Wednesday, September 19, 2012

NASL Week 24 Redux

Article by Doak Gips



And....were done! Our playoff teams are set! Seeding is still up in the air, but now all six teams are set for the playoffs. Not that you didn't know this already, but the teams are, listed in their current seeding, the Scorpions, Rowdies, Islanders, RailHawks, Strikers, and finally Minnesota Stars FC, who held onto their last playoff spot. Now that we're set on who's in and who's out, we get to focus on who's getting a bye, who's getting homefield, and who is having to work the hardest to reach the playoff final. The Scorpions have already clenched a bye to the semi-finals, also obviously having home field advantage in that game as well. The Rowdies are the only team in the Scorpions way of claiming the regular season title, sitting at writing a mere three points back. Want to know how it all went down? Stay awhile, and listen.


Minnesota Stars FC vs. Puerto Rico Islanders

Apparently the Stars were tired of letting Edmonton hold onto hope. Apparently, on a rare Tuesday night game on September 11th, the Stars had just had enough. In front of 1,402 onlookers at NSC stadium, the Stars crushed the Islanders 4-0 to emphatically put away any hope the Eddies had to make the playoffs. The Stars opened the scoring in the 16th minute after Jamie Watson, who wasn't closed down by the Islander defense, poked a wonderful through ball to forward Nate Polak, who beat Richard Martin with the 1v1. The goal was Polak's first on the year, after being signed in August by the Stars. Goal two was setup by Nate Polak, after making a great run into the box, sent in a low cross which Amani Walker hit, but was deflected into goal by Miguel Ibarra. 

Don't be fooled by the stat sheet though, as that goal absolutely would not have happened without the work of Polak. Minnesota came out of the gate on fire in the 2nd half, scoring in the first minute of the half. Ibarra made a blistering run up the center of the defense, dumped the ball off to his left to Jamie Watson, who held the shoot plus finesse shot button absolutely perfectly, hitting it into the top right corner and getting it cleanly by Martin. The Stars rounded out their scoring much simpler than their last goals, as a nice cross from Miguel Ibarra found the noggin of Amani Walker right in front of goal, who angled it nicely by Martin. As stated earlier, the win clinched the Stars at least a spot in the playoffs.

FC Edmonton vs. Carolina Railhawks

Edmonton, sadly or not so sadly depending on where you're from, is finally out of the playoff race. They hung on by a single thread for so long, but Minnesota finally snapped that thread with their win against the Islanders on Tuesday night. So how would Edmonton respond to this news? By producing a respectable 2-2 draw at home against the Railhawks, with 1,251 fans in attendance. They may have been a bit upset about missing the playoffs to start the game though, as the Railhawks scored the first goal of the game in the 5th minute, as a poor Lance Parker distribution ended up at Ty Shipalane's feet, who danced by defenders and sent a perfect low cross to a waiting Nick Zimmerman, who cleanly placed away the shot. 

This seem to upset the Eddies and quickly made the Railhawks pay, and by pay, I mean the Railhawks fell asleep and completely failed to mark Kyle Porter in front of goal, and he was able to easily put away a cross from Michael Cox. The Eddies second goal was all Kyle Porter. Porter went for a steal on a Railhawks defender and deflected it right to Shaun Saiko, who passed a nice through ball to Porter who was streaking back towards goal, and beat Railhawks 'keeper Akira Fitzgerald in the 1v1. But Carolina would fight back and earn the draw as a Nick Zimmerman shot was deflected right back to himself, and was able to get attempt number two past Parker.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. Atlanta Silverbacks

You know when the absolute best time to get hot is? When you've already been eliminated from the playoffs. People like say it's because the team is “playing free” and they're dangerous because “they have nothing to play for”. I personally don't agree with these arguments, but hey, apparently the Silverbacks do. They've won two out of their last three, and haven't lost in that three game span either. So, they get to play spoiler for the faltering Strikers, beating them 1-0 in front 5,561 Silverbacks fans that came out for the relatively meaningless game. The Silverbacks scored their lone goal in the 11th minute, as Matt Horth received the ball in the middle of the field from Lucas Paulini, and was able to knock it by Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser for his tenth goal of the year, which is good for fourth in total goals in the NASL.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. FC Edmonton

Like I was saying earlier, the best time to become hot, is when the games matter nothing to you. You can “play free”, and play aggressive because you “have nothing to play for”. Well, sadly for Edmonton, that doesn't happen if you're just a poor team. Edmonton is a poor team. They continued their poor play against the Rowdies, losing 3-0 in front of 1,376 seriously dedicated Eddie fans. Tampa Bay started their domination on a nice header goal by Daniel Antoniuk, on a nice free kick from Luke Mulholland.



Domination number two came in the 43rd minute, as Rowdies forward Mike Ambersley received a nice lay off pass from Keith Savage, and then decided that oh, about 22 yards out is the ideal place to shoot from. It's also apparently the best place to score from as well, as a beautiful curling shot placed into the bottom right corner left Eddies goalkeeper John Smits flatfooted. The Rowdies capped off their clean sheet victory with a bit of a ping-pong goal, as a leaping Daniel Antoniuk headed the ball back down to a sliding Luke Mulholland, who placed it by Smits. The Rowdies have also won two of three and not lost in those three either, with their last loss coming at the hands of the Scorpions back on August 19th.

Carolina Railhawks vs. San Antonio Scorpions

Some people will look at this as an upset. Those people have not been watching the Railhawks recently. The only recent loss the Railhawks have suffered was to the Scorpions earlier this month. Even that loss was only a 1-0 loss, even though it was at home. The Railhawks gained their redemption, and prevented the Scorpions from claiming the regular season title, this past weekend, beating the Scorpions 2-1 at a rain-soaked Heroes stadium, with 7,701 fans braving the elements hoping to see the Scorpions clinch. Sadly for those fans though, The Scorpions never even led in the game, as Carolina took the lead late in the first half on a free kick from Floyd Franks, which found the top of the head of Gale Agbossoumonde, who angled it by Scorpions goalkeeper Daryl Sattler. 

The Scorpions of course were not going to lay down easily though, and Jeff Cunningham played an absolutely wonderful through ball to Pablo Campos, who got knocked to the ground but was able to still beat Railhawks goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald. The Railhawks wanted their revenge though, and sealed it less than 10 minutes after the Scorpions scored, and what a pretty goal it was. The setup through ball from Floyd Franks was just beautiful, as was Ty Shipalane's run behind the defense. He easily side-stepped Sattler, and was left with an open goal to finish off the run, and finish off the Scorpions on the night.

Minnesota Stars FC vs. Puerto Rico Islanders

Well, this game is a bit of a mystery. Not the final score, mind you, that comes with Puerto Rico winning 2-0 at Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel with 3,331 people hanging about. The mystery is really how it all went down. Puerto Rico's video feed didn't work for the entire first half, then supposedly when it came back up, I never got to see any of it. To top that off, the NASL didn't put any highlights of the 2nd half at least on their website. I mean, they could have at least let us see the second half goal by Puerto Rico, but nope. While I love that the NASL requires all teams to have a stream of every game, some solidarity on the quality of video should also be talked about in the off-season, as I believe that at least SD video should be required, because let's be honest, most streams this year aren't. Nevertheless, the Islanders kept their pace with the Rowdies and remain only three points back from them, and only six points backs of the Scorpions.

This week's games are real big, especially the midweek clashes between San Antonio and Atlanta, and Carolina visiting Tampa Bay. The weekend games include Tampa Bay going to Carolina, Puerto Rico facing Atlanta, Edmonton going up against Fort Lauderdale, and San Antonio taking on Minnesota.

Here are your updated tables.
X – Clinched a playoff spot
Y – Clinched Bye to Semi-finals
Z – Eliminated from playoffs


TEAM
GP
W
T
L
GD
PTS
San Antonio Scorpions y
26
13
7
6
21
46
Tampa Bay Rowdies x
26
12
7
7
7
43
Puerto Rico Islanders x
27
11
7
9
2
40
Carolina RailHawks x
26
10
8
8
-2
38
Fort Lauderdale Strikers x
27
9
8
10
-6
35
Minnesota Stars FC x
27
8
10
9
1
34
Atlanta Silverbacks z
26
6
8
12
-13
26
FC Edmonton z
27
5
9
13
-10
24


Let's talk more about the NASL, yes? Come find me on twitter @DoakGips. 

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