NASL Week 22 Recap: Rowdies and RailHawks Triumph
Labor Day weekend not only marks the unofficial end of summer, but also the beginning of the NASL playoff stretch run. On Saturday, the Tampa Bay Rowdies closed to within four points of first place San Antonio by winning 3-0 over Fort Lauderdale at Lockhart Stadium while the Scorpions drew on the road with the Minnesota Stars 1-1. The Carolina RailHawks took care of business in Bayamon, Puerto Rico by knocking off the Islanders 3-1 while on Saturday up in Edmonton, the Atlanta Silverbacks defeated FC Edmonton 2-0.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 0-3 Tampa Bay Rowdies
A Lockhart Stadium crowd of over 5,600 saw the Rowdies again victorious in the NASL’s Florida derby. The Rowdies won three of the four matches between the two clubs this season, and secured a playoff spot with the win.
The match was scoreless for the first 80 minutes despite the man advantage enjoyed by the Rowdies following the dismissal of Strikers newcomer Michael Tetteh in the 19th minute. But the Rowdies turned a possible derby stalemate into a win with three successive goals in the last ten minutes of play from Raphael Cox, captain Frankie Sanfilippo and Carl Cort. Both Cox and Cort were August acquisitions by the Rowdies, and both came off the bench Saturday to give Ricky Hill’s team a boost.
Rowdies goalkeeper Jeff Attinella earned another clean sheet, making four saves and lowering his GAA to 1.17. Rookie Mark Anderson led the Strikers in shots taken, with four of the ten tallied by the south Floridians. Daryl Shore’s Strikers are now tied for fourth place, on 34 points, with the RailHawks, but are only two behind third place Puerto Rico. Next Saturday the Strikers host the Islanders while the Rowdies host the Atlanta Silverbacks.
Puerto Rico Islanders 1-3 Carolina RailHawks
Former Islanders coach Colin Clarke brought his RailHawks down to Bayamon Saturday and left the island with all three points following the RailHawks’ 3-1 win over their hosts before only 1,300 fans at Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel. The win lifted Carolina’s season record to 9-7-7 in league play.
Goalkeeper Ray Burse was back in the starting lineup for Carolina to face his old team, and was only required to make one save as the Islanders totaled a meager six shots in the match, half of what were taken by the RailHawks.
The RailHawks got the upper hand in the first half. Goals by Brian Ackley in the 20th minute and Jason Garey in the 36th put the RailHawks up 2-0 going into intermission.
Adrian Whitbread’s Islanders cut the lead to 2-1 two minutes into the second half when Hector Ramos scored, assisted by Nicholas Addlery. But that’s as close as the Islanders could get, with Nick Zimmerman adding a goal for the RailHawks in the 72nd minute. Zimmerman, who formerly played for the NY RedBulls and Philadelphia Union, has now scored 13 goals on the season, second best behind former teammate Pablo Campos.
“Tonight was a big win,” said Carolina head coach Colin Clarke. “We are starting to play some of our best soccer and now we return home with a big matchup awaiting us against San Antonio.”
The loss dropped the Islanders’ season mark to 10-6-8, not much better now than Carolina’s despite the Islanders’ fast start to the season and the RailHawks’ slow beginnings. The good news for Coach Whitbread is that Jonathan Fana, the exciting instant offense man for the Islanders, was able to get on the pitch late in the game after missing the past two matches with injury. The Islanders of late have had quite a bit of difficulty finding goals, as they were shut out in their last two matches.
Minnesota Stars FC 1-1 San Antonio Scorpions
The good news for the Stars? They were again able to hold the high-scoring Scorpions to one goal and shut out the NASL’s leading scorer, Pablo Campos. The bad news? The Stars were only able to muster one goal themselves, and had to settle for just one point at home before 1,700 fans Saturday night.
Manny Lagos’ Stars scored the only goal of the first half, as forward Amani Walker notched his fifth goal of the season in the 33rd minute. But they were unable to completely hold off the first-place Scorpions, who equalized in the 69th minute when Dutch midfielder Hans Denissen scored his fourth goal of the year, with Campos earning the assist. For more details on the match, see Brian Quarstad’s earlier recap.
FC Edmonton 0-2 Atlanta Silverbacks
With only four matches remaining on their schedules and each having an eight point hill to climb to reach the playoffs, the contest Sunday at Edmonton’s Clarke Stadium between the NASL’s two struggling teams saw the visiting Silverbacks catch up with the Eddies in the standings by virtue of their 2-0 win.
The Silverbacks, who still have allowed the most goals in the league this season, have lately been turning in quality defensive efforts, with the team having allowed only one goal in its last four matches including Sunday. But lately the Silverbacks’ attack has been AWOL, and thus they haven’t been able to rise in the standings despite their stingy defense.
But on Sunday, Silverbacks’ forward Matt Horth came through with two goals to finally reward Atlanta with all three points during their streak of defensive excellence. The Eddies fired five shots, and the Silverbacks three, during a scoreless first half. But Horth came through in the second 45 minutes, with his first goal coming in the 56th minute with an assist from Danny Barrera, while his insurance tally at the hour mark came on a header from a long throw-in from teammate Shane Moroney. Silverbacks goalkeeper Eric Ati, 23, who played for Atlanta’s reserve side, earned a clean sheet in his first 2012 start for the senior Silverbacks, but only was called upon to make two saves in the contest.
The Eddies, playing before 1,700 fans, continue to be stymied in attack. First half chances by David Proctor and Kyle Porter were close but didn’t go in, with Porter hitting the woodwork on his free kick. The lack of goalscoring this season will probably keep Harry Sinkgraven’s Eddies out of the playoffs. For the Silverbacks, the playoffs look unlikely, too, but they can feel good about getting another road win while continuing the defensive progress under interim coach Eric Wynalda and current coach Brian Haynes.