NASL Week 3 can bring big changes to spring season table

Minnesota United will look to hold the lead in the North American Soccer League table when the club takes on FC Edmonton.
The Carolina RailHawks, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and San Antonio Scorpions are separated by three or less points from the current leaders, the New York Cosmos and Minnesota United FC, in the North American Soccer League spring season standings going into Week 3. On the leader’s heels, just four points away, are Indy Eleven and the Tampa Bay Rowdies as they seek to remain in contention for the spring championship. Soccer fans can tune in to this Saturday to watch all five matches.

The race continues on Saturday afternoon north of the border when Ottawa Fury FC greet Carolina RailHawks at Carleton University’s Keith Harris Stadium at 3 p.m. ET.

“We expect another tough week in the NASL,” said RailHawks coach Colin Clarke, whose team posted a 4-1 win against Fort Lauderdale Strikers last week to extend their home unbeaten streak to 17 games. “This will be our first ever trip to Ottawa and we will look to get a good result. I think we will have a great match on Saturday afternoon.”

Fury FC, which is hosting its third home game in eight days, is coming off a heartbreaking 2-1 loss last week to visiting Minnesota United and then played to a scoreless draw on Wednesday evening against FC Edmonton in the opening round first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship.

“Carolina had a great season last year and have started very well in 2014,” said Fury FC coach Marc Dos Santos. “We know the type of opposition we are going to get, but we also know that we are home, confident and determined to get our first win.”

Also on Saturday, the defending champion New York Cosmos look to extend their unbeaten streak, which stands at 13 (tied for NASL’s all-time best since 2011), when they meet the San Antonio Scorpions at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium.

The Cosmos, who posted a 1-0 win at FC Edmonton last week, also have a chance to break another of the league’s all-time records, on Saturday, in this modern era as they are two minutes shy of tying and three of breaking most consecutive shutout minutes as they are currently at 357.

The Scorpions are also coming off a road victory (2-1) against the Atlanta Silverbacks last Saturday, however they have not beaten the current league leaders Cosmos in their previous two meetings.

“This is an important match against the current champions in what will be a stern test in front of a vocal home crowd," Scorpions coach Alen Marcina said. "We feel confident about our progress thus far and the framework we've implemented to achieve a positive result on Saturday.”

Two other Saturday evening matchups will take place in the state of Florida at 7:30 pm ET, when Indy Eleven plays its first NASL road game facing Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Lockhart Stadium.

After consecutive 1-1 home draws and averaging over 10,730 spectators a game to open the spring season, Indy Eleven coach Juergen Sommers commented on their upcoming encounter against the Strikers: “We're already four points down in the standings, we can't go into Fort Lauderdale this weekend thinking a road point will be satisfying. We're hungry to score goals and give our fans that first win that we think we deserved to give them the last two weekends at Carroll Stadium.”

Elsewhere in the Sunshine State, Tampa Bay Rowdies welcome Atlanta Silverbacks at Al Lang Stadium, live on ESPN3 at 7:30 p.m. ET, with each team looking for their first win of the season on Saturday.

“As always, the tendency when teams play against us is that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” said Rowdies coach Ricky Hill.  “Thus far, they've not managed to acquire any points, but that doesn't mean they're necessarily a bad team. Unfortunately, we've been prone to lapses and those lapses have cost us goals. We're hoping on Saturday that we don't have any lapses.”

Silverbacks’ technical director Eric Wynalda aims to end his team’s current five-game losing streak and he comments on the upcoming match: “Tampa Bay is always a very difficult team to play against, especially on their home field. We worked very hard this week to get things right, and we look forward to hopefully having that hard work translate into a result on Saturday.”

Rounding out Saturday’s Week 3 encounters will be Minnesota United FC taking on the visiting FC Edmonton at Blaine’s NSC Stadium at 8 p.m. ET.

United, which has a four-game winning streak, has not lost to the Eddies in six previous meetings in Minnesota, however the best defensive team in 2013 held the home side to a 1-1 draw in its visit to NSC Stadium last September.

“We are excited to finally get the chance to play in front of our home fans,” said United coach Manny Lagos. “I hope they are excited to get a chance to see the product that we have worked really hard to put together on the field this Saturday. We are looking forward to the challenge of defending our home field this season.”

NASL Week 3 Schedule­ (All kickoff times EST)

Saturday, April 26

Ottawa Fury FC vs. Carolina RailHawks
Carleton University’s Keith Harris Stadium; Ottawa, Ontario 3 p.m.

New York Cosmos vs. San Antonio Scorpions
Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium; Hempstead, N.Y. 7 p.m.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. Indy Eleven
Lockhart Stadium; Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 7:30 p.m.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Atlanta Silverbacks
Al Lang Stadium; St. Petersburg, Fla. 7:30 p.m.

Minnesota United FC vs. FC Edmonton
NSC Stadium; Blaine, Minn. 8 p.m.