NASL Week 8 Memorial Day weekend featured three matches, with the Carolina RailHawks idle and the Puerto Rico Islanders involved in Caribbean Football Union play. But there was not much change in the league table, as on Friday the unbeaten Minnesota Stars played to a scoreless draw with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, while on Saturday the San Antonio Scorpions and Fort Lauderdale Strikers also split points following a 1-1 result in Florida. On Sunday in Edmonton, the expansion San Antonio Scorpions came from behind to earn a road point in their 2-2 draw with FC Edmonton.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 0-0 Minnesota Stars FC
Coach Manny Lagos rested his Minnesota regulars Friday in St. Petersburg in anticipation of Tuesday’s US Open Cup match against Real Salt Lake in Utah. Despite a total of 20 shots accrued by both sides, Ricky Hill’s Tampa Bay Rowdies were unable to overcome the Stars’ backups at home as each team earned a point in the scoreless draw, with the Rowdies’ Jeff Attinella and Stars’ 23-year-old rookie goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt earning the clean sheets. Hildebrandt made four saves in his NASL debut. For more on the match, see Brian Quarstad’s recap published earlier on IMSoccer News.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1-1 Atlanta Silverbacks
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers were unable to hold onto their 1-0 second half lead and played to a 1-1 draw with the Atlanta Silverbacks before 2,400 fans at Lockhart Stadium Saturday evening. For the Silverbacks, the results was their fifth draw of the season in nine league games, leaving them at the bottom of the table tied with the idle Carolina RailHawks. For the Strikers, it was their fifth consecutive match without a win, dating back to their April 25 3-2 victory over the Puerto Rico Islanders.
A scoreless first half was marred by controversy, as the Strikers felt aggrieved at not being awarded a penalty kick when Silverbacks goalkeeper Daniel Illyes appeared to trip Strikers’ rookie forward Mark Anderson. Despite outshooting their visitors 7-1 in the first half, the Strikers went into intermission drawn 0-0.
Anderson, however, earned payback for the penalty kick non-call early in the second half. Midfielder Patrick Otte, who trained at the renowned Middlesbrough Academy as a youth, rocketed a shot towards Atlanta’s goal in the 48th minute. Illyes made the save, but the rebound was pounced on by Anderson, who volleyed for his third goal of the season.
Coach Alex Pineda Chacon’s Silverbacks found their equalizer twenty minutes later following more Strikers dissent after they again felt that Illyes had committed a foul in the penalty box, this time tripping Otte. No call was made, and it was Chilean forward Reinaldo Navia who found the goal next, as he turned a pass from midfielder Ciaran O’Brien into his sixth netting of the year in the game’s 69th minute. The 34-year-old Navia had only one shot in the match, but he certainly made it count.
The Strikers found themselves playing shorthanded minutes later when defender Toni Stahl received his second yellow card of the match on a hard sliding tackle (the veteran was booked earlier for arguing a penalty kick non-call), but the Strikers were able to fend off the Silverbacks to retain their share of the points. The second half saw the Silverbacks attempt 10 shots while the Strikers had 11.
“We’re a little disheartened because we didn’t get the result we felt we deserved,” said Strikers head coach Daryl Shore. The Strikers head to California for their Tuesday Open Cup game with the San Jose Earthquakes. The Silverbacks, who earned their first win of the season in last week’s Open Cup match win over the Georgia Revolution, travel to Seattle to take on the defending Open Cup champion Sounders on Wednesday evening at Starfire Soccer Complex.
FC Edmonton 2-2 San Antonio Scorpions
Edmonton’s Clarke Stadium was the scene of a theft Sunday, as the San Antonio Scorpions bounced back from a 2-0 score to find two goals and steal a point from the Eddies in a 2-2 draw. The result extended the Texans’ unbeaten streak to six matches in league play while the Eddies retain the final playoff spot in the standings with a 2-2-4 record.
A save on a Ilja van Leerdam shot by Daryl Sattler and an offsides call nullifying a goal by Paul Craig kept the match scoreless in the early going until Edmonton’s Colo-Colo loanee, Yashir Pinto, avoided a high leg from an Edmonton defender and got a slight touch on the ball to send it past Sattler from a Shaun Saiko cross, giving the Eddies a 1-0 lead in the 37th minute. The Scorpions only managed one shot in the first 45 minutes, while the Eddies forced three saves from Sattler.
The Eddies increased their lead nine minutes into the second half, as Saiko rocketed a shot past Sattler, with van Leerdom earning the assist from a fine run and pass to Saiko. The 1,500 fans at Clarke Stadium had to feel confident that the Eddies would earn their third win of the season with just over 35 minutes remaining in the match. But the momentum turned at the hour mark when Houston Dynamo loanee Josue Soto halved the Eddies’ lead with his left foot after Walter Ramirez provided the opportunity.
A quality Saiko free kick at the 70th minute mark appeared to restore the Eddies’ two goal lead but Sattler was able to punch the ball over the crossbar, and it was the Scorpions who got the final goal in the contest as Aaron Pitchkolan headed in a Hans Denissen free kick past Edmonton goalkeeper Lance Parker in the 83rd minute to earn the Scorpions a road point.
“The players needed to force their game on the opponent and be more aggressive and we did a better job of that in the second half,” San Antonio Scorpions head coach Tim Hankinson said. The Scorpions return to San Antonio for their massive US Open Cup match Tuesday against the MLS Houston Dynamo at Heroes Field, while Harry Sinkgraven’s Eddies are home again next Sunday to host the visiting Atlanta Silverbacks.
Puerto Rico Islanders Gain CFU Final
The Puerto Rico Islanders earned a spot in the Caribbean Football Union final round with their 8-0 win over George Town Friday. Jonathan Fana scored three times for La Tropa Naranja against the Cayman Island club. The CFU competition provides the springboard for the Islanders to once again earn CONCACAF Champions League play.
“We finished top of the league; it was a good result. We went about our business in a professional manner. I was a little disappointed with all the chances we created and should have scored from. It was another reminder to my whole squad that when you have an opportunity to put one in the back of the net, it is a good habit,” said head coach Adrian Whitbread.
Meanwhile, ten Islanders have been called up for international duty next weekend. Gregory Richardson will represent for Guyana in matches against Mexico and Costa Rica while nine other Islanders have received the invitation to represent Puerto Rico. Richard Martínez, Anthony Vazquez, Joshua Hansen, Andrés Pérez and Hector “Pito” Ramos will be available for both matches against Nicaragua on June 1 and June 3, while Joseph “Jackie” Marrero, Tyler Wilson, Alexis Rivera and Noah Delgado will join the Puerto Rico National Team after the Islanders square off against the Carolina RailHawks on Saturday, June 2nd at WakeMed Soccer Park.