NASL Week 15 Recap: Scorpions Maintain League Lead, Silverbacks Win Again
NASL week 15 saw the Atlanta Silverbacks get their second win in a row, defeating the Puerto Rico Islanders on Saturday, while in Fort Lauderdale the San Antonio Scorpions drew a last-second goal to earn a draw and maintain a thin one-point lead atop the NASL standings over the Islanders. In Sunday action, the Tampa Bay Rowdies bounced back from a midweek loss as they squeezed by FC Edmonton at Clarke Stadium by a 1-0 margin, and are now only two points behind San Antonio in the NASL title chase.
Atlanta Silverbacks 2-1 Puerto Rico Islanders
The Atlanta Silverbacks won their first 2012 home game, and notched their second win under interim coach Eric Wynalda, with a 2-1 victory over the Puerto Rico Islanders Saturday. The win also lifts the Silverbacks to only seven points from the last NASL playoff berth, held jointly by the Carolina RailHawks and Fort Lauderdale Strikers, with eleven regular season matches remaining for Atlanta. The Silverbacks are now in 7th place, a point ahead of FC Edmonton, after occupying the basement much of the season.
Atlanta missed some early opportunities, including a dangerous 38th minute free kick by Ciaran O’Brien that was stopped by Puerto Rico’s goalkeeper Richard Martin. The Silverbacks were able to take a lead into the halftime locker room as, late in the half, O’Brien put a shot on frame that Martin was able to knock away, with the rebound falling to Nico Colaluca, who netted his first goal of the season.
Both sides had scoring chances early in the second half, as Martyn Lancaster just missed with a header from a Chris Klute cross, while the Islanders put some pressure on the Silverbacks when a cross into the box just missed a charging Hector Ramos, with a shot following just off the mark by Noah Delgado.
But it was the re-vitalized Silverbacks who scored next. Longtime MLS midfielder Jose Burciaga Jr. launched a high, accurate ball from behind the midfield stripe to forward Matt Horth. The tall Georgia native perfectly chested the ball down to his feet with a defender at his back, turned to his left and shot for his fourth goal of the season. Martin was able to get a touch on the low shot, but couldn’t prevent its goalward flight.
A 2-0 lead with 27 minutes remaining would normally leave Atlanta fans uneasy, as they have too frequently seen their team surrender leads over the last two seasons. But this Wynalda-lead team is playing with confidence, and although they allowed a goal in the 86th minute to the Islanders from Guyanese international Gregory Richardson, Horth’s score provided the margin of victory, sending the blue-clad Islanders home without a point while rewarding the 4,800 Silverbacks’ fans in attendance. The Islanders, who won their midweek showdown with the San Antonio Scorpions, could have regained first place with a win in Atlanta, but the new-look Silverbacks denied that chance.
The game was very even from a statistical viewpoint, as the Silverbacks edged the Islanders in shots 12-10, while the Islanders had the edge in corner kicks, 4-3. But the new look Silverbacks didn’t crumble with a lead and earned their sixth point in three contests under Wynalda. More good news for the Silverbacks came when forward Reinaldo Navia, a crowd favorite, was able to take the field as a sub for the last fifteen minutes after being slowed lately by injury. Navia has six goals so far this season for the Silverbacks, and got off a shot on goal as a substitute. Atlanta newcomers Danny Barerra and Pablo Cruz also saw time on the pitch as second half substitutes.
Adrian Whitbread’s Islanders, trailing the Scorpions by only a point in the NASL title race, will play in Tampa Bay next Saturday while the Silverbacks will look for a third consecutive victory at home next Saturday against FC Edmonton.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2-2 San Antonio Scorpions
The San Antonio Scorpions proved their meddle Saturday by fighting back to earn a road point at Lockhart Stadium with a 2-2 draw. The Strikers continued their streak of playing .500 ball: since the beginning of June they have won three and lost three before Saturday’s match.The match featured two of the top scorers in the NASL, Pablo Campos of the Scorpions and the Strikers’ Andy Herron, with each scoring twice Saturday night in front of a Lockhart crowd of over 5,200 fans.
The Strikers got off to a lead in the 28th minute when Andy Herron chested down a long pass into the box from Mark Anderson. Herron coolly sent his shot past Daryl Sattler to the far post to give the Strikers a 1-0 lead.
The second half saw the Scorpions equalize just before the hour mark when Campos scored from a pass from Esteban Bayona, one of the top rookies in the NASL this season. But the Scorpions then dug themselves a hole when they went down to ten men when Ryan Cochrane received his second yellow card in the 65th minute. Unfortunately for the Strikers, they couldn’t do much to take advantage of their one-man advantage and soon they too were a man down when Alfonso Motagalvan was carded for the second time in the 71st minute.
Herron looked to make the Strikers a winner with his free kick goal just as the game slipped into stoppage time. Mark Anderson was pulled by the jersey just outside the box by Aaron Pitchkolan, resulting in a yellow for Pitchkolan and a free kick opportunity just outside the box in the center of the field. Herron converted the opportunity for his seventh tally of the year, placing the ball perfectly outside of Daryl Sattler’s range, giving the Strikers a 2-1 lead with less than four minutes remaining in stoppage time.
But the drama wasn’t over. Play up the left side of the Strikers’ defense by the Scorpions saw Walter Ramirez find Campos, who turned to his right and put a low shot into the corner of the net, beyond Strikers’ goalkeeper Matt Glaeser’s reach, to equalize. Anderson, another of the NASL’s outstanding rookies, gave the crowd hope with a curling free kick attempt, but Sattler would leap and bat away the dangerous effort to end the game with a point for each side.
“We needed to play more energy in first half, but we came out attacking better in the second half,” Scorpions head coach Tim Hankinson said. “Both goals by Pablo [Campos] were great individual efforts that helped us get an important point.” For Strikers head coach Daryl Shore, the result felt like a loss, but his club will quickly have a chance to avenge the result when the Strikers and Scorpions meet in San Antonio next weekend.
FC Edmonton 0- 1 Tampa Bay Rowdies
The Tampa Bay Rowdies had their four-game winning streak snapped in midweek by the Minnesota Stars at NSC Stadium, but bounced back Sunday afternoon in Edmonton with a dramatic 1-0 win over the Eddies. The road win puts the Rowdies only two points off the pace of league-leaders San Antonio and a point ahead of Minnesota, although the Stars have a game in hand compared to the Rowdies.
FC Edmonton finds itself in the cellar of the NASL standings following the rebirth of the lowly Silverbacks. The Eddies had early chances in the match from Chilean Yashir Pinto, Shaun Saiko and Michael Cox, each of whom forced Tampa Bay’s Jeff Attinella into making saves. The chances of a positive result even looked brighter for Edmonton at the half hour mark, when Tampa Bay’s Tsuyoshi Yoshitake, who has been carrying the team with his timely goals lately, was shown red following a flagrant foul on the Eddies’ Kevin Hatchi. It was the first time this season that the disciplined Rowdies have played a man down. Despite having much of the control of the first half, though, including nine corner kicks, the Rowdies were unable to score against Edmonton keeper John Smits.
The game see-sawed back and forth on a slick playing surface, and looked to end in a scoreless draw until the 89th minute, when Englishman Luke Mulholland scored his third goal of the season, assisted by forward Mike Ambersley, who now has assists in his last three matches. Attinella earned his second clean sheet this season against FC Edmonton.