POSTSEASON ANALYSIS | How The Championship Race Looks In Week 17

Miami and Tampa Bay both lose in midweek contests to dampen hopes
NASL Staff (@naslofficial} | Oct 17, 2016

Photo credit: Rayo OKC

Three of the four seeds in The Championship, the NASL's four-team postseason tournament, have been decided after the New York Cosmos clinched the Fall Season title and the No. 1 seed. The final postseason spot is still to be determined with no margin for error among six teams that are separated by just four points heading into the final two weekends of the Fall Season. Miami FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ postseason chances were dealt a blow after losses on Wednesday. Here’s how things stand heading into this weekend:


New York Cosmos (12W-5D-3L, 41 points Fall; 18-5-7, 59 Combined)

Key Facts

  • Remaining Schedule: vs. Miami; at Minnesota
  • Home Record: 13-2-0
  • Away Record: 5-3-7
  • Clinched Fall Season title and No. 1 seed in The Championship
  • Currently on an 18-game home unbeaten streak
  • Goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer has 13 shutouts (second in the league) and a 0.85 goals against (also second in the league)

The Cosmos wrapped up the Fall Season title and the top seed in The Championship – earning the right to host two potential postseason games – with a comeback win over Jacksonville Armada FC. The Cosmos will continue to play a part in the postseason race, though. New York’s final two games of the Fall Season come against contenders for The Championship. New York also has a chance to finish the regular season without a home loss in its next contest against Miami FC before heading to Minnesota.

Indy Eleven (10-4-6, 34 points Fall; 14-10-6, 52 Combined)

Key Facts

  • Remaining Schedule: vs. Puerto Rico; at Rayo OKC
  • Home Record: 12-3-0
  • Away Record: 2-7-6
  • Won the Spring Season title
  • Currently on a 17-game home unbeaten streak
  • Forward Eamon Zayed has scored 14 goals (tied for second in the league)

After results in Week 16, Indy knows its opponent in The Championship Semifinal as the Boys in Blue will take on FC Edmonton. Indy continued its home unbeaten run with a 3-0 result against the Carolina RailHawks and, like the Cosmos, will have a chance to finish the year without a loss at home in the regular season with its last game at Carroll Stadium against Puerto Rico FC. Indy added another twist to the postseason race with the 3-2 victory on Wednesday night to dampen the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ hopes to play on in November. After playing Puerto Rico, the Boys in Blue could impact the race once more in an away contest against Rayo OKC.

FC Edmonton (9-6-5, 33 Fall: 14-8-8, 50 Combined)

Key Facts

  • Remaining Schedule: vs. Jacksonville; at Miami
  • Home Record: 11-2-2
  • Away Record: 3-6-6
  • Goalkeeper Matt VanOekel has a 0.57 GAA (league leader), 15 shutouts (league leader) and 92 saves (third in league)

The Eddies will be headed to Indianapolis in November, but before playing games in The Championship FC Edmonton will look to pick up steam over the final two games of the Fall Season. FC Edmonton has dropped the last two results, first to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and then to Minnesota United, which ended any chance of claiming the Fall Season title. The Eddies host Jacksonville Armada FC in their home finale before playing Miami FC.

In Contention

Minnesota United (6-7-7, 25 Fall; 11-8-11, 41 Combined)

Key Facts

  • Remaining Schedule: at Carolina; vs. New York
  • Home Record: 10-1-4
  • Away Record: 1-7-7
  • Returned to the win column after a six-game winless streak
  • Forward Christian Ramirez has scored 18 goals (league leader)

Minnesota needed a victory to reinvigorate the side’s confidence and postseason push. The club received just that on Saturday night against FC Edmonton. Christian Ramirez returned from a one-game absence due to injury and provided the spark and goals as he has done so many times this year. The Loons, who hold an advantage in goal differential over any other postseason contender, took control of their fate. Minnesota heads to Carolina to face a RailHawks side that is strong at home and is equally desperate for three points. The Loons then finish the Fall Season slate against the Fall Season Champions as New York will look to avenge a 1-0 loss in Minnesota in the Spring Season.   

Rayo OKC (7-8-5, 29 Fall; 9-11-9, 41 Combined)

Key Facts

  • Remaining Schedule: at Fort Lauderdale; vs. Indy
  • Home Record: 5-6-6
  • Away Record: 5-5-5
  • Currently on an eight-game unbeaten run
  • Midfielder Michel has scored 14 goals (tied for second in league)

With the race to The Championship so tight, finding form over the last month of the Fall Season was imperative. With the regular season winding down, Rayo OKC only seems to be getting stronger after picking up back-to-back wins. Michel continues to be the side’s catalyst, scoring three times in Week 16. More importantly for Rayo OKC, Michel is showing the knack for scoring in the run of play as well as from set pieces. Heading into the final two games, the side is on an eight-game unbeaten streak and is currently tied on points with Minnesota. In the club’s next contest, Rayo OKC can take another step towards the postseason, while significantly hampering one of its rivals for the final spot with a trip to Fort Lauderdale to face the Strikers. Rayo OKC then finishes the Fall Season against Indy Eleven.  

Tampa Bay Rowdies (5-7-8, 22 Fall; 9-11-10, 38 Combined)

Key Facts

  • Remaining Schedule: vs. Ottawa; at Jacksonville
  • Home Record: 6-6-3
  • Away Record: 3-5-7
  • Forward Georgi Hristov has scored 10 goals (team leader)

The Rowdies’ bid to reach The Championship took a significant hit after a midweek loss to Indy Eleven, Tampa Bay was able to erase a two-goal deficit to earn a point against Miami FC last Friday. This time, the club overturned another deficit on Joe Cole’s double, but conceded late to remain three points behind Minnesota United and Rayo OKC in the Combined Standings. The Rowdies now face a pair of sides near the bottom of the table in Ottawa Fury FC and Jacksonville Armada FC, but those contests certainly don’t represent easy games. Jacksonville spoiled Miami’s plans for the postseason with a midweek win.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers (6-5-9, 23 Fall; 10-8-12, 38 Combined)

Key Facts

  • Remaining Schedule: vs. Rayo OKC; at Ottawa
  • Home Record: 6-6-3
  • Away Record: 4-2-9
  • Currently on a two-game winning streak
  • Forward Maicon Santos has scored seven goals (team leader)

After losing four straight games, it looked as if the road to the postseason was coming to an end for the Strikers. But two wins in a row, thanks to a pair of game-winners from Geison Moura, has thrust Fort Lauderdale right back into contention. The weekend contest against Rayo OKC represents the biggest game of the year as a loss would end the club’s postseason bid. The Strikers will then finish the campaign on the road against Ottawa Fury FC hoping to be playing for a spot in The Championship.

Miami FC (8-6-6, 30 Fall; 9-10-11, 37 Combined)

Key Facts

  • Remaining Schedule: at New York; vs. Edmonton
  • Home Record: 5-4-6
  • Away Record: 4-6-5
  • Forward Dario Cvitanich has scored nine goals (team leader)
  • Goalkeeper Daniel Vega has 102 saves (league leader)

Miami FC conceded in the first 36 seconds to Jacksonville Armada FC, but was able to come back to take a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately for the side, the lead unraveled and its postseason hopes may have along with it. The club lost, 3-2, to Jacksonville and still trail by four points in the race to The Championship. Miami has let leads slip in the past two games and now the first-year side’s chances to play in November are slim. Miami visits the New York Cosmos on Saturday before hosting FC Edmonton in its final game of the Fall Season.

Carolina RailHawks (6-5-9, 23 Fall; 10-7-13, 37 Combined)

Key Facts

  • Remaining Schedule: vs. Minnesota; at Puerto Rico
  • Home Record: 7-5-3
  • Away Record: 3-2-10
  • Midfielder Nazmi Albadawi has 10 assists (a Modern Era league record)

The RailHawks were making a late push towards The Championship, but the club’s run has stalled over the past two games, earning defeats in both. Trailing by four points, Carolina has a big opportunity to head into the final game of the Fall Season with a chance at the postseason. The RailHawks host Minnesota United next and can close the gap on the Loons. Carolina has been a much better side at home and defeated Minnesota at WakeMed Soccer Park back in the Spring Season. If the RailHawks are to reach the postseason, they will not just have to figure out a way to beat Minnesota, but also a way to find wins on the road with their last contest taking place in Puerto Rico.  

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