NASL Week 10: RailHawks on the Right Track, Scorpions Sting another Opponent
It’s been a busy sports weekend with the 2012 Euro competition beginning Friday, the Heat winning the NBA Eastern Conference final, the New Jersey Devils denying the LA Kings in the NHL finals, MLB interleague play, World Cup qualifiers going on everywhere but Europe, the French Open, MLS, USL PRO and PDL soccer matches going on across the North American continent, Timothy Bradley’s upset decision over Manny Pacquiao and Lionel Messi proving again his otherworldly quality in scoring three goals in a friendly against Brazil.
The NASL provided its share of thrills this weekend too, as the Carolina RailHawks pinned the first 2012 league loss on the Minnesota Stars while the San Antonio Scorpions put the kibosh on any ideas the Atlanta Silverbacks had of building a winning streak. The Puerto Rico Islanders stayed atop the league standings by defeating the Tampa Bay Rowdies in Bayamon to complete Saturday’s action, while on Sunday FC Edmonton hosted the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and squeaked out a 1-0 victory.
Carolina RailHawks 5-1 Minnesota Stars FC
“I am very proud of the team. We had a great game offensively and were able to get the job done defensively,” said head coach Colin Clarke. “Minnesota is a tough team, and today we were able to earn the three points. The team is on the right track and we still have half the season in front of us.”
The RailHawks win demonstrated that their slow start to the season was more a sign of a team in transition than a team in severe decline. In avenging their 2011 playoff series loss to the Stars, the RailHawks have won four of their last five matches in all competitions, defeating the 2011 MLS champion LA Galaxy side and the 2010 D2 champion Islanders before crushing the undefeated 2011 NASL Champion Stars Saturday. Carolina’s only loss in their last five games was to Chivas USA in US Open Cup action Tuesday, when the Goats scored on a stoppage time penalty kick for a 2-1 win.
Five RailHawks found the back of the net for Colin Clarke’s team against the Stars. Brian Shriver and Nick Zimmerman each scored their fifth goal of the season while rookie Austen King and MLS vets Jason Garey and Zack Schilawski opened their NASL accounts.
San Antonio Scorpions 3-0 Atlanta Silverbacks
Seven thousand fans at San Antonio’s Heroes Field saw the Scorpions earn sole possession of second place in the NASL standings Saturday as the Scorpions squashed the Silverbacks 3-0. The Scorpions trail the first place Islanders by a single point, and will meet the league leaders on Saturday, June 16 in Puerto Rico.
“Our possession got better as the game wore on,” Scorpions head coach Tim Hankinson said. “I thought we pressured them throughout and I think the play of Pablo [Campos] was the best it’s been in a few games.”
The match was scoreless until the 27th minute, when Campos fired a shot on goal to beat Silverbacks keeper Daniel Illyes to put the home team a goal up. San Antonio doubled up on Atlanta eight minutes later, with Campos again involved as he delivered a ball to Estaban Bayona, the Colombian who scored 28 goals in 39 PDL contests with the Laredo Heat. Bayona found midfielder Walter Ramirez, who delivered the insurance goal that the Scorpions wouldn’t need.
The Silverbacks, who earned a win and a draw in their last two league matches, were unable to get on track offensively at Heroes Field, firing off only three shots in paving the way for a relatively easy clean sheet for the Scorpions’ Daryl Sattler, his fifth of the season. Campos scored his second goal of the match in the 83rd minute, sending Scorpions fans home happy while Alex Pineda Chacon’s club will regroup as they look to earn a positive result at home next Saturday against the rising Carolina RailHawks.
Puerto Rico Islanders 2-0 Tampa Bay Rowdies
“Just win, baby” was the motto of the swashbuckling Oakland Raiders, and perhaps no team in the NASL comes closer to the ethos of the Raiders’ motto than the Puerto Rico Islanders.
The Islanders, who will play in the Final Round of the Caribbean Football Union competition beginning June 18, took 80 minutes Saturday at the Bayamon Soccer Complex to find the game-winner against Ricky Hill’s Rowdies, but in the end the bottom line was another three points for the Puerto Rican super troopers. David Foley, who was denied on a first half penalty kick attempt by the Rowdies’ Jeff Attinella, made amends as he found defender Jay Needham following a corner kick. Needham headed the ball past Attinella for his second goal in the last two matches.
The Rowdies forced three saves by the Islanders’ goalkeeper Richard Martin in the second half, but their attempts to find the equalizer were instead betrayed by a turnover, which defender Richard Martinez carried upfield until finding teammate Jonathan Fana, who discovered a wide-open Jared van Schaik. The former University of Portland Pilot scored with moments remaining, ending any chance for the Rowdies to salvage a point.
Although Adrian Whitbread’s Islanders haven’t quite been the dominant team this season that the Carolina RailHawks were at this point last season, the club continues to roll and has by far the best goal differential in the NASL (+12 with the Scorpions second best with +5). With three of the four teams in the CFU finals guaranteed CONCACAF Champions League play, the odds are quite likely that Puerto Rico will be carrying the flag for the NASL in the region’s highest profile club competition. Meanwhile, the Rowdies will attempt to get on the good foot again when they visit the Minnesota Stars next Saturday.
FC Edmonton 1-0 Fort Lauderdale Strikers
FC Edmonton, wearing the kit of the old Edmonton Drillers club, eked out a 1-0 home win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers despite playing shorthanded for almost two-thirds of the match. Michael Cox provided the goal that gave Harry Sinkgraven’s Eddies their third win of the season, while former Missouri State keeper Lance Parker earned the clean sheet after a long injury absence.
A scoreless first half saw Parker making a key save on a 33rd minute penalty kick attempt by Fort Lauderdale player/coach Abe Thompson minutes after an injury felled former Chicago Fire striker Andy Herron, who had to be subbed out for young Aly Hassan. It was a good news/bad news situation for FC Edmonton, as defender Antonio Rago saw red and the club was forced to play a man down for the remainder of the match.
Despite the man advantage, the Strikers couldn’t find the key to unlocking the Eddies’ defense, and it was the Calgary-native Cox who scored in the 66th minute. The second-year pro netted the game winner with help from teammates Shaun Saiko and Ilja van Leerdam. The Dutch midfielder switched the side of play with a long cross-field pass to the right flank, with Saiko receiving and firing a low cross toward the near post which Cox was able to sidefoot into the net.
The result finds the Strikers in fourth place in the table, one point ahead of the Rowdies whom they beat last week, and two points ahead of the Eddies and the surging RailHawks. Daryl Shore’s Strikers and FC Edmonton meet again next Saturday at Lockhart Stadium.