NASL Week 20 Recap: Scorpions Clinch 1st Playoff Spot
Week 20 of the NASL season featured a Sunday showdown between the league’s top two teams, San Antonio and Tampa Bay, with the Texans downing their visitors 4-0. On Saturday, the struggling Carolina RailHawks registered a comeback win over FC Edmonton. Saturday’s matches also included the return of the Puerto Rico Islanders to their Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel home, where they hosted the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in a scoreless draw, and another goal-less contest between the Atlanta Silverbacks and the Minnesota Stars.
San Antonio Scorpions 4-0 Tampa Bay Rowdies
The NASL’s first place San Antonio Scorpions hosted the second place Tampa Bay Rowdies Sunday evening in what resulted in a one-sided showdown, as the Scorpions won 4-0. A Heroes Stadium crowd of over 7,000 saw the Scorpions open up a 3-0 lead before halftime on an 8th minute goal by Walter Ramirez and a brace by the NASL’s scoring leader Pablo Campos. Esteban Bayona added a late goal in the second half to complete the fun for Coach Tim Hankinson and his Scorpions squad, who now sit seven points ahead of the Rowdies and Islanders with only six games remaining for each club. By winning Saturday night, the Scorpions also clinched a playoff spot for 2012, the first of any club this season and a first for the expansion team. For more on the match, check out Andrew Arellano’s story.
Carolina RailHawks 3-2 FC Edmonton
An exciting match at WakeMed Soccer Park saw the RailHawks come back twice to defeat FC Edmonton 3-2. Saturday’s victory was important for the RailHawks, not only because it broke a three-game winless streak but because it put additional distance between the sixth-place RailHawks and the Eddies for the last playoff spot.
Forward Paul Craig got the starting nod in Coach Harry Sinkgraven’s Eddies’ starting XI, and repaid Sinkgraven’s faith by knocking in the game’s first goal, a fine curling strike enabled by a Carolina turnover in the 8th minute of play. The Eddies held their 1-0 lead up to the half hour mark, when Carolina’s Nick Zimmerman equalized. Zimmerman received the ball near the touchline, shook off Edmonton’s David Proctor and ran unimpeded towards goal before firing a low shot to the far post. The first half ended knotted at 1-1, with the visitors outshooting the hometown team 8-2.
Edmonton regained the lead in the 72nd minute, courtesy of a left-footed shot from Kyle Porter as Porter veered in from the right and powered the ball to the far post following an earlier key play by defender Paul Hamilton, who denied Zack Schilawski’s chance at an open goal with a sliding tackle. But Schilawski wouldn’t be denied again, as a centering pass from Mike Palacio bounced up to Schilawski right in front of the goalmouth and off his chest to again equalize for Carolina.
Colin Clarke’s RailHawks earned all three points, though, in stoppage time. Super sub Ty Shipalane received a pass from Palacio outside the Edmonton box, threaded between two defenders and beat another to poke the ball from close range into the net. The RailHawks finished off stoppage time to send the Eddies off empty-handed despite a good effort and sent home the 3,600 RailHawks fans home happy.
“We couldn’t make the tackle we needed and he punished us for it,” said FCE defender Paul Hamilton after the game. “You need to play the full 90 minutes and we didn’t tonight. We still have six games to go though and anything can happen.”
Puerto Rico Islanders 0-0 Fort Lauderdale Strikers
The Islanders played their first match in newly remodeled Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel before a crowd of over 7,100 as they played to a scoreless draw with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The point earned by each team sees the Islanders tied for second place in the league with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, while the Strikers maintain their hold on the fourth berth in the table, three points ahead of the Minnesota Stars.
The two teams combined for 21 shots, forcing five saves from Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser and four from his Islanders counterpart, Richard Martin. Veterans Nicholas Addlery and Abe Thompson both had solid scoring chances in the first half but could not finish. The two teams had split their two preceding games this season, both winning at home, and will meet for the last time in the regular season on September 8 at Lockhart Stadium.
“To come down here where it’s a hard place to play and get our second shutout in a row is big for our team,” said Strikers head coach Daryl Shore. “Apart from the first 10 minutes, I think we dug in and did well to get the result we got.” The Strikers were without suspended striker Andy Herron as well as midfielder Walter Restrepo, who suffered a torn ACL in practice earlier in the week and will miss the rest of the season.
The Islanders have now been shut out in three of their last five league matches, and lead only the Minnesota Stars and FC Edmonton in goals scored this season (the Islanders are tied with the Silverbacks with 27 goals each).
Atlanta Silverbacks 0-0 Minnesota Stars FC
The Atlanta Silverbacks extended their unbeaten streak to three games as they came up with a second consecutive shutout, playing a scoreless draw with the visiting Minnesota Stars. The match heralded the official coaching debut of Brian Haynes, who was chosen as an assistant by interim coach Eric Wynalda. Wynalda returned to his duties at Fox Soccer Channel.
Haynes, 50, is a native of Trinidad who was a three-time NAIA All-American at Ereskine College. He played both indoor and outdoor soccer, including a stint as an MLS original when the league kicked off, as Haynes played for the Dallas Burn. Haynes had an opportunity to be the head coach recently in the Silverbacks’ 4-2 win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers during a Wynalda absence.
“It was nice to get a taste of what it feels like to win a game when you’re fully in charge of a team,” Haynes said. “It makes you feel good that you can do your job and have the players respect you as the head coach. Once again, I’m very excited for this opportunity and I owe a lot to Eric for believing in me as a coach.” Ricardo Montoya, head of the Silverbacks U-23 squad, will assist Haynes with the senior club.
On Saturday the Stars doubled the Silverbacks in shots on goal, 12-6, though only three of the 12 were on frame, as goalkeepers Matt VanOekel and Daniel Illyes earned clean sheets. For more on the match,click here.