NASL Week 21 Recap: Strikers Knock Off First Place Scorpions
All eight NASL teams were in action Saturday, with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers striking the biggest blow of the weekend, knocking off first-place San Antonio 2-1. The Carolina RailHawks moved up a notch in the standings as they defeated the Atlanta Silverbacks 1-0, while the Minnesota Stars could only manage a 1-1 draw at home against FC Edmonton. The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Puerto Rico Islanders were unable to take advantage of San Antonio’s loss as they played to a scoreless draw at Al Lang Stadium.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2-1 San Antonio Scorpions
Daryl Shore’s Fort Lauderdale Strikers extended their unbeaten streak to three games, and have only lost once in their last five matches, as they downed the visiting first-place San Antonio Scorpions Saturday. The 3,200 fans on hand at Lockhart Stadium saw their beloved Strikers move to within two points of the second place berth in the NASL standings, currently held jointly by the Puerto Rico Islanders and Tampa Bay Rowdies.
With a tropical storm warning looming overhead, the two sides played to a scoreless draw during the first 45 minutes. The Scorpions’ Hans Denissen missed a good scoring opportunity at the 23rd minute mark when his chip went over the Strikers’ crossbar, while the Strikers’ prolific forward Mark Anderson forced a diving save from Daryl Sattler at the other end near the half hour mark. Anderson played provider shortly afterwards, taking a long pass and passing it to Hosman Ramos, but the rookie from Miami shot wide.
The second 45 minutes saw veteran player-coach Abe Thompson give the Strikers the lead they wouldn’t surrender. Thompson scored his first goal of the evening in the 59th minute, converting a penalty kick following a handball in the Scorpions’ box. About ten minutes later Thompson struck again, powering in a shot from Sattler’s left that the veteran goalkeeper was able to get a hand on but not keep from rolling into the net.
The Scorpions struck back. After a Denissen free kick struck the goalpost in the 76th minute, another free kick from former Tigres star Javier Saavedra proved too dangerous for the Strikers. After just coming into the match, the 38-year-old Saavedra fired a free kick into the crowded Strikers’ box which made its way into the net, ending the Strikers’ streak of 279 minutes without allowing a goal. The Scorpions, however, could not find another score and lost for only the sixth time in 23 2012 league matches.
“We’ve got to be able to do better,” Scorpions head coach Tim Hankinson said. “None of the aspects of our game worked tonight.”
The newest Striker, Seattle Sounders loanee Michael Tetteh, made his Fort Lauderdale debut in the 74th minute. The former UC-Santa Barbara midfielder, 23, is a Generation Adidas player who spent most of this season on the Sounders’ reserve team.
“I think the kid’s very talented, and you saw a little bit of that tonight. When he starts figuring out where guys are going to be on the field I think you’re going to see good things from him,” said Shore.
The Strikers will continue their push for second place next Saturday when they host the Rowdies in another edition of the Florida derby, while the Scorpions will head north to face the Minnesota Stars FC also on Saturday. The Strikers and Scorpions split their season series, with each club taking a win and drawing twice.
Atlanta Silverbacks 0-1 Carolina RailHawks
The RailHawks notched only their second road win of the 2012 season as they stifled the Atlanta Silverbacks 1-0 before almost 4,900 fans at Silverbacks Stadium. Cary native Brian Ackley was the game’s only goal scorer.
“We are coming back with three valuable points from Atlanta,” said RailHawks head coach Colin Clarke. “It was our second consecutive win which helps boost morale and continue to build momentum as we close the season.”
The Silverbacks came into the match desperately needing a win to keep pace in the race for the league’s last playoff spot. Two consecutive clean sheets by goalkeeper Daniel Illyes only netted the club two points, as the Silverbacks were also shut out in those matches. At home Saturday the Silverbacks fired off a respectable 14 shots during the match, but only three were on frame, all by newcomer Pedro Mendes.
Ackley, a former University of Indiana Hoosier, has played in both New Zealand and the Czech Republic since his college days. Both Illyes and Carolina keeper Akira Fitzgerald had come up with big saves in the first half to keep the game scoreless, but Illyes couldn’t contain Ackley’s 66th minute top shelf shot. Atlanta coach Brian Haynes subbed in attacking help in the form of midfielder Danny Barrera, along with Jahbari Willis and Reinaldo Navia, but the trio was unable to turn the tide. With the win, the RailHawks are only five points out of second place, while the Silverbacks remain mired in last place with a 4-7-12 mark despite a tangible improvement in the team’s performance over the last six weeks. Carolina goalkeeper Fitzgerald, the former Demon Deacon making his second start of the season, earned the clean sheet by making three saves.
Minnesota Stars FC 1-1 FC Edmonton
A crowd of over 2,400 in Blaine, Minnesota saw the Stars and Eddies end up with a 1-1 draw. Stars’ midfielder Cristiano Dias scored his first goal in a Minnesota kit in the 17th minute. Latching onto a long throw-in by Brian Kallman, Dias’ initial shot was blocked, but forward Amani Walker returned the ball to Dias, who made good on his second bite of the apple from eight yards out. Dias’ goal was the first score for the Stars in 243 minutes.
Bryan Arguez, loaned to the Eddies earlier in the season, found the equalizer in the 74th minute as he rocketed a shot into the Minnesota net from 25 yards out. The draw leaves the Stars, in the midst of a seven game winless streak, still in good shape for the last NASL playoff spot while time is quickly running out for the Eddies to gain postseason play, as Harry Sinkgraven’s crew have only five games to catch the Stars, who lead them by seven points. For more on the matchup, see Brian Quarstad’s earlier recap.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 0-0 Puerto Rico Islanders
Both the Rowdies and Islanders remain tied for second place behind the front-running Scorpions as neither team could dent the other’s net and played to a scoreless draw at Al Lang Stadium. The 3,100 fans on hand saw each team force four saves from the opposing goalkeeper.
Coach Ricky Hill’s Rowdies had several early chances to take a lead, but a header by Fafa Picault was blocked while a shot by defender Frankie Sanfilippo was wide of target. Their best chance to score came in the 27th minute, when a penalty box foul on Evans Frimpong brought up a spot kick opportunity, but Mike Ambersley was stopped by the Islanders’ Richard Martin.
The two clubs combined for only nine shots in the second half as Martin and Jeff Attinella posted clean sheets, the eighth of the season for the Rowdies’ keeper. Neither team could break their second place deadlock, and also the result left each team shy of clinching a playoff spot. Islanders’ coach Adrian Whitbread must find a quick remedy for the Islanders’ recent lack of scoring, as they face the LA Galaxy in CONCACAF Champions League play Wednesday in California. The Galaxy beat Salvadoran side Metapan 5-2 last week — the same Metapan side that hung a 3-1 loss on the Islanders August 1. The Islanders were without offensive sparkplug Jonathan Fana for Saturday’s game.
The Rowdies are also in a scoring slump, as Saturday was the third consecutive game in which they’ve gone goalless. Picault led the team with five shots while the Rowdies earned 10 corner kicks. They’ll try to find their scoring boots prior to kickoff against the Strikers Saturday night.