The two teams on top form in the North American Soccer League – the league leading Carolina RailHawks and fourth placed Fort Lauderdale Strikers – clash at 7.30pm on Friday night when Week 5 of the 2013 Fall Season kicks off early.
The RailHawks lead the NASL standings with a three-point advantage over the second-placed New York Cosmos and travel to Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale on Friday to face a resurgent Strikers side that has won twice on the road on consecutive weekends.
The Strikers have won away to NASL Spring Season champion the Atlanta Silverbacks and the San Antonio Scorpions to leap to within striking distance of the top of the table. A win over the RailHawks, who have also won two straight but both on home turf, would push new coach Günter Kronsteiner’s side firmly into the race to win the Fall Season title and with it the second berth at NASL Soccer Bowl 2013. The RailHawks aim to open a six-point game at the NASL summit.
“It is going to be a tough game for us,” said coach Kronsteiner. “I wish we had more time to prepare before we face the best team in the league. But our guys have been working hard and with the two wins we had on the road, their confidence has been increasing.”
Mexican goalkeeper Richard Sanchez has been central to the Strikers’ revival, as they have bounced back from an opening day loss to the New York Cosmos and a home defeat to Minnesota United. His resolve and that of a defensive back four that has impressed in only conceding one goal in the past two games, will be tested by league-leading scorer Brian Shriver, who has scored 12 goals this season to lead the Golden Boot race by two strikes, and has hit the target three times in the past two games.
The Atlanta Silverbacks look to bounce back from their first loss of the season on Saturday at 7.30pm at home to the 2012 champion Tampa Bay Rowdies with only a point separating the sides in fifth and third place respectively. Alongside the RailHawks, the Rowdies are one of only two unbeaten teams this fall, but have drawn their last three games having hammered seven goals past San Antonio to open the campaign.
“We need to put two halves together to win a game, and that's where our concentration has been this week,” explained Silverbacks boss Brian Haynes. “We need to be more offensive-minded and not just try to keep the ball in our half of the field. Once we put a few of our chances away, then I think the game opens up even more, and I think on the counter-attack, we are much faster than most other teams.”
The San Antonio Scorpions head into an 8.30pm ET home game against Minnesota United FC with a new man in charge at Toyota Field. Following the departure of coach Tim Hankinson after his side opened the Fall Season with four straight losses Alen Marcina has stepped up from his assistant’s role to become interim coach of the Scorpions.
Marcina, who faces a Minnesota team that has won once, drawn once and lost twice during the second half of the season, said: “I have an obligation to the city of San Antonio, to the fans, to the players, to Mr. Hartman and to Soccer for a Cause. I plan on leading. I’m excited for the opportunity and I plan on making the most of it.”
Marcina also has a potent strike force at his disposal. Polish striker Tomasz Zahorski is the fall’s top scorer with four goals since joining during the summer break and is partnered by Dutch forward Hans Denissen, whose ten total goals are the second-best in the NASL in 2013. United FC head to Texas armed with deadly striker Pablo Campos who is joint-fourth in the scoring race with six goals.
The Week 5 action rounds out in Canada at 4pm ET on Sunday at Clarke Stadium when FC Edmonton welcomes a New York Cosmos team that has twice managed to find dramatic ways to win.
The Cosmos have won 2-1 at home with injury time goals on two occasions, but face the meanest defense in the NASL in FC Edmonton and have taken only one point from a possible six on the road, although they sit nicely in second place in the standings. The Eddies know another home win could push them high enough to take over that second spot.
“The lads are ready and excited to play New York,” said FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller. “They're excited to play such a well known team and also excited to play them in front of the home crowd. We’re prepared for a result and FC Edmonton fans should be prepared for a great game.”
Week 5 Schedule (All kickoff times US EST)
Friday, August 30
Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. Carolina RailHawks
Lockhart Stadium; Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 7:30 pm
Saturday, August 31
Atlanta Silverbacks vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Atlanta Silverbacks Park; Atlanta, Ga. 7:30 pm
San Antonio Scorpions vs. Minnesota United FC
Toyota Field; San Antonio, Tex. 8:30 pm
Sunday, September 1
FC Edmonton vs. New York Cosmos
Clarke Stadium; Edmonton, AB 4:00 pm
All games will be streamed live and can be watched via the NASL official website www.NASL.comand at each respective team website.
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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|