Wednesday, September 12, 2012

NASL Recap Week 23 Recap

Article by Doak Gips


Just like that, the NASL playoff picture became a little clearer. Nearly all teams have secured their spot in the playoffs, with only the last spot still up for grabs. Even then, Edmonton would need a small miracle to make the playoffs, but it's not completely impossible. Only things left to deal with now is seeding, as most of those spots are still up in the air. So, as the playoffs become more secure, and this season starts pushing towards the home stretch, and with that home stretch, we get to start looking towards next season. Which apparently is going to be weird. Let's talk about next season for a bit, shall we?

The North American Soccer League changed their schedule for next season. Instead of a single season, we're going all Apertura and Clausura up in this business. The initial season will run from either late March or early April to July 4th, then a month break, then a second season from late July or early August to November 2nd.

[Editors Note: NASL Reporters Neil Morris and David Fellerath broke down what this would look like in the 2012 season based on results here.] The winner of each season will then play each other for the “Soccer Bowl”, and the right to be called overall champion. There's your facts. Now I get to tell you how silly I think this is. Did anyone think of the concept that if a team wins both seasons? Who gets to play then? Maybe the overall second place team? Best record in the clausura season? What about if the team with the best overall record doesn't end up winning either season?

They have a legitimate complaint. Sorry, but to me, this has become “be different for the sake of being different”, which sadly comes through in American club soccer from time to time. If you're going to this season, I say forget the funny times and scheduling, and go all out for the fall/spring schedule to see if it can work in this part of the world. This feels a little disjointed to me, but maybe it'll work out perfectly, and someone can serve my crow to me at about this time next season. Anyway, you're here for facts, so bring on the recaps!


San Antonio Scorpions vs. Carolina Railhawks

Carolina has been on a roll lately. The Railhawks had won three in a row coming into this clash with the Scorpions, who blasted Carolina 8-0 last time these two teams played. Seemed like a great revenge story setup, and getting to play at home should give the Railhawks the advantage they needed to take it to the Scorpions. So I thought, I suppose. The Scorpions came away from WakeMed with a 1-0 win against the Railhawks, in a game that was delayed around two hours due to some serious rainstorms. The teams came out hot though, and combined for a total of 13 shots in the first half alone.

 One of the Railhawks better chances came in the 35th minute, as Nick Zimmerman got free just at the top of the 18, but hit a solid shot at Scorpions 'keeper Daryl Sattler, who stopped it cleanly. The Scorpions nabbed the game winner when all-time MLS leading goal scorer Jeff Cunningham came on in the 81st minute, and calmly sent one behind Ray Burse, with Walter Ramirez providing the assist. Even with the loss, the Railhawks clinched their playoff spot because of Edmonton and Atlanta drawing. The win moves the Scorpions one step closer to having a bye straight to the semifinals, which should not to be too far off if they can continue this pace.

Puerto Rico Islanders vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers

With the Islanders already grabbing a playoff spot last week, it was up to the Strikers to go ahead and secure their spot as well. They only needed a draw to obtain their goal, and they did so, drawing Puerto Rico at home 1-1, with 4,704 Striker fans in attendance. Puerto Rico actually put the Strikers in a early hole, as in the 3rd minute, Islanders forward Nicholas Addlery received the ball at midfield, looked up, saw that Striker's goalkeeper Matt Glaeser was sleeping, and took a shot, which bounded right by the unassuming Glaeser. It didn't take long for the Strikers to respond though, as only 5 minutes later Strikers forward Pecka ended up with the ball at his feet after a failed clearance by a Railhawks defender, and Pecka knocked it onto the top crossbar and down into the goal. As stated before, the Strikers clinched at least a playoff spot with the win. They currently only sit two points behind the third place Islanders, but do have a much worse goal differential.

Atlanta Silverbacks vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies

The Silverbacks at this point probably really just want this season to end. Well, maybe everyone except forward Matt Horth, who's having a great season. Other than that, I don't blame the Silverbacks for wanting to put this season to bed. They have as many wins as the Scorpions have losses(five), their goal differential is an outstanding -14, have had two separate four game losing streaks, and didn't actually win their first game this season until June 3rd. For some perspective, week 1 of the season was on April 7th. The Silverbacks are looking to finish strongly though, winning last week at Edmonton, and can take some comfort in knowing they got a good road draw at Tampa Bay this week, with a  final score of 1-1 with 3,754 fans stuffed into Al Lang Stadium. Sadly though, the Atlanta goal was no beauty, as a bad, bad, bad, I mean bad giveaway by Rowdies defender Eddie Ababio, who kicked it high and back towards his goalkeeper, but fell well short, and Matt Horth was able to run it down and poke it by a diving Jeff Antinella. 

The Rowdies got the draw with a goal in the 42nd minute, as a nice Luke Mulholland free kick was initially headed off the crossbar, but in the ensuing rowdiness, the ball landed at the feet of Rowdies defender Takuya Yamada, who was able to get it by Silverbacks goalkeeper Eric Ati. The draw meant the Rowdies and the Islanders “held serve” in the battle for 2nd place, with the Rowdies still three points up on the Islanders.

FC Edmonton vs. Minnesota Stars FC


Oh the Stars need wins. Not many, mind you, but really one would close the door on the Eddies, and they wouldn't be having anymore of these silly “chances” to make the playoffs. The Stars did themselves no favors, and continued their up and down ways by drawing the Eddies, 1-1 with 2,365 stars in the...stands, and giving the Eddies the slightest of hope to still make the playoffs. Amani Walker opened the scoring after receiving, and finishing, the ball right in front of goal from a fantastic cross in from Stars defender Justin Davis. 

Edmonton though, finally realizing their season was on the line, put the pressure to Minnesota in the 2nd half, creating 8 shots on goal, none more important than the goal that drew them level. Deep into stoppage time, Eddies midfielder Brian Arguez makes a deep run into the box and dumps it off to a wide open,  CoMNASLPotYSF (Committee-of-Me-NASL-Player-of-the-Year-So-Far) Shaun Saiko, who cleanly places it by Stars 'keeper Matthew VanOekel. The draw keeps the Eddies alive for one more week, although they would need to win out, and have the Stars lose out. Their chances are slim, but not completely gone yet.



Plenty of North American Soccer League action coming this week, as Minnesota takes on Puerto Rico in a rare Tuesday night match, and Edmonton plays Carolina on Wednesday. The weekend action includes Atlanta taking on Fort Lauderdale, Puerto Rico facing Minnesota again, Edmonton going up against Tampa Bay, and the Railhawks and Scorpions go at it.

Here's your updated table.


TEAM
GP
W
T
L
GD
PTS
San Antonio Scorpions y
25
13
7
5
22
46
Tampa Bay Rowdies x
25
11
7
7
4
40
Puerto Rico Islanders x
26
10
7
9
0
37
Fort Lauderdale Strikers x
26
9
8
9
-5
35
Minnesota Stars FC x
26
8
10
8
3
34
Carolina RailHawks x
24
9
7
8
-3
34
FC Edmonton z
25
5
8
12
-7
23
Atlanta Silverbacks z
25
5
8
12
-14
23


Playoffs! Soon! Talk to me about them! I'll tell you everything you need to know, and then some. Find me on twitter @DoakGips. 

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