Heading into the sixth week of the North American Soccer League spring season, not only are three teams locked at the top of the standings on equal points, but two more clubs who could take over pole position have worked their way into the reckoning.
Minnesota United holds the slimmest of advantages with the current lead, edging out second placed Carolina RailHawks by virtue of the fourth tiebreaker – goal difference away from home. Both clubs have won three, drawn two, scored and conceded the same number of goals, and are the only two remaining unbeaten teams in the NASL. Both have an opportunity to edge clear of the chasing pack this weekend.
Minnesota United travels to Fort Lauderdale where the Strikers seek a first win of the season coming off the bye week, and Minnesota coach Manny Lagos is well aware of the dangers posed by a team looking to jumpstart its campaign.
“It's a game on the road, and we're still getting to know our team,” said Lagos. “Fort Lauderdale has played pretty well and have been a little unfortunate. It's set up to be a big matchup for both teams. We aren't feeling as great as we would like to after our tie at home, so it's a big game for us, and we're going against a team that's done well in terms of their play but not in terms of results.”
Strikers head coach Daryl Shore said: “We have a tough test as we know Minnesota has a talented group and have started the season very well. We have to continue to do the things that have been successful for us and make the most of our chances. Playing at home is a big advantage, as our fans always turn out to provide us with a boost.”
The Carolina RailHawks take on San Antonio at home, wary that the Scorpions might have found their scoring boots in a 2-2 draw last week. A win will move them three points clear of third placed defending Soccer Bowl champion Tampa Bay as the Rowdies sit out the action with this week’s bye.
“The league is filled with quality teams, from top to bottom and we are expecting another hard fought match this weekend,” said RailHawks coach Colin Clarke. “Every team in the league is entering the weekend knowing the importance of capturing three points. Now we have to do our part Saturday night and get those points in front of our home crowd. The fans at WakeMed Soccer Park have been incredible and have been a 12th man for us.”
Scorpions coach Tim Hankinson plans to join that chasing pack rather than help diffuse the logjam at the top. “We are aiming for our first win in Carolina this weekend,” he said. “Carolina is a good team, so a win could go a long way for us. The players are working hard and putting in extra shifts in training to prepare to pick up three points on Saturday.”
Should San Antonio upset the RailHawks and Minnesota falter on the road, waiting in the wings are the Atlanta Silverbacks, who head to Canada to face a resurgent FC Edmonton. The Eddies followed up their first win of the season when last on home soil with a draw in Tampa Bay last week. An Atlanta win could see them take over at the top, while an Edmonton victory could see them claim a share of the lead depending on other results and those all-important tiebreakers.
“In this league, you can never switch off at any time,” said FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller. “And Brian (Haynes) has done a hell of a job with his team. They have an exciting team and, like us, a very young team. They are very offensive-minded and they play a nice quality of football.”
Week Six Schedule (All kickoff times US EST)
Saturday, May 11
Carolina RailHawks vs. San Antonio Scorpions, WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, NC, 7pm
Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. Minnesota United, Lockhart Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 7.30pm
Sunday, May 12
FC Edmonton vs. Atlanta Silverbacks, Clarke Stadium, Edmonton, AB, 4pm
Bye week: Tampa Bay Rowdies
All games will be streamed live and can be watched via the NASL official website www.NASL.comand at each respective team website.
Thinking of you Mom
For the players of FC Edmonton and the Atlanta Silverbacks, celebrating Mother’s Day in person with that special parent will have to wait until after the teams meet at Clarke Stadium in Edmonton at 4pm ET on Sunday. But the Eddies squad has been busy recalling the role their mothers played in their lives and will run a feature dedicated to those memories at http://www.fcedmonton.com. Here are a few of the comments from three FC Edmonton players.
“She was always there - as a kid she drove me around to all my games. I have three brothers so I don’t know how she did it, driving all of us around, but she did! I remember my first year of U-11 club soccer. Games were early Sunday mornings, usually at 7am. In the winter when it was dark and cold, she was always there to drive me. We lost every single game, but that didn’t matter and she drove me every weekend.” – Defender Antonio Rago
“My mom played for the Canadian Women’s National Team way back in the day. People have told me she was the best player in Canada - she came from a family where her parents both played. My aunt also played on the National Team and went on to play in a World Cup. My mom never made it to the World Cup because she decided to have a family - and to be honest, I don’t think she would have ever changed that decision.” – Midfielder Shaun Saiko
“My mother’s a great woman. She has lived in Oklahoma City almost her entire life.
When she was younger, she was a great dancer - a ballerina - and was still dancing when I was born. After that, she took a job at an accounting firm. Now, she’s a full time, professional action and sports photographer and has been for about 10 years.” – Goalkeeper Lance Parker
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