Five days from now ... the race for the North American Soccer League 2014 Spring Season title kicks off and with it comes the race for the NASL Golden Boot.
Goals win games; it’s as simple as that. So as the week counts down to the start of the 2014 NASL campaign, NASL.com takes a look at the likely net bulgers at each of the ten teams pushing for silverware.
And to stir the debate a little, we’ve selected some of the top candidates to be presented with the NASL Golden Boot come the final regular season game in November. If you think we’re wrong, let us know on Twitter and Facebook.
Three striking tandems that could terrorize opposing defenses this season
Brian Shriver and Georgi Hristov, Tampa Bay Rowdies
The 2013 NASL Golden Boot and 2013 NASL Golden Ball winners playing together up front is a mouthwatering prospect for fans of the Rowdies and anyone who likes to watch attacking soccer. The pair scored 27 goals combined last year, Hristov with 12 for the Rowdies and Shriver with 15 for his former club the Carolina RailHawks.
A native of Clearwater, FL, proficient marksman Shriver was captured early on in the offseason and will relish the opportunity to feed off Hristiov, who led the NASL with 8 assists in 2013. Both were named to the NASL Best XI in 2013.
Tomasz Zahorski and Eric Hassli, San Antonio Scorpions
Zahorski scored nine goals during the 2013 NASL Fall Season having arrived at Toyota Field during the July break between seasons. Since the departure of strike partner Hans Denissen to the New York Cosmos, the former Polish international will now link with Eric Hassli, who has scored goals consistently in Europe and most recently with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
“Hassli is a landmark signing for our club,” said Scorpions head coach Alen Marcina. “Hassli has been a designated player in MLS, has playing experience in French and Swiss top leagues in addition to Champions League. This is one more step to position ourselves to achieve our objective of competing for a NASL championship.”
Hans Denissen and Mads Stokkelien, New York Cosmos
Injuries at the end of the 2013 season disrupted Denissen’s Golden Boot challenge with the Scorpions and now he wears the colors of the Cosmos following an offseason switch and is certain to be among the goals again this season. The Dutch striker ended 2013 with 12 goals, finishing joint third in the top scorer race.
The Cosmos boast a wealth of attacking options with Diomar Diaz, Peri Marosevic, Sebastian Guenzatti, Stefan Dimitrov, David Diosa, Alessandro Noselli and Jemal Johnson all competing for playing time up front, not to mention the goalscoring contribution of Marcos Senna from midfield.
Nominated for Norway’s Division One Player of the Year award last season, Stokkelien scored 18 goals in 48 games for Stabaek and was targeted by several clubs around the world before signing with the Cosmos. He and Denissen could forge a prolific partnership.
Who else is in the running?
The Atlanta Silverbacks will hope Deon McCaulay is as potent in front of goal in the NASL as he was for Belize during World Cup qualifying as he matched Luis Suarez (Uruguay) and Robin Van Persie (Netherlands) as the competition’s top scorer with 11 goals.
The Carolina RailHawks have to replace the 15 goals scored by Brian Shriver last season as they bid to protect a proud unbeaten home record at WakeMed Soccer Park. Zack Schilawski will have an opportunity to fill those shoes and could work well alongside physical Ukrainian striker Dmytro Kryvyy.
Darryl Fordyce found the target seven times for FC Edmonton in 2013 as the Eddies found goals hard to come by and could lead the Canadian side in scoring, along with new signings Frank Jonke and Oluwatomiwo Ameobi.
Marius Ebbers has a proven track record of scoring in the German Bundesliga where he netted 46 times in 138 games for St Pauli and will pose a threat for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
“We are excited to be able to have a player of Ebbers’ quality join the Strikers,” said Strikers Head Coach Günter Kronsteiner. “Ebbers is a goal scorer and was the team captain for St. Pauli. The fans there loved him and I’m sure our fans will enjoy watching him play as well.”
Mike Ambersley showed in 2011 that he poses a threat having scored 11 goals and is fifth on the all-time NASL scoring list and leads the NASL in all-time assists with 17, which will benefit his Indy Eleven strike partners. Those include Pedro Mendes, who scored the NASL goal of the season for the Atlanta Silverbacks and takes his talents to the debut club for 2014.
Then of course there is Brazilian World Cup-winning midfielder Kleberson who is certain to weigh in with goals from midfield for Indy.
Minnesota United will rely on Simone Bracalello to fill the void left by injured Pablos Campos and the Italian, who has scored 22 career goals for the club, has Christian Ramirez and Nate Polak along side him up front. Let’s not rule out Campos since the Golden Boot is awarded to the top scorer over both the Spring and Fall seasons and the Brazilian aims to return after the World Cup break. He finished second in the Golden Boot race in 2014 with 13 goals.
Newcomers Ottawa Fury FC put their faith in attack in Tom Heinemann and Oliver Minatel. Heinemann comes in from the Vancouver Whitecaps and Brazilian Minatel has spent three seasons with Portuguese side C.D. Nacional that included two years in the Primeira Liga.
“Tom has scored with every team he’s played for and at all levels in North America – PDL, NASL, MLS,” said Fury FC head coach Marc Dos Santos. “He’s only reaching his prime age now and we believe he will grow a lot in our environment. He’s a very hard working forward, very honest in his game and definitely a team player. He will help this organization both on and off the field.”
Soccer fans around the world will be able to ‘Watch Every Match Live’ throughout the 2014 North American Soccer League season, which kicks off on the weekend of April 12/13.
By subscribing to either a 30-day pass or a season access pass at www.NASLLive.com, soccer fans can access all 135 matches during the 2014 NASL Spring and Fall Seasons.
Throughout the month of April, the NASL is offering a 10-day free trial to enjoy the weekly broadcasts as the league’s 10 teams battle to reach the postseason and compete in The Championship for the coveted Soccer Bowl trophy.