NASL Week 1: Edmonton rolls, PR rallies late as road teams run the table

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By JOHN BOSCHINI

It was a nail-baiting debut in the NASL as road teams dominated and all four game ended in one-goal victories.

Three road teams managed to score opening-day victories, including a surprising win for the expansion FC Edmonton over the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers.

It was a weekend where offense didn't come until late. Out of the 10 goals scored over the four games, only one was scored in the first half while four came after the 85th minute.

Puerto Rico made a bold statement in its quest to retain the second-division title with a victory over 10-man Carolina and Tampa Bay managed to hold out for a 1-0 victory at home.

Atlanta and Ft. Lauderdale were outclassed by northern visitors but will be boosted with raucous home crowds of 3,543 and 6,402 fans respectively.

Here's a look back at Week One of the inaugural NASL season.

A rematch of last-season's USSF Division 2 title game had no shortage of drama as a last-gasp winner from Jay Needham gave the Puerto Rico Islanders a 2-1 victory over the Carolina Railhawks at WakeMed Park in Cary.

After an initial two-hour delay, the game was played in a downpour. The Islanders opened up an early lead after a throw-in from Richard Martinez led to a Josh Hansen goal. The Railhawks' problem were compounded just before the hour mark when Jonny Steele was sent off following a reckless challenge.

Despite being down a man, Carolina equalized in the 86th minute after Etienne Barbara converted a penalty after being brought down in the box.

Carolina seemed to have salvaged a result but four minutes of stoppage time ended up being too much for the shorthanded Railhawks. With 3:50 elapsed, Needham headed home a corner kick to give Puerto Rico the victory. 

FC Edmonton started its debut season in ideal fashion with a 2-1 victory over the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers.

Ft. Lauderdale opened the scoring in the 47th minute when defender Martyn Lancaster's header found its way past Rein Baart. The Strikers lead was short-lived, however, after Shaun Saiko scored Edmonton's first-ever goal just eight minutes later.

The comeback was complete in the 66th minute when a low shot from Daniel Antoniuk beat Nic Platter and the Strikers couldn't find an equalizer.

An 85th-minute winner from Tayuka Yamada gave FC Tampa Bay a 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact.

Both teams lacked an offensive bite in the first half and Montreal dominated play after the restart. The Impact should had taken the lead in the 84th minute but Tsuyoshi Yoshitake put his penalty kick wide of the net. FC Tampa Bay got its winner just a minute later when Yamada's rebound found the back of the net.

The Atlanta Silverbacks returned from a two-year hiatus with a 2-1 loss to NSC Minnesota Stars.

Atlanta had the better of play in the scoreless first half but Minnesota took the lead 10 minutes after the break. Seven minutes later, Matt Horth gave Atlanta its first goal in two years by finishing off a Mario Perez cross.

Minnesota claimed victory with a stoppage-time winner from Andrei Gotsmanov after the Belarus native's curling shot found the side netting.

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What did you think of the weekend's results? Impressed by the Islanders' victory? Could Edmonton surprise people this season?

Share your thoughts below.

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12 Responses to NASL Week 1: Edmonton rolls, PR rallies late as road teams run the table

  1. Ivan says:

    Went to the Rowdies game v. Montreal.

    Rowdies dominated possession but didn’t create enough clear cut chances. Still, it was refreshing to see them keeping possession and the ball on the ground for majority of the game. Up front Millien caused a lot of trouble to the visitors.

    In comparison to last year, defense was very solid, and made very few mistakes. Sattler was impressive as always in goal.

    Yamada scored a nice goal to win it, with a powerful shot on the ground from 35 yards out (I can blame the goalie for letting that one go in). The penalty was questionable, to say the least, so it was only fair that Yoshitake missed.

    The new venue, Al Lang Field, is a major major upgrade from the horrific Legends Field. First and foremost, the infield was covered with grass. The pitch looked in excellent condition. The set up for the fans is much better as well. The seating capacity is smaller (7,000 or so), the fans were in the game and Ralph’s Mob dominated once again, chanting nonstop for 90 minutes.

    Early signs are very good for the Rowdies; based on the other results, early signs are that this will be a very competitive league, but the Rowdies should be able to compete with the best this season.

  2. Wilson says:

    I was really impressed with the young Silverbacks side. They played a great game and I expect we will see better out of them over the season. Though, they definitely need to work on their finishing. Too many wasted opportunities in the final third.

    The Stars looked sharp on defense and definitely took advantage of their chances on offense. They need some shoring up in midfield. Hard to tell how much of that was nerves or the artificial surface at Silverbacks Park. There were a few players who lost their footing in the early part of the game.

    The Atlanta crowd was great; excellent turnout, fantastic energy. I really hope they can keep that up all season long.

  3. TimN says:

    Went to the Carolina-Puerto Rico game. Though Carolina seemed to dominate much of possession, PR capitalized on defensive lapses by the Railhawks. The first PR goal was a result of a very poor clearance out of the D, and the second poor marking. However, that’s the cruelty of soccer…one team can control the game and still lose if they make isolated fatal errors that the other side pounces on.

    I will add that the game was GREATLY hampered by a saturated pitch. The ball would literally come to sudden, dead stops in certain spots which threw off guy’s timing significantly.

  4. Ivan says:

    Silverbacks Park has artificial surface? That’s a shame. What’s the excuse? Atlanta has a nice climate and a beautiful grass field should be maintained without any problems. Football must not be played on artificial surface under any circumstances.

    Very disappointed…Seattle has such a great stadium and fanbase, but every time I see a game from Seattle on TV, I am turned off by the ball bouncing funny all the time.

  5. RK says:

    I can’t believe this league actually kicked off.

  6. fquraishi@brockcomm.com says:

    The PK was missed by FC Tampa Bay, not Montreal.

  7. TimN says:

    It’s actually not that hard to believe. I think there was a lot of posturing going on. Everybody who was “in the know” was sure the season would commence. I live in the Carolina Railhawk area, and there was simply NO WAY that team was not going to happen. The ownership knew all along it would work out, despite what was being reported.

    I think Gulati and the USSF perhaps need to re-evaluate some of the criteria they set forth for a league being sanctioned as Division 2. Some of the criteria are simply not realistic for teams like Rochester and Charleston, who ended up having to drop down to Division 3. Charleston and Rochester were two of the stronger teams in the old USL.

  8. stellarcaster says:

    yeah, hard to really evaluate either side in those conditions. the railhawks streamed the match on their site. wouldnt be surprised if both of these teams finished at the top again.

  9. stellarcaster says:

    totally agree. i have a feeling their was just a certain amount of loyalty to the USL even though NASL clearly had the better teams on board

  10. Pinch says:

    I think Edmonton could continue to surpise. They looked better than Ft. Lauderdale on the night, that’s for sure.

  11. MattCox says:

    I’m a season-ticket holder for FC Tampa Bay and Saturday’s match showed that the money was well spent. Field and atmosphere was great, can’t wait to go back this Sunday!