NASL Week 19: A Look Ahead

NASL

By JOHN BOSCHINI

With all the fanfare surrounding the hiring of Martin Rennie as the coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps, it's easy to forget he's still in prime position to win the NASL title with the Carolina Railhawks.

Anything but a spectacular collapse sees Carolina securing the top seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs. The only team with even the slightest hope of catching Carolina is the Puerto Rico Islanders, but the 2010 champions face a nine-point deficit having played a game more.

The bottom two teams in the NASL meet in Montreal this weekend as the Impact takes on the Atlanta Silverbacks. Montreal is nine points out of sixth place while Atlanta is 13 adrift. Neither team has scored much this season, scoring only 19 goals apiece in 20 games.

FC Edmonton has had a rotten couple of weeks, losing five-straight games, but is still in a good position to make the playoffs. If Edmonton can find a win against Fort Lauderdale it will all but assure a playoff spot and put the Strikers back down into sixth place.

Two clubs secure in their playoff spots take each other on when NSC Minnesota and Tampa Bay meet on Saturday. Both teams could mount a charge on second place should Puerto Rico stumble.

Here is a look ahed at all the action in the NASL over the weekend:

NSC Minnesota Stars at FC Tampa Bay (Saturday, 7 p.m.)

After a stellar July campaign, FC Tampa Bay is a surprising third place with just a handful of games to go. After being quiet most of the season, Tampa Bay is also the league's second-highest scoring offense with 31 goals.

Minnesota has consistently been hovering around the 2-4 spot in the NASL standings and that doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon. A win would see the Stars back up to third in the standings.

Carolina Railhawks at Puerto Rico Islanders (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)

The two sides face off on Saturday in their third meeting of the season. Puerto Rico actually handed Carolina its first loss of the season on opening day but the Railhawks dominated Puerto Rico 3-0 in May.

Carolina will once again rely on the potent attacking duo of Etienne Barbara and Pablo Campos, who have combined for 24 goals during the season. Jonathan Fana and his eight goals takes control of the Islanders' offense, which could have some success against Carolina's defense.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers at FC Edmonton (Sunday, 6 p.m.)

FC Edmonton has finally started playing like the expansion side everyone thought they were before the season kicked off. The defense is the main problem, allowing 13 goals during the five-game losing streak.

Should Fort Lauderdale win and Montreal lose, the Strikers will open up a 15-point lead with just eight games left in the season. Also be on the lookout for Eduardo Coudet, who has surprised people with six goals this season.

Atlanta Silverbacks at Montreal Impact (Sunday, 6 p.m.)

After flirting with making a playoff push during July, the Montreal Impact and the Atlanta Silverbacks are in dire straits and both face a must-win game.

Atlanta has played well against Montreal this season, and the Impact seems to be turning its attention to next season's MLS campaign, leaving this year’s NASL season as a lost cause.

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What do you think of this weekend's games? Can Puerto Rico take down Carolina? Excited to see if Atlanta can take down Montreal? Are FC Edmonton and Fort Lauderdale locks for the playoffs?

Share your thoughts below.

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18 Responses to NASL Week 19: A Look Ahead

  1. Dejected in NC says:

    I understand that the many pieces (most importantly financial) have to be in place for a NASL franchise to be “bumped up” to MLS, but it’s a shame that Montreal will be given that opportunity over Carolina.

    The Railhawks could easily compete with 70% of MLS teams with the roster they have right now. Montreal, on the other hand, will dump most of there players and be given number 1 draft picks, expansion drafts, allocation order, etc.

    Bring MLS to NC!

  2. Roberto says:

    Response to NC.

    How many championships have Carolina won? NONE.

    Montreal has won:

    USL First Division Winners (2): 2004, 2009
    Northeast Division Champions (2): 1997, 2003
    Eastern Division Champions (2): 2004

    APSL Winners (1): 1994

    Commissioner’s Cup Winners (5): 1995, 1996, 1997, 2005, 2006
    Runners-up (2): 2003, 2004

    Voyageurs Cup Winners (7): 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008

    Can Am Cup Winners (3): 1998, 2003, 2004

    Montreal Cup Winners (1): 2001

    Should we even bother to mention attendance or concacaf accomplishments?

    Montreal is having a bad year. Carolina is a loser franchise.

  3. Roberto says:

    Furthermore, you are seriously delusional is you think Carolina can compete in MLS with the roster they have.

    Even Chicago and Vancouver would tear Carolina apart.

    Nyarko, Oduro, Chaves, Chiumiento, Hassli would DESTROY Carolina.

  4. Matt C in Tampa says:

    NorthStars….will go down. FC Tampa on too much of a hot-streak. Only injury now is to the 1st and 2nd keepers (Satler and Antenella)

    But the MLS-loaner is doing fine.

    Fear the Hobbit & King.

    Come on Rowdies!!

  5. Clayton says:

    Is NASL ahead of the USL in the pecking order/ league arrangement? Can’t wait to see the day when we have promotion and delegation in US soccer.

  6. DCLee says:

    Glad the Rowdies are back in Tampa!

  7. Matt C in Tampa says:

    DCLee, we’re glad they’re back too. But here’s the funny part of your post. They’re not the Rowdies and they’re not in Tampa.

    B/c of a dispute over the name they’re officially called “FC Tampa Bay”. We still call them the Rowdies though.

    And, the team, though it’s based in Tampa and practices in Tampa, it plays its games in down St. Petersburg (just across the bay…Tampa Bay) in a cozy and accomadating little baseball stadium on the water. Love it.

  8. DrewROC says:

    I’m pretty sure Sunil just delegated coaching responsibilities which means man former coaches will be promoted. And….Voila! Promotion and delegation (sic) in US Soccer!

    (Less tongue in cheek response)
    We do have a system of promotion and _RELEGATION_ in US Soccer. It’s called pay the expansion fee, prove viability and be promoted. Relegation goes like this: don’t pay the MLS fee, prove your clubs instability and choose to be relegated until poof you exist no more. Much simpler than that conflated Euro system.

  9. DrewROC says:

    Something about these arguments sound familiar. Can’t quite put my finger on it.

    -Signed Rochester Fans

  10. GCScots says:

    Can Matt Horth stay in form against the Montreal Impact? He has played extremely well against them! If he keeps tearing them up for goals, they might just bring him to MLS with them…

  11. CJ says:

    Rise of the Silverbacks!

  12. NC Jeff says:

    Done, or do you have another “furthermore” to enlighten us with? No? OK then …

    You ask how many championships Carolina has, authoritatively state that it’s 0, and then conclude from that that they’re “a loser franchise.” However, you type faster than you research … Carolina has been in existence for just 5 years (having improved its finish every year), yet WON last year’s NASL title … along with the 2009 Copa Tecate, and the 2007, ’08, and ’09 Southern Derby. They also, obviously, are currently in 1st this year by a wide margin.

    That said, Montreal has an excellent history to justify having a MLS expansion franchise … with the obvious exception of having a horrendous year this year.

    Carolina is a team that’s improved each year, won last year’s conference champ., is currently in 1st by a wide margin this year, and has sent multiple players (and now a head coach) to Div. 1 leagues around the world. Also, MLS is devoid of Southeastern teams … FC Dallas and DC United being the closest.

  13. Roberto says:

    Carolina Railcocks draw less than 3000 a game.
    Please stop dreaming that you will get an MLS team anytime soon or be more than a contender in a 2nd tier division.

  14. NC Jeff says:

    Your team’s going to on MLS next year, but you STILL won’t stop, will you? Carolina is producing what is almost certainly going to be back-to-back regular season championships. They’re producing players (and coaches) that get picked up by Div. 1 leagues around the world. And oh, this is just their 5th year in existence … yet you already know for a fact that the possibility of MLS coming to Raleigh is ridiculous?

    I even agree with you that it’s not likely and would require a lot of things to go the Railhawks way, but to claim you know it is NOT going to happen is awfully arrogant.

  15. Herb says:

    Orlando should be a contender fir MLS 20. They won the USL table, draw over 5000 a game, tpo was 11000, and beat bpth MLS and EPL opponents this year! Who better?

    PS where is the ULS coverage on SBI?

  16. Roberto says:

    Yes. it is ridiculous.

    Winning doesn’t draw fans in Carolina, just ask the Hurricanes. They won the cup. Big deal? Doesn’t make Carolina a viable profitable market.

    Who in their right mind would spend 30 millions plus to bring a team to Carolina? No one. Ever. Period.

  17. Neal In St. Pete says:

    +1

    This season’s St. Petersburg venue trumps the Tampa one from last year. On the water, plenty of accessible parking, and in the middle of downtown so it’s walking distance to plenty of bars for pre/post game.

    “F, FC, FC Tampa Bay!”

  18. Chris N. says:

    One, the Hurricanes have excellent attendance numbers and Carolina’s are improving for a young franchise. Two, for all your talk let me ask you one question: When was the last time Montreal actually beat Carolina, you know, in a head-to-head. Three, if we suck so bad why did your team beg for our manager???? (Which makes me think someone is feeling the sting of rejection. But, really, who in their right mind would want to live in Montreal, the cheap French-Canadian knock-off of Toronto?)

    Having said all that, I don’t expect to see the MLS in Carolina until (and if ever) there is a promotion/relegation system because of the money involved. I’m fine with Div. 2 soccer, just as you, Roberto, will continue to defend Montreal no matter which table they’re at the bottom of.