Wednesday, October 3, 2012

NASL Redux: Quarter Finals

Article by Doak Gips

Ladies and gentlemen, we are to the home stretch. The games mattered before, but now they really matter. Way more than they did before. Now it's lose and you're out. Done. Finished. All those other words. As we talked about last week, the Scorpions and the Rowdies don't have to compete in this play-in game, due to their being one and two respectively in the league standings. So this week put the Carolina Railhawks against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Puerto Rico went up against the Minnesota Stars.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. Carolina Railhawks 

If you really want to define how this game was going to look going into the game, you need to look no further than each team's form coming into the game. The Railhawks had only lost one game the whole month of September, and that was a 1-0 loss to San Antonio. The Strikers on the other hand limped into the playoffs, going 0-2-2 in the month of September. That should tell you about how this game went, as Carolina beat up on Tampa Bay 3-1 at WakeMed Soccer Park, with 2,534 Railhawk fans coming out to watch their team win. And those fans were the one's who got to cheer first, as the Railhawks scored the first goal of the evening. Strikers defender Toni Stahl committed a pretty poor turnover in the Strikers half of the field that was stolen away by Railhawks forward Jason Garey.

Garey then decided his best course of attack would be the river dance in the 18 yard box, even prompting the Railhawks announcer to proclaim “What is he doing?” Well, Mr. announcer man, he was playing a perfect layoff ball to Rowdies midfielder Amir Lowery, who finessed it around Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser and into the back of the net. The Railhawks kept the party going into the second half as well, and made it 2-0 in the 52nd minute. The ball came in from a throw-in and touched three of the Railhawks best players before finally finding Ty Shipalane relatively unmarked in the box, and scored on a deflection that went off Glaeser's foot and into the goal. Even being down two goals though, the Strikers were not going down without a fight, and brought it back with an absolutely beautiful goal. 

Strikers defender Lance Laing made a tough, but fair tackle on Shipalane around midfield, then hit a perfectly aired out ball to waiting Strikers forward Abe Thompson, who played the ball off his chest, and volleyed it straight over Railhawks goalkeeper Ray Burse for the score. But the Railhawks were not to be denied on this night, and put the dagger in less than ten minutes later, as a well placed through ball from Railhawks forward Brian Shriver found Shipalane in the middle of the field, and Shipalane was able to fight off the defender, and poke the ball underneath the charging Matt Glaeser.

Minnesota Stars FC vs. Puerto Rico Islanders 
Now this is more what playoff soccer is about. An underdog going on the road, in Minnesota's case going across the northern hemisphere, and taking the opposing team to the shed. Minnesota came out firing and let the Islanders know they were here to win, and a world-class counter attack opened the scoring. Stars forward Simone Bracalello made a scorching run up the right side of the field, starting from behind midfield. When the Islanders back line didn't feel like stepping up to mark him, Bracalello whipped in a perfect cross to Stars forward Amani Walker at the back post, who aimed it perfectly passed Islanders goalkeeper Richard Martin. 

The lack of marking killed the Islanders on the second goal as well, as again Simone Bracalello found the open man, this time it was midfielder Miguel Ibarra, who made a nice cutting run, and calmly finessed the ball by Martin and put the Stars up 2-0. The Islanders pulled out all the stops in the second half though, amassing more shots in the second half than the Stars did all game. They finally did get one to go through as well off a quick corner. A shot from just outside the box by Islanders midfielder Joshua Hansen was deflected off a Stars defender and right at the feet of Islanders forward David Foley, who chipped it by Stars goalkeeper Matthew VanOekel. The Islanders absolutely should have drawn the game level in the 85 minute, as a perfect low cross from Hector Ramos found Nicholas Addlery in front of goal with no keeper around. Unfortunately for Addlery, you cannot usually score by tripping over the ball, which he did. That gave Stars captain Kyle Altman just enough time to get back and clear the ball off the line.

The win by Carolina gave them the right to play the Tampa Bay Rowdies in a home and away series, starting this Saturday at WakeMed Soccer Park. The San Antonio Scorpions, by way of being the higher ranked seed, get the lowest seed, which would be the Minnesota Stars FC. That series begins Saturday night at NSC Stadium.

The Scorpions took the season series from the Stars, but only barely, winning one, and drawing the rest, and only coming away with a +1 goal differential for the season. The Carolina and Tampa Bay series was, believe it or not, a perfect draw, with neither team able to grab a win against each other during the course of the season. It really should make it an exciting first week of the semifinals. If you're anywhere near one of these stadiums, get out and catch one of these games.

Playoffs? Playoffs?!?!? Yes, we're only talking about playoffs now. Come talk playoffs with me! You can find me @DoakGips on twitter.

1 comment:

  1. I really wish I hadn’t seen this as I really want one now!