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As Teams Enter Final Week of Regular Season, Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in the NASL?

2012 September 17
by Brian Quarstad

We are in the final week of NASL action and all 6 playoff spots are still too close to call. While it would be virtually impossible for anyone to bump San Antonio out of first place because of their superior goal differential, the other 5 remaining playoff teams are jockeying for position.

Here’s a team by team look to see who’s hot and who’s not.

Atlanta Silverbacks –HOT!
Last 4 matches: 2-1-1
Last match: 1-0 win at home against Ft. Lauderdale.
Next match: Hosting San Antonio on Wednesday 9/19
Notes: Atlanta has nothing to play for and everything to gain as the Silverbacks have found some defense to go with their offense and look to play spoiler against both San Antonio and Puerto Rico, their last two opponents. Good results could throw a monkey wrench into celebration plans for the Scorpions and derail the Islanders’ hopes of finishing 2nd.

Carolina RailHawks – HOT!
Last 4 matches: 2-1-1
Last match: 2-1 win over the league-leading Scorpions and away in San Antonio.
Next match: On the road to play 2nd place Tampa on 9/19.
Notes: The RailHawks were one of the worst teams in the first half of the season and one of the hottest teams in the second half of the season. They have climbed up to take sole possession of 4th place and are just 2 points off the Islanders. Their last two matches are both against the Rowdies, one on the road and the last at home on 9/22.

FC Edmonton – NOT!
Last 4 matches: 0-2-2
Last match: 3-0 loss to the Rowdies on Sunday at Clarke Field in Edmonton.
Next match: Hosting Ft. Lauderdale on 9/23.
Notes: There are lots of rumors floating around of divisions within the Eddies locker room and issues between players and coach Sinkgraven. Don’t look to the Eddies to play spoiler for anyone when they take to Clarke Field for their last match against the Strikers.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers – NOT!
Last 4 matches: 1-2-1
Last match: 1-0 loss to the Silverbacks in Atlanta.
Next match: Away against FC Edmonton 9/23.
Notes: The Strikers haven’t been horrible as of late, but they haven’t been exactly inspiring either. They did beat the Scorpions at Lockhart on 8/25 but lately it’s not as unusual as earlier in the season to defeat or draw against San Antonio. The best Ft. Lauderdale could finish is 4th-6th and would need to win and score 5 goals and have Carolina lose both of their matches to move past the RailHawks.

Minnesota Stars FC – NOT!
Last 4 matches: 1-1-2
Last match: A 2-0 loss to Puerto Rico in Bayamon.
Next match: Away against league-leading San Antonio at Heroes Stadium on 9/23.
Notes: The last 4 match record of Minnesota’s is pretty representative of their season, 8-9-10. The addition of Orlando City loan player Jamie Watson seemed to spark some energy and leadership into the attack. But the midfielder went down with a groin pull in Saturday’s match against PRI that he sustained in pre-match warmups. He  is questionable for next week’s match against the Scorpions as the Stars will want him healthy for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay Rowdies – HOT!
Last 4 matches: 2-1-1
Last match: A 3-0 win in Edmonton on Sunday.
Next match: Home against hot Carolina on Wednesday night.
Notes: It’s a good thing Tampa got some big results over the last 2 months to put them firmly in 2nd place and challenge San Antonio, because their last two matches of the season are against Carolina, a home and away. With the RailHawks on the move and the Rowdies only 3 points ahead of PRI and 5 in front of Carolina, 1 point is critical to assure 2nd place and the second NASL bye.

Puerto Rico Islanders – NOT!
Last 4 matches: 1-2-1
Last match: 2-0 defeat of Minnesota at home.
Next match: At the JRL against Atlanta.
Notes: Puerto Rico avenged a dreadful 4-0 defeat to the Minnesota Stars last week by beating them 2-0 on Saturday. More importantly, many said it was the team’s best effort on the field in the last several months. With CONCACAF Champions League matches against the LA Galaxy on Wed. the 19th and Sept. 27th against Isidro Metapan, both at home, the Islanders may need to lean on their bench which have not showed to be that strong this season. In order to help assure themselves of a home field advantage for the NASL Quarterfinals, PRI must win on Saturday.

San Antonio Scorpions – NOT!
Last 4 matches: 1-2-1
Last match: 2-1 loss to Carolina at home on Sunday.
Next match: Atlanta Silverbacks at Silverback Park on 9/19
Notes: The Scorpios had the chance to win the regular season championship in front of their home fans on Sunday evening at Heroes Stadium but instead took a 2-1 loss to the RailHawks. San Antonio seemed to have slipped into a late season funk that no one thought would happen after rolling through the first 2/3s of the season like a lumbering freight train on its maiden NASL journey. Looking back a bit further, the Scorpions thumped Tampa 4-0 at home on 8/19, but narrowly defeated Minnesota on 8/11 by a score of 1-0 in a match in which they were outplayed. They tied the worst team in the league, Edmonton the previous match and were defeated at home by Puerto Rico early in August. There’s no doubt that San Antonio will win the league, the question is: Will they regain the momentum they once had when the playoffs come around and with a bye week to sit idle? Or will they make like the 2011 NASL Regular Season Champions, Carolina RailHawks and allow their poor late season form to carry into the playoffs?

4 Responses
  1. Fotbalist permalink
    September 17, 2012

    I’m wondering of PRI and SAS are perhaps taking it easy before the playoffs. Certainly PRI has to manage playing time due to the CONCACAF matches. Of course, going into the playoffs in poor form is always a dangerous situation.

  2. Bart permalink
    September 17, 2012

    I for one, am just shocked that a stellar team like Ft. Lauderdale is playing as lackadaisical as we are now seeing. I wonder, perhaps, if they would play better with a different style of fan. After all, Strikers Return has not had a great impact on the quality of Lauderdale play as of late. Just goes to show you that free tickets, season or otherwise, does not guarantee success.

  3. Mike permalink
    September 17, 2012

    Bart must have been chomping at the bit having to wait so long for an appropriate thread to jump into and stir the pot. That cheeky devil!

    Since we’re now headed in that direction, I’ll acquiesce and pile on. Yes, upon leaving the friendly confines of their modern 53 year old facility, the Strikers become the Stinkers and turn into a bumble bee striped pumpkin. Thirteen road games with ONE win and EIGHT losses? Holy Pukeatronic Batman! That whopping total of 4 goals scored in their last 4 home games won’t cut it in the playoffs with that road record. Oh well, at least they’ll have next year’s split season to look forward to so they can challenge for first pla…uh…never mind.

    Well anyway, maybe Traffic can negotiate a deal during the split season break with a player or two for some good Cuban cigars.

  4. Stephen permalink
    September 18, 2012

    I’m looking forward to the Rowdies/Railhawks game the most. Here’s my primer for both sides:

    TBR: Selling Yoshitake was a near death knell for this club. They were shut out 3 straight games in August and nearly didn’t pull out a result in Fort Lauderdale despite having a man advantage for the majority of the game. But the recent streak, including the first comfortable win since July this past Sunday, has put a spring in the step for the players coming home. The Rowdies can’t stop here. They start a home-and-home series against a Carolina team that has a chance to snag a 2nd place finish if they win both games this week. Can the Rowdies keep up their recent form?

    CR: 2-1>0-8. No matter what you think, going into Heroes Stadium and pulling a win against a team that had a +10 goal differential on you has got to be an incredible boost to morale and is testament to how far this Railhawks team have come. But the work doesn’t stop there. Now they have a chance to achieve 2nd place in the season during a classic home-and-home series. And the matchup could not have been more favorable. They will play a Tampa Bay team they have tied twice this year and nearly defeated on one occassion. The Rowdies may feel comfortable knowing a single point can achieve them a 2nd place lock so a win on Wednesday doesn’t seem far fetched. But, the first game is in the fortress known as Al Lang, where the Rowdies have lost only a single League game this year. This is a crucial game. Win Wednesday, and the Railhawks will have the Rowdies on the ropes.

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