NASL Week 19 Recap: Low Scoring Affairs As Scorpions and Rowdies Gain Ground
After some high-scoring NASL matches recently, goals were hard to come by in Saturday’s matches, as the San Antonio Scorpions defeated the Minnesota Stars 1-0 while the Fort Lauderdale Strikers also won by a 1-0 margin over the Carolina RailHawks. The third Saturday match was a scoreless draw between the Atlanta Silverbacks and the Tampa Bay Rowdies, while on Sunday in Edmonton the Puerto Rico Islanders came up short, losing at Clarke Field to the Eddies 1-0.
Minnesota Stars FC 0-1 San Antonio Scorpions
There were 3,221 fans on hand in Blaine, Minn., to watch the Minnesota Stars who were on the unlucky end of a 1-0 match on Saturday against the Scorpions. The only goal of the match came on a penalty kick conversion by Hans Denissen in the 70th minute as the Scorpions could only muster seven shots against the Stars but still left town with all three points and a stronger grip on the top spot in the NASL standings.
“They had the better of the chances, but sometimes the game comes down to one break,” Scorpions head coach Tim Hankinson said. “We were able to maintain the lead and three points feels pretty good right now. Our possession picked up in the second half and we continued to stay in the fight.”
For more on the match, see Brian Quarstad’s recap here.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1-0 Carolina RailHawks
Over 3,500 fans at Lockhart Stadium saw their Strikers nail down an important 1-0 win over the Carolina RailHawks. The win pushed Daryl Shore’s Strikers to sole possession of fourth place, three points ahead of the Stars and five ahead of the RailHawks. For all their inconsistency this season, the Strikers are now only nine points out of first place.
Despite all the attacking talent on their squad, it was the Strikers’ defending that garnered admiration against the RailHawks, as they allowed the Carolina club only four shots in the entire match, with goalkeeper Matt Glaeser recording the clean sheet. The Strikers totaled 21 shots, forcing 5 saves from Ray Burse, Carolina’s keeper. Andy Herron led the team with seven shots, with his effort in the 64th minute providing the game’s only score. Mark Anderson, who took six shots himself, was credited with the assist.
“We took our chances well and there were a few missed opportunities on both sides,” said Strikers head coach Daryl Shore. “The biggest thing was our defensive composure. We defended as a team and were able to limit Carolina’s attacks.”
Fort Lauderdale have been basically as good as any other team when playing at home, earning 24 of their 30 points at Lockhart Stadium as Saturday’s win stretches their home unbeaten streak to seven games. What holds them back is their miserable road record, as they have won only once away from Lockhart. The Strikers will get the opportunity to begin correcting that situation next Saturday when they play the Puerto Rico Islanders in Bayamon, in newly remodeled Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel.
The RailHawks, meanwhile, seem to be having difficulty shaking off the 8-0 clobbering they took at the hand of the Scorpions two weeks ago. Last year’s regular season champions got off to a slow start under new coach Colin Clarke, with several of their key players moving up to the MLS. Beginning in June, however, the RailHawks reeled off six wins and a draw in eight consecutive games before the debacle in San Antonio. Since then, they’ve blown a two-goal lead in the last five minutes to end up drawing with the Rowdies before losing to the Strikers. Clarke and his team will look forward to returning to their June form when they host FC Edmonton next Saturday.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 0-0 Atlanta Silverbacks
Over 3,000 fans at Al Lang Stadium saw Rowdies’ goalkeeper Jeff Attinella earn yet another shutout, his seventh of the season. Unfortunately for the Rowdies fans, Atlanta goalkeeper Daniel Illyes also earned a clean sheet as Saturday’s match ended in a scoreless draw. The Rowdies are now 10-5-6 on the season, while the improved Silverbacks are still in last place with a 4-6-11 mark.
The Rowdies got two goals in the last five minutes of last week’s match in Carolina to earn a draw, but good fortune wasn’t with the club against the Silverbacks. First half chances by Luke Mulholland and Andres Arango went astray, and Illyes came up big to save a penalty kick try by Matt Clare late in the half. Ricky Hill’s club were no better in the second half despite opportunities for Fafa Picoult, Daniel Antoniuk and Evans Frimpong. The Silverbacks, meanwhile, had seven shots, five by the two Mendes brothers, but only forced one save from Attinella.
The Rowdies now have a five game overall unbeaten streak, and like their downstate rivals, are unbeaten in their last seven home games. Four points behind the first-place San Antonio Scorpions, they are still within striking distance of the Texans with seven games remaining.
In other Rowdies news, the club has signed 34-year-old London native Carl Cort. The 6’4″ striker began his career with Wimbledon, and played 22 matches for Newcastle United between 2000 and 2004, scoring seven times. Cort then had an extended stay at Wolverhampton where he scored 31 goals in 94 matches. The Guyanese international most recently played for English side Brentford, and gives Coach Ricky Hill another attacking option as the Rowdies strengthen themselves for the NASL stretch run.
Meanwhile, interim coach Eric Wynalda will be leaving the Silverbacks to resume his duties at Fox Soccer Channel. Wynalda breathed life into the moribund Silverbacks, bringing in some talented, hungry players and raising the spirit of the club that has struggled so much in its first two seasons of NASL play. In their last seven matches the Silverbacks have earned 10 points after earning only 8 in their first fourteen games of the season.
FC Edmonton 1-0 Puerto Rico Islanders
Shaun Saiko scored the only goal in the third 1-0 game of the NASL weekend. The win was the fifth of the season for FC Edmonton, and continues a positive trend of taking points from the league’s top teams, as the Eddies held league leaders San Antonio to a draw last weekend. The three previous matches between the Eddies and Islanders this season have all ended in draws.
“A draw won’t do for us on Sunday, we need all three points,” said FCE defender Paul Hamilton prior to the matchup. “We’ve played every team – especially the Islanders – very close all year, now it’s time to turn the draws and one-goal losses into wins.”
And the Eddies did just that. They had a good chance from a Kenny Caceros cross in the 25th minute, but Yashir Pinto headed wide. Six minutes later, though, midfielder Shaun Saiko scored from another Caceros cross. Saiko, who was benched the last two games, provided some instant offense when brought in during the last ten minutes of the Eddies’ draw with San Antonio, and was back in the starting lineup Sunday. It was Saiko’s club-leading sixth strike of the season, to go along with five assists.
The Islanders had their chances, although they were few and far between as they only got off one shot in the first half and four in the second. Islanders veteran Nicholas Addlery had the team’s two best chances — one in the first half when he missed at the near post, and another in the second half when a fine lob forward was corralled by the Jamaican and sent into the net, with the play nullified by an offside call.
Islanders coach Adrian Whitbread commented on the match. “Tough one this afternoon. I do not like excuses, but the fact is that it took us two days to get to Edmonton and with no time for training, you could see it took a toll on the team judging by their lack of energy during the first half. Things could have been different on the second half, but now we focus on our return home to our new stadium next Saturday.”
The Islanders’ next CONCACAF Champions League match will be August 29, away to the LA Galaxy. The Islanders lost their first Champions League match away to Metapan 3-1.