With only four points separating the top seven teams in the North American Soccer League, any one of Saturday’s games in the sixth week of Fall Season action could propel the winner to the top of the standings.
The side currently holding pole position, the Carolina RailHawks visit the only unbeaten team, the Tampa Bay Rowdies in an intriguing clash at 7.30pm on Saturday. The RailHawks have only taken one point away from their WakeMed Soccer Park fortress, while the Rowdies have drawn both home games at Al Lang Stadium with picking up points on the road their specialty. While Carolina looks to defend top spot, Tampa Bay can climb to the summit with a win, a swing in goal difference and results elsewhere going in their favor.
“Coming off a disappointing result over the weekend, we need to continue our strong week of training and be ready to play from the opening whistle,” said RailHawks coach Colin Clarke. “The first goal is going to be important.”
Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said: “I’ve told the squad the importance of picking up the three points this Saturday. We want to give our fans a win at home, and hopefully it will help us reach our goal which is winning the Soccer Bowl. Carolina is a very talented squad, but our players know that if we are on top of our game come this Saturday then no one can beat us.”
The in-form team in the NASL right now is the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who return to Lockhart Stadium at 7.30pm on Saturday on the back of a three-game winning streak to face the so far winless San Antonio Scorpions.
New Strikers coach Günter Kronsteiner – who is now five games into his tenure – has turned around the fortunes of the side that finished last in the NASL Spring Season and is sitting in second place on nine points with a point more than they tallied in the first half of the season. A win coupled with a RailHawks draw or loss would catapult the Strikers to the top of the table and from worst to first in six short weeks.
“This will be the hardest game we’ve had to date, because we are now, for the first time, in the position of the favorites,” said coach Kronsteiner. “San Antonio is going to come in and play us very hard. We have to try to dominate this team, because when you are in last place, you tend to play in a different way than you do when you are in first place like when we played Carolina.”
Still searching for their first reward of the campaign, the Scorpions travel for the first time under new interim coach Alen Marcina having dramatically lost their last two games in injury time falling 3-2 to Minnesota United FC last week and 2-1 to the New York Cosmos before that.
“If you ask the guys, they would say we have had some of the best training sessions this week that we have had all year,” said Marcina. “We are implementing a new system and the guys are buying in to it. The team is working hard and the team is excited. Every game we go in to, we expect three points and nothing less.”
Saturday’s action kicks off in New York at 7pm where the Cosmos hold a one hundred percent home record having scored last minute winners to defeat both the Strikers and Scorpions. NASL Spring Season title winners, the Soccer Bowl-bound Atlanta Silverbacks, are the Cosmos’ latest opponent and have only lost once in the fall, but have not won since opening weekend.
“This is going to be another big challenge for our club,” said Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese. “Coming back home for back-to-back games, we want to play well in front of our fans. And Atlanta has a very strong side, which they showed in the spring, so we need to bring our best effort.”
Silverback coach Brian Haynes said: "I’m very excited because this is a team that we haven’t played against yet this year, and we measure ourselves against every other team we play by how well we do against them. We kind of know what to expect for the most part from the stand point of the scouting report, but getting on the field and playing against them is going to be a new experience.”
Also at 7pm ET, Minnesota United FC looks to build on an exciting 3-2 win in San Antonio when FC Edmonton visits the National Sports Center in Blaine. United FC will needs goals and three points against the league’s toughest defense to draw level at the top of the table provided other results go their way, while the Eddies can themselves climb as high as second place with a win.
“Certainly for us, we're excited to carry the momentum of what we did last week into this weekend at home,” said United FC head coach Manny Lagos. “We're looking forward to building on the type of performance that we had last weekend.”
FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller said: “We will settle for nothing less than three points on Saturday. I have absolute faith in the lads as we prepare to for Minnesota and I know they will play hard for the win.”
All games will be streamed live. The Cosmos-Silverbacks clash is available at www.OneWorldSports.comand the other three games can be watched via the NASL official website www.NASL.comand at each respective team website.
Week 6 Schedule (All kickoff times US EST)
Saturday, September 7
New York Cosmos vs. Atlanta Silverbacks
James M. Shuart Stadium; Hempstead, N.Y. 7:00 pm
Minnesota United FC vs. FC Edmonton
NSC Stadium; Blaine, Minn. 7:00 pm
Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Carolina RailHawks
Al Lang Stadium; St. Petersburg, Fla. 7:30 pm
Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. San Antonio Scorpions
Lockhart Stadium; Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 7:30 pm
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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|