By Michael Preston
No matter what your allegiance, you have to feel delighted for FC Edmonton this week. Colin Miller’s team has done everything but win this season – until Sunday night that is.
The Eddies went on a three-game road trip to open the new season, staying away from home on the east coast between playing at Fort Lauderdale and Carolina during the first two weeks and then edged closer to home with a game in Minnesota.
The Canadians scored the first goal of the season and took a credible point from the Strikers, but since then have been knocked out of their stride by the woodwork denying close chances, penalty decisions that incensed coach Colin Miller and simply not getting the proverbial rub of the green. Even when they took to their home field in the Amway Canadian Championship, lady luck deserted the Eddies as a deserved 2-1 lead against a near full strength Vancouver Whitecaps evaporated and became a 3-2 defeat with cries of foul as the suspicion of offside and a dubious penalty decision cast a shadow over the two decisive goals.
So Shaun Saiko’s penalty and a grinding 1-0 win over San Antonio felt like fair justice when the final whistle blew in Clarke Stadium and kept FC Edmonton in touch with the leading pack in the standings with four points. A win away to the Rowdies this coming weekend would really propel the Eddies into the thick of the Soccer Bowl race.
It’s tight at the top. Carolina has seven points, Minnesota has seven points, and Tampa Bay has seven points. Atlanta is knocking on the door with six points. Impossible to separate are the RailHawks and United whose records are identical. Played three, won two, drawn one, lost none, scored five, conceded two, and of course seven points. So Carolina has the edge this early in the season based purely on alphabetical order.
But come the weekend that could all change. The term ‘top of the table clash’ could not be better defined than by the mouthwatering meeting between Minnesota and Carolina in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome this Saturday at 7pm local time / 8pm EDT. The winner could take pole position and with five games of a 12-game campaign played, will also be tempted to think they hold the early advantage in winning the spring season title.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies might have something to say about that. Having blown a 3-1 lead to lose 4-3 to Atlanta in the third week of action, Ricky Hill’s side bounced back by earning state of Florida bragging rights with a 2-1 win away to their rival Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Lockhart Stadium. If the Rowdies also win at the weekend, against a resurgent FC Edmonton, they could steal top spot from the dueling RailHawks and United by virtue of goal difference.
And lets not forget the Atlanta Silverbacks, who can also take over at the top with a win over San Antonio and ties or losses for their rivals. The Scorpions have scored big with the local community and the 8,100 fans who came out in force for their first home game two weeks ago. But hitting the net has proved an issue for Tim Hankinson’s side. No goals to speak of yet, but this week they lure an Atlanta team that has conceded a league second-highest six goals to Toyota Field, aiming to break that duck.
The past weekend of action brought with it some changes: There are no more one hundred percent teams after four weeks since Atlanta lost, but there are still two unbeaten teams – predictably the locked at the top Carolina RailHawks and Minnesota United. Only two teams had managed away wins during the first three weeks of the season, but this past weekend both Tampa Bay and Minnesota took three points from their respective road trips.
Overheard this week: German defensive end Bjoern Werner, the first European trained player to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, talked soccer during his post-selection interview at Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall when questioned by BBC Radio, having been picked in the 24th spot by the Indianapolis Colts.
Werner, who hails from Berlin, said he was delighted to see both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund earn decisive leads to take into the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi finals. But he also admitted to not having a particular allegiance to a club team, preferring to cheer for the German national team in World Cups and European Championships. So the door is open for the newly christened Indy Eleven to win his club team affections in the city where he will ply his trade in the NFL. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is a confessed Gooner, having become an Arsenal devotee during his time living in London as a child, so come 2014, Indy Eleven could well have some local celebrity fans in the crowd, pledging their NASL allegiance.
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|New York Cosmos||14||9||4||1||10||31|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||14||5||5||4||3||20|
|Minnesota United FC||14||6||2||6||2||20|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||14||5||3||6||-2||18|
|San Antonio Scorpions||14||3||1||10||-9||10|
|San Antonio Scorpions||12||6||2||4||4||20|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||12||5||3||4||5||18|
|Minnesota United FC||12||4||2||6||-5||14|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||12||2||2||8||-14||8|