By: Ben Simmons, IndyEleven.com
A week after the Carolina RailHawks snuck out to a three-point lead atop the NASL standings, they came crashing back to rest of the pack with a 1-0 defeat in Fort Lauderdale, shattering any mirage of clarity in the race for the second Soccer Bowl slot. For their part, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers rolled to a third win on the trot, looking every bit the part of serious contender to seize pole position in the process. Elsewhere, the San Antonio Scorpions stayed rooted to the bottom of the league, the Tampa Bay Rowdies remained undefeated (if unspectacular) in the Fall Season, and the New York Cosmos escaped western Canada with a creditable draw.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1 : 0 Carolina RailHawks
The Strikers, suddenly the hottest team in the NASL, scraped its way to a third consecutive victory Friday night, this time brushing aside a challenge from the league-leading Railhawks with an early second-half goal from young American attacker Darnell King. The streak, which has erased the memory of the Strikers’ stumbling start to the Fall slate and brought them within a point of Carolina, has made their recently hired head coach Günter Kronsteiner a lightning rod for attention; an interview published on the team’s website yesterday illustrates his upbeat approach, which he perfected as an influential manager in the Austrian Bundesliga. Meanwhile, though Carolina remains atop the league standings at 10 points, the club remains winless on the road in 2013, owning a 0-5-3 record away from WakeMed Soccer Park since the beginning of the Spring Season.
San Antonio Scorpions 2 : 3 Minnesota United
Despite firing two stunning, goal-of-the-season candidate strikes past Minnesota goalkeeper Matthew Van Oekel in Saturday’s all-Central-Time-Zone affair, San Antonio again fell short when it mattered most, conceding a stoppage-time winner in front of a disbelieving crowd of 5,886 at Toyota Field. An inch-perfect curling effort from Walter Ramirez that left Van Oekel helplessly clawing at his right post had put the Scorpions in front inside 15 minutes, but their defensive demons returned to sabotage their bid for a first Fall Season win well before victory was within reach. A pair of preventable Pablo Campos goals either side of halftime, coupled with a red card for Scorpions midfielder Jeff Jennings, swung momentum decidedly in favor of the visiting side as the game entered its final half hour.
Tomasz Zahorski gave San Antonio a glimmer of hope in the 78th minute with an unstoppable shot from well outside the box that squared the game at 2-2, but the goal merely set the stage for Minnesota to inflict further pain on San Antonio. In stoppage time, defender Connor Tobin launched himself at a deflected cross and made enough contact with his head to nudge the ball into the net, condemning the Scorpions, who have now let in an enormous 15 goals in five games, to a fifth straight defeat.
FC Edmonton 1 : 1 New York Cosmos
The Cosmos’ first trip to Canada in nearly 30 years played out largely according to more recent precedent: FC Edmonton preserved its undefeated home record in the fall but failed to muster a multiple-goal outing; Eddies midfielder Chris Nurse scored again (for the third match running); and the Cosmos were unable to win away from Long Island. Sunday’s contest did include one surprise, however, which surely came as a welcome development from a Cosmos perspective: star signing Marcos Senna made his mark on the score sheet for the first time, rifling a low free kick into the bottom left corner in the 79th minute for New York’s only away goal to date this fall.
Atlanta Silverbacks 1 : 1 Tampa Bay Rowdies
The Silverbacks labored in vain to reap the reward of a dynamic display, as they were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw against the Rowdies, who, after ending four consecutive games with shared spoils, seem to have mastered the art of tying. A fine early strike by in-form Brazilian forward Pedro Mendes proved to be a red herring for the home side; seven subsequent shots on goal proved fruitless, as a combination of nervy finishing and an impressive performance from Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo kept the Silverbacks at bay for the remainder of the match. After the game, in which the Rowdies’ prolific Bulgarian striker Georgi Hristov converted a 50th minute penalty to equalize, Atlanta Head Coach Brian Haynes lamented missing out on “simple goals,” calling the showing “as poor a display of finishing that I have seen in a long time.”