AFTER THE WHISTLE | Rayo OKC In The Driver’s Seat

A Minnesota draw or loss against New York would send Rayo OKC to The Championship Semifinals
Jack Bell (@JackBell} | Oct 24, 2016

Photo credit: Jon van Woerden/Fort Lauderdale Strikers

Rayo OKC's form over the last few months of the Fall Season has shaken up the postseason picture and now the club is in pole position to reach The Championship, the NASL's four-team postseason tournament, with one more week left to go.

Here are some of the key storylines from the matches of Week 17 of the Fall Season:

Rayo OKC Take Control Of Postseason Destiny: Riding a nine-game unbeaten streak, Rayo OKC is now in the lead in the case for The Championship. The club defeated the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 2-0, and in the process shrunk the field in the postseason race. Only Minnesota United can catch Rayo OKC heading into the final weekend. Defender Sebastien Ibeagha and former Strikers midfielder Pecka scored the goals.

Loons On The Brink: Minnesota’s early season form has kept the side in the running for the postseason, despite winning just three games in the last three months. But now, after Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Carolina RailHawks, United is out of options – and maybe out of luck. The Loons must defeat the New York Cosmos and then hope Rayo OKC loses its game on Sunday night. Since the clubs are tied on goal differential (plus-5), the first tiebreaker, a Minnesota win and a Rayo OKC loss would send the Loons to the postseason.

Arango Sparkles For The Cosmos: Juan Arango is playing some of his best soccer at the most important time of the year. The former Venezuelan international played a role in three of the four goals New York scored against Miami FC (a goal and two assists). In the past four games, all New York wins, Arango has five goals and three assists. He is tied for second in the league in goals scored (15, with Indy’s Éamon Zayed) and assists (seven, with Tampa Bay’s Joe Cole).

A Local Hero: Coach Gerard Nus and Rayo OKC had to scramble before Saturday’s pivotal match at Fort Lauderdale when goalkeeper Daniel Fernandes tweaked his back in pregame warmups. Nus was forced to reach down his bench to Bryan Byars, who made his professional debut in the 2-0 shutout that put the club on the brink of qualifying for The Championship. Byars played at Putnam North High School in Oklahoma City and went on to a stellar collegiate career at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, an NAIA school in Chickasha, Okla. For Fernandes, the injury ended his streak of having played every minute of every game this year.

Fondy Hits Seventh: After going the entire Spring Season without scoring a goal for Jacksonville (after scoring 21 for Louisville City in USL last year), striker Matt Fondy was transferred to Carolina in June. He scored his seventh goal of the Fall Season in the RailHawks’ 1-0 win over Minnesota, which makes Fondy Carolina’s leading goalscorer this year.

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