By MIKE GRAMAJO
The race to host this season’s North American Soccer League Soccer Bowl is now down to five teams.
The Carolina RailHawks fought FC Edmonton to a 1-1 draw on Sunday afternoon in front of 3,474 at Clark Stadium, needing midfielder Cesar Elizondo to score an 88th minute equalizer to save the match. The 25-year-old Costa Rican fired a shot through Eddies goalkeeper John Smits when Ty Shipalane’s strike was deflected off an opposing defender.
The Eddies took the lead in the 73rd minute when forward Michael Cox fizzed one toward the top corner past helpless RailHawks goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald. With the draw, the RailHawks move down to second place in the NASL standings after the Atlanta Silverbacks went top with a victory over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Behind the RailHawks sit Minnesota United in third and the Tampa Bay Rowdies in fourth.
The San Antonio Scorpions currently sit a place behind the Eddies, but hold a game in hand, keeping their slim hopes of qualification to the Soccer Bowl alive. As for the Eddies, they can count themselves out of the equation with just two games remaining in the Spring season and just 11 points to their name.
Here’s a closer look at the rest of NASL Week 11 action:
SILVERBACKS NAB LATE VICTORY OVER STRIKERS
The Atlanta Silverbacks keep showing why they are the team to beat in the NASL this season. A stoppage-time penalty kick from Silverbacks midfielder Richard Menjivar lifted the the visitors to a 1-0 victory over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on Saturday night at Lockhart Stadium.
The Silverbacks were forced to play with ten players after midfielder Danny Barrera was shown a straight red card for a two footed challenge in the 62nd minute, giving the hosts a quality chance to win the match. However, the last-placed Strikers continued to struggle to score goals, and were eventually undone by the Menjivar penalty kick goal.
The Silverbacks now sit one point clear atop the NASL table with 17 points, while the Strikers have only eight points as they crash out of the race to host the Soccer Bowl.
ROWDIES GET STUNG BY SCORPIONS AT HOME
San Antonio Scorpions forward Hans Denissen’s strike two minutes from time against the Tampa Bay Rowdies gave the visitors a 2-1 victory at Al Lang Field on Saturday night, keeping their hopes to finish in first alive.
The Scorpions scored the game’s opening goal in the 37th minute off the foot of Blake Wagner on a strange play. The referee whistled for an infraction inside the box, but instead of awarding a penalty kick, he placed the ball at the top of the six-yard box and had the Scorpions take an indirect free kick. Taking the pass, Wagner hit the ball as hard as he could through all 10 Rowdies players standing on the goal line.
The Rowdies would level the scoreline in the 80th minute as forward Carl Cort rose up at the far post to head in a Devin Del Do cross. But the Scorpions were not to be denied as Hans Denissen fired a low shot past Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo in the 88th minute to give his side three crucial points on the road.
With the victory, the Scorpions pick up their second straight victory, sitting tied for fifth place in the NASL table with FC Edmonton with 11 points. While the Rowdies stand in fourth place with 12 points, but remain winless at home this season and are currently on a four game winless run.
What did you think of week 11? Surprised to see the Strikers and Eddies out of hosting the Soccer Bowl? Do you think the RailHawks can take the top spot next week?
Share your thoughts below.