NASL Week 18 Recap: Islanders Beat Scorpions, Trail League Leaders by a Point
Sunday’s final regular season meeting between the two teams who’ve jockeyed for first place most of the season ended with an away win for the Puerto Rico Islanders, 2-1, at the San Antonio Scorpions’ Heroes Field. Saturday in the NASL, the Tampa Bay Rowdies staged a furious comeback to earn a point against their hosts, the Carolina RailHawks, while the Atlanta Silverbacks got revenge for last week’s loss in Fort Lauderdale by defeating the Strikers 4-2 at Silverbacks Stadium and the visiting Minnesota Stars split points with FC Edmonton.
San Antonio Scorpions 1-2 Puerto Rico Islanders
After scoring eight goals last week against Carolina, the San Antonio Scorpions came back to earth a bit as they could only manage one goal in their 2-1 loss to the visiting Puerto Rico Islanders. The win puts the Islanders, along with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, just a point behind the first-place Scorpions.
Adrian Whitbread’s Islanders have hit a few bumps in the road lately after cruising along so effectively earlier in the season, but they showed their professionalism earning the win in San Antonio. Jamaican Nicholas Addlery supplied both of the Islanders’ goals, one in each half, to build a 2-0 lead. Pablo Campos, the NASL’s leading scorer, halved the Scorpions’ deficit with a tally in the 70th minute, but couldn’t come any closer.
“I think in the second half we started to create chances with a lot of action around their box but we had some near misses,” said head coach Tim Hankinson. “I think overall they had the upper hand on us tonight and that’s something we will have to figure out.” The Islanders have won three of the four 2012 matches with the Scorpions.
Scorpions newcomer Jeff Cunningham, the all-time leading goalscorer in MLS history, made his San Antonio debut as a second half substitute. For more on the game, see Andrew Arellano’s recap on IMSoccer News.
Carolina RailHawks 3-3 Tampa Bay Rowdies
It’s one thing to suffer an 8-0 blowout….an embarrassment to be written off not long after the final whistle blows. But to give up two late goals and turn three points into one is not something any coach likes to see his team do. Carolina coach Colin Clarke witnessed his team give up a lead to the streaking Rowdies Saturday night in Cary. The RailHawks’ last home game was a victory over the Stars that took over six hours to complete because of weather delays. This weekend, the 5,000 RailHawks fans on hand wished the game would have ended in the 85th minute.
The Rowdies got off on the right foot, as midfielder Shane Hill scored from a Luke Mulholland pass in the 17th minute, but from there the RailHawks took control and scored three unanswered goals. Former MLS player Nick Zimmerman scored three minutes before intermission to equalize, and three minutes after intermission to give the RailHawks a 2-1 lead. Another former MLS player, Jason Garey, assisted on Zimmerman’s second goal and then scored himself, just minutes later, from a quickly taken throw-in to give the RailHawks a 3-1 margin with 40 minutes to play.
The RailHawks held that lead for 35 of those remaining minutes, but the Rowdies haven’t surged to the second spot in the NASL without a strong dose of determination, and they demonstrated that in the game’s last five minutes. Mulholland showed his value by scoring from a Mike Ambersley pass on a half volley in the 86th minute. Ambersley looked to tie the game in the 90th minute when he attempted a penalty conversion following a RailHawks handball in the box, but Carolina’s Ray Burse saved the PK. End of story.
Not quite. Despite not converting the penalty, the Rowdies earned a road point when Mulholland again played provider, this time for midfielder Takuya Yamada, as the Japanese veteran scored from Mulholland’s corner kick to fashion a dramatic end to the match.
“We have been in this position before and we were able to fight through it,” said Rowdies defender Daniel Scott. “It just shows the
resiliency of this team and how we have come together this season.”
Atlanta Silverbacks 4-2 Fort Lauderdale Strikers
After beating the Silverbacks 5-3 at Lockhart Stadium last Saturday, the Atlanta club reversed the tables on the visiting Strikers, winning by a similar two-goal margin as they prevailed 4-2 before over 4,000 fans at Silverbacks Stadium. The win was the third for the Silverbacks in less than 30 days, after only gaining one victory in the first three months of the season. Atlanta now trails Carolina by eight points for the last NASL playoff spot, while the Strikers are tied in points with the Minnesota Stars for fourth place, two points ahead of the RailHawks.
Atlanta’s Mendes brothers, who each scored in last week’s game, combined to give the Silverbacks an early lead when Paolo found Pedro in the box with a cross, with Pedro heading into the net past the Strikers’ goalkeeper Matt Glaeser. The Strikers, though, equalized on a Scott Gordon goal in the 27th minute, only to have Atlanta forward Matt Horth put the Silverbacks back on top two minutes later when he headed in a Mike Randolph cross.
The Strikers again knotted the scoreline early in the second half, as their prolific rookie, Mark Anderson, scored his 11th goal of the season with Gordon assisting. But ten minutes later, in the 64th minute, Atlanta midfielder Borfor Carr launched a shot from distance that beat Glaeser and put the Silverbacks ahead for good. Carr, the 25-year-old native of Liberia, played last season for Atlanta’s reserve squad, and his goal was his second of the season. Atlanta put the game away for good in the 78th minute when Pedro Mendes scored again, his third goal in two games.
“Full credit to Atlanta, they were the better team tonight,” said Strikers head coach Daryl Shore. “We can’t keep giving up goals like we are and expect to win soccer games.” Though still in last place in the league standings, Atlanta are now fifth in scoring for the season, ahead of Minnesota, Puerto Rico and Edmonton going into Sunday’s San Antonio-Puerto Rico match. The Silverbacks also held the Strikers to only 8 shots Saturday after allowing them 27 the week before.
FC Edmonton 1-1 Minnesota Stars FC
The champion Minnesota Stars earned their first point since July 12 with their 1-1 draw with FC Edmonton. The Stars had defeated the Eddies 4-3 in their only other meeting of the 2012 season thus far.
The Stars earned a late first-half lead as Martin Nunez scored his fifth goal of the season in the 44th minute, and looked to come away with all three points until Edmonton’s Michael Cox was sent through and shot with just two minutes remaining in regulation. Stars ‘keeper Matt VanOekel came up with the save but Minnesota defender Ernest Tchoupe knocked the ball back into the goal to notch the score for Edmonton.
Eddies defender Paul Hamilton will miss the next Edmonton match after seeing red following a dangerous challenge on the Stars’ Gerson Moura, who was stretchered off the field. For more on the match, see Brian Quarstad’s earlier recap.