NASL Roundup: Baby Steps!

Can you imagine Sherjill MacDonald working this hard for a header? Yeah, we can't either. - Al Messerschmidt

A wild week of matches brings the second division one small step closer to Soccer Bowl 2013

Welcome, Fire fans! Once again you’re hip-deep in the most extensive second-division coverage available on a site where writers aren’t actually paid to cover the NASL. Here at Hot Time, we deliver football news for the people, analysis and reporting unspoiled by filthy profit motive. Not only will the revolution not be televised, comrades, it won’t be hosted on an official league website, either!

Viva la revolución!

Viva el Tiempo Caliente!

Previously on NASL Roundup....

Although three of four week six matches ended in draws, the lackluster results shook up the NASL standings and set up a potentially scintillating week seven: Only three points separated the first-place Tampa Bay Rowdies from seventh-place FC Edmonton, and four teams entered the weekend with a chance to claim the top spot on the table. Most intriguingly, the Carolina RailHawks got a chance to avenge last week's bitter road loss to Tampa Bay, a defeat sealed by an own goal in the 92nd minute.

Could the RailHawks beat the Rowdies and reclaim the league lead?

Would San Antonio finally get their first win of the fall season?

Is Kellen Gulley a living, breathing soccer player or just a figment of Javier Leon's fevered imagination?

For the answers to these questions and more, Fire fans, read on!

Carolina RailHawks 2 - 2 Tampa Bay Rowdies

The anticipated rematch produced plenty of goals and drama, but couldn't produce a winner in Cary, North Carolina, Saturday night. Unsigned Fire draft pick Lucky Mkosana earned his first start for the Rowdies, and Evans Frimpong scored against the RailHawks for the second week in a row. Carolina winger Tiyi Shipalane also replicated his goal-scoring form from the previous week, drilling a shot past Tampa Bay ‘keeper Diego Restrepo in the 30th minute to notch his second goal of the fall campaign. In yet another parallel to last week's clash in St. Petersburg, the game wasn't decided until the closing minutes, when RailHawks captain Austin da Luz collected the ball at the top of the eighteen-yard box and fired a skidding diagonal shot through the Rowdies defense to the far corner of the net. The last-gasp goal extended Carolina's home unbeaten streak to thirteen games, a run that includes U.S. Open Cup wins over both the Galaxy and Chivas USA. The draw is Tampa's fifth in seven matches, and although the Rowdies remain the fall half's only undefeated club, the solitary point wasn't enough to preserve their place at the head of the table.

New York Cosmos 1 - 0 Minnesota United FC

Saturday evening's win over Minnesota propels the Cosmos to the top of the NASL standings for the first time since the 1980s. Oh, who are we kidding here? The modern Cosmos franchise has less claim to the star-studded legacy of the 70s and 80s than the expansion Cleveland Browns have to the glory days of Otto Graham. Anyway, back to association football. New York left back Hunter Freeman set up Queens' own Sebastian Guenzatti in the 77th minute before being sent off three minutes later for a two-footed studs-up challenge on Miguel Ibarra. The Cosmos finished the match with ten men, three points, and the league lead. The Loons finished the match with a man advantage, three yellow cards, and a phony European name. Despite being both united and a football club, Minnesota lost, and now a team called the Cosmos is atop the standings the first time since Dallas was America's top-rated television program and the Sting were outdrawing the Bulls in Chicago.

Atlanta Silverbacks 2 - 1 San Antonio Scorpions

The earlier question about whether or not San Antonio would record their first win since July 4 was purely rhetorical. After last week's scoreless draw in Fort Lauderdale snapped a five-game losing skid, the Scorpions kicked off what promises to be another lengthy stretch of futility in Atlanta Saturday night. Mexican striker Ruben Luna, an FC Dallas academy product, scored the opening goal and delivered the assist on Daniel Barrera's game-winner.

Despite failing to collect a point for the sixth time in seven matches, there was at least one bright spot for the cellar-dwellers: The Scorpions finished with eleven men for the first time in nearly a calendar month. As Dr. Leo Marvin's book advises, keep taking those baby steps, San Antonio. Baby steps out of Silverbacks Park.... Baby steps back to Texas.... Baby steps onto the practice field....

So, how about that Gulley kid?

Q. Did Kellen Gulley play?

A. No.

Q. Did Kellen Gulley make the game-day eighteen?

A. Yes!

Although he wasn't one of the three substitutions made by Silverbacks manager Brian Haynes, the Fire's nineteen-year-old Homegrown Player at least dressed for the match.

Baby steps, Kellen. Baby steps.

FC Edmonton 1 - 1 Fort Lauderdale Strikers

Fort Lauderdale entered Sunday's match at Alberta's Clarke Stadium two points behind the new New York Cosmos but couldn't come away with the full three points after conceding a first-half goal. In the 38th minute, Eddies left back Lance Laing's thirty-yard free kick nicked the wall and wrong-footed Strikers ‘keeper Richard Sánchez, spoiling the Mexican U-20 World Cup hero's bid to pass former Rowdies netminder Jeff Attinella for the NASL consecutive scoreless minutes record. Sánchez's streak ended just six minutes shy of Attinella's mark of 359 minutes without conceding.

The Fort Lauderdale bench protested referee Alain Ruch's decision to allow Edmonton to retake the kick after strong winds had shifted the ball before Laing's foot touched it, eventually causing such a stir that uniformed police officers escorted manager Günter Kronsteiner from the sideline. Ruch also issued a red card to Strikers midfielder Walter Restrepo for arguing from the bench. Even after the ejections, the visitors managed to secure a point on Cuban forward Yakiel Pérez's 57th-minute goal. The draw drops Fort Lauderdale into fourth place, tied for points with Carolina and Tampa Bay, but trailing in goal differential.

NASL Standings

Team

GP

W

T

L

Points

New York Cosmos

7

3

3

1

12

Tampa Bay Rowdies

7

2

5

0

11

Carolina RailHawks

7

3

2

2

11

Fort Lauderdale Strikers

7

3

2

2

11

Atlanta Silverbacks

7

2

4

1

10

Minnesota United FC

7

2

2

3

8

FC Edmonton

7

1

5

1

8

San Antonio Scorpions

7

0

1

6

1

Upcoming NASL Matches

Saturday, September 21, 2013

  • Atlanta Silverbacks at Tampa Bay Rowdies (6:30 p.m. CDT)
  • New York Cosmos at Fort Lauderdale Strikers (6:30 p.m. CDT)
  • Carolina RailHawks at San Antonio Scorpions (7:30 p.m. CDT)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

  • Minnesota United FC at FC Edmonton (3:00 p.m. CDT)

If you're interested in catching some of the upcoming weekend's second-division action, the Hot Time brain trust recommends the NASL website's live stream of the match between the Silverbacks and Rowdies, where you can see Evans Frimpong and Lucky Mkosana each looking more purposeful and menacing than Federico Puppo ever did in Chicago kit. If you're lucky, you might even witness Kellen Gulley making some baby steps onto the pitch.

That's it for us this week, Fire fans!

Tune in next time! Same Hot Time! Same Hot Channel!

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