup will be Pinho against Cosmos defender Rovérsio. Fort Lauderdale’s back line needs to be organized and limit mistakes if it is to get its first win over the Cosmos in the Modern Era. Heading into The Championship as the No. 4 seed shouldn’t deter the Strikers, who won on the road to a year ago to play for the Soccer Bowl trophy (losing to San Antonio).

Ottawa Fury FC vs. Minnesota United
3 p.m. | Sunday, Nov .8
TD Place | Ottawa, Ontario
Watch | ESPN3 (National – U.S.), (National – Canada), Rogers TV (Local – Ottawa), KSTC-45TV (Local – Twin Cities)

Fury FC have taken tremendous strides in the club’s second season. Ottawa earned the Fall Season title with a strong defense and counterattacking ability. Goalkeeper Romuald Peiser earned NASL records with a 648-minute shutout streak, 14 total shutouts, 15 league wins, and equaled the Modern Era’s lowest goals against average at 0.76. Entering the postseason, Ottawa is unbeaten in its last 12 games, and has only lost once since May 2 – but it was against their opponent Sunday, Minnesota United.

The Loons counter the league’s best defense with the most vibrant attack this season. Minnesota is led by Christian Ramirez, who scored 12 goals over the course of the 2015 season, 11 in the Fall Season alone. The attacking threat, though, is more than just last year’s Golden Boot winner. Ibson has been the orchestrator in the midfield (also scoring six times), Pablo Campos has scored seven times, and both fullbacks have done well in attack – Justin Davis (five goals, two assists) and Kevin Venegas (two goals, six assists).

While Minnesota has scored plenty of goals, it hasn’t left itself exposed at the other end. Goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock kept a 1.09 GAA, and overturned a slow start in his first season in the league. The Loons have been a thorn in Ottawa’s side this season – ending the club’s shutout streak and an earlier 12-game unbeaten run – and will look to be one more time to reach The Championship Final. 

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