NASL Week 16: Rowdies Climb to Second in the Standings
Saturday night action in the NASL saw the Tampa Bay Rowdies move up to second place in the standings with their win over the Puerto Rico Islanders, while the San Antonio Scorpions maintained their first place position with another shutout at their Heroes Field home. FC Edmonton got an important three points on the road in Atlanta to hand interim Silverbacks coach Eric Wynalda his first NASL loss while weather delay caused a long night in Cary, North Carolina with the RailHawks ultimately prevailing 1-0 over the Minnesota Stars.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-0 Puerto Rico Islanders
The Tampa Bay Rowdies have ridden a recent surge of positive results to the second place berth in the league, shutting down Puerto Rico 2-0 at Al Lang Stadium Saturday. A crowd of over 3,200 saw Coach Ricky Hill’s team win its sixth game of its last seven played to improve their record to 9-3-6 and pass the Islanders, now 8-4-6, in the standings.
Kickoff was delayed more than an hour because of lightning near the St. Petersburg home of the Rowdies. Eventually the game kicked off, with a scoreless first half that was nonetheless full of action, as both teams combined for 18 shots and Islanders’ goalkeeper Richard Martin was called upon to make crucial saves on Tampa Bay’s Matt Clare and Daniel Scott. A shot in the 34th minute by the Rowdies’ Luke Mulholland, courtesy of a backheel by former Bristol Rovers man Stuart Campbell, sailed wide of goal. First half chances by the Islanders’ Hector Ramos and Jared van Schaik were also wide of the net.
The Rowdies’ veteran defender Frankie Sanfilippo cracked the scoreless duel in the 72nd minute. He one-timed a volley from another D2 veteran, teammate Mike Ambersley, to give the Rowdies the only goal needed. Ambersley scored an insurance goal, his fifth tally of the season, in the 85th minute on a pass from substitute Fafa Picault. Ambersley’s earlier assist ties him for the league lead in assists, with six, along with Walter Restrepo of Fort Lauderdale. The Islanders were only able to force two saves from the Rowdies’ goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, as he lowered his GAA to 1.17, third best among NASL goalkeepers who have played over 1,000 minutes this season.
The Islanders, the best team in the first third of the 2012 NASL season, have fallen back to earth a bit, with a July record of 2-2-2 with one more game, July 28, at home against the Minnesota Stars FC. Adrian Whitbread’s Tropa Naranja will begin another season of CONCACAF Champions League play on August 1 in a group stage match against Salvadoran club Metapan in Group 6 that also includes the LA Galaxy. The format of the CL competition has changed this year, with eight groups of three teams each competing to advance out of the group stage.
The Rowdies will look to continue their winning ways at home again next Saturday against FC Edmonton. The Rowdies were able to dispatch the Islanders Saturday night without the services of midfielder Tsuyoshi Yoshitake, who is having an outstanding season. Yoshitake was serving a match suspension for the red card he received last weekend in Edmonton.
San Antonio Scorpions 1-0 Fort Lauderdale Strikers
A Heroes Field crowd of over 10,500 saw their hometown Scorpions stay atop the league with a 1-0 victory over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. A goal by Pablo Campos, his league-leading 11th of the season, was all Tim Hankinson’s club needed in recording their ninth win in 17 NASL matches. The Scorpions lead the surging Rowdies by two points in the standings.
The Scorpions have amazingly not allowed a goal in seven NASL matches at Heroes Field since April 21. The Strikers got their attack in gear and played some of their best attacking ball of the match in the last ten minutes, but were unable to find the equalizer as they fell to a 6-6-7 mark for the season. Daryl Shore’s club was able to only get off five shots on goal in the match despite the presence of such as Paulo Araujo Jr, the former Striker who recently returned to the club on loan from his employers, Real Salt Lake. For more on the match, see Andrew Arellano’s earlier report on IMSoccer News.
Atlanta Silverbacks 1-2 FC Edmonton
In a battle of the two last-place clubs in the NASL standings, FC Edmonton was able to end Atlanta’s two-game winning streak under coach Eric Wynalda with a 2-1 road victory.
Following a scoreless first half, Harry Sinkgraven’s FC Edmonton side scored twice in less than a minute near the hour mark. Frenchman Serisay Barthélémy broke the ice when he converted a Shaun Saiko pass to give the Eddies a 1-0 lead shortly after the hour mark. The Eddies added a second goal immediately when Silverbacks’ rookie goalkeeper Joe Nasco rushed a clearance attempt, which Chilean forward Yashir Pinto immediately sent back past Nasco into the Silverbacks’ net.
The Silverbacks got a goal back on a PK by midfielder Ciaran O’ Brien following a hard foul in the penalty area on forward Matt Horth. The Georgia forward fell hard after a crunching tackle by the Eddies’ Jonathan Joseph-Augustin, who received a red card. Horth was off the field for several minutes but was able to come back into the game.
Both teams found success working down their right flank in attack, with Horth missing a late opportunity when his shot flew over the goal while Edmonton’s Barthélémy proved to be a handful working down the right side of Atlanta’s defense. The diminutive former AC Bastia attacker was a big factor in Edmonton gaining all three points. A late corner kick for Atlanta caused hopes for a draw among the squad, but Nasco, who ran up from goal into the Edmonton box, shot high over John Smits’ goal.
Carolina RailHawks 1-0 Minnesota Stars FC
The Carolina-Minnesota match at WakeMed Soccer Park was delayed for four hours before continuation Saturday night as heavy storms threatened in Cary. Early in the second half, lightning strikes called for delay, with the RailHawks leading 1-0. The score remained the same after the lengthy delay, allowing the RailHawks to climb to within two points of the fourth-place Stars after an uncharacteristically slow start to the 2012 season.
Heavy humidity at the start of the match didn’t slow both teams from scoring chances. The Stars second-year man, Amani Walker, had good early chances stifled by the RailHawks’ goalkeeper Ray Burse and defender Gale Agbossoumonde after the RailHawks’ Zach Schilawski had scored in the 10th minute of the match. Schilawski’s third goal of the season came on a half-volley from eight yards out with Mike Palacio providing the assist on a low cross. The Stars’ Lucas Rodriguez had a chance to equalize late in the half, but Rodriguez was unable to get enough ooomph on Michael Reed’s throughball, and the RailHawks entered intermission with a 1-0 lead.
The second half was only minutes old when the weather caused the game to shut down. Following the four-hour delay, the game resumed with the Stars desperately seeking a goal. Stars coach Manny Lagos brought on attackers Neil Hlavaty, Simone Bracalello and Martin Nunez in the second half to find an equalizer, but chances by Hlavaty, Reed, Geison Moura and Justin Davis were found lacking as Burse earned his clean sheet. The Stars will try to atone for their frustrating loss next weekend. The Stars will look to get back on the good foot in Bayamon, Puerto Rico next Saturday while the RailHawks will play in San Antonio, seeking to derail the hot Scorpions.