|Two down, nine to go. Jacksonville bows out of the race for Spring.|
By: James Cormack
With another defeat for Jacksonville Armada they join Miami FC in being the first two teams who are mathematically out of the running for the NASL Spring Championship. It's been a rough start for Florida teams in general. Tony Meola's Armada have won only four points in seven games so far. Tampa again failed to gain ground but Fort Lauderdale Strikers picked up a valuable win on the road in Oklahoma bringing themselves back into contention, as did Ottawa with a win over the aforementioned Jacksonville.
It's easy to look at numbers and stats and suggest that it will likely require 20pts to win the Spring trophy, the last three seasons have been won with 21-20-20. This year however is proving to be very competitive indeed. With only three rounds left there are five points separating ninth place from first and no doubt there are more surprises to come. We could see a Spring winner with under 20pts after June 11th.
New York Cosmos came out on top this week, while FC Edmonton held first place for 2 whole hours, the Cosmos defeat over Tampa put them in pole position with two games remaining for them. FC Edmonton, New York and Carolina are the only sides yet to have taken their bye week. Next week it will be the Railhawks who sit out, FC Edmonton will get a rest the week after and New York will not play in the final week of Spring.
It goes without saying, for all teams all of the final rounds of Spring are important, even if you can't win Spring everyone is playing for a Soccer Bowl playoff spot and combined points are important, every point earned in every game is gold come the end of fall. Teams underperforming have to try and turn their season around in every single game, Jacksonville and Miami are still going to be a big factor in this.
|The nine remaining teams in contention for the Spring Championship (table by NASL Official)|
This week we'll take a look at the teams and their chances from top to bottom, what they have left to do and also which teams could prove spoilers for those at the top. Also no harm to thrown in a few possible scenarios for the next round.
1. New York Cosmos - A few trips and stumbles against the tougher teams in the league, New York found the top again after a win over Tampa, despite three losses they have won all five of their other games putting themselves on 15 pts. Cosmos play Rayo at home next, but the tripping point for them could be their final game away to an improving Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. If they fail to win that game they may have to spend the final round watching someone else win as they take their bye week. If they win out their final two games they finish on 21pts, possibly enough to win Spring unless Minnesota and Indy can win out also. Cosmos have only two games left.
NYC Remaining Games - Rayo OKC (H) Strikers (A)
2. FC Edmonton - FC Edmonton again emphasized they are not a team to be discounted in 2016. A win over Carolina put them momentarily in first place on Sunday. Another team with only two games remaining FCE will need to win out to hit 20pts for Spring. Up next is bottom side Miami FC who are desperately in need of a lift and should not be taken lightly. Like New York, Edmonton have to finish their season playing Fort Lauderdale at home which could also prove sticky.
FCE Remaining Games - Miami FC (A) Strikers (H)
3. Minnesota United - Minnesota had the chance to win Spring this week, it is arguable had they defeated Indy Eleven and moved to 16 pts with three games remaining it would be very difficult to see past them not winning it. As it was, Indy won and Minnesota remain on 13pts. They finish their Spring with at home to Miami, but their next two matches could be tricky. Tampa desperately needs points to stay in the race and won't be easy. Rayo OKC play on turf on top of turf, and according to Loons fans turf is cruel and unfair and their team can't play on it so expect them to drop points in Oklahoma as they did in Ottawa and Indy. ( Somehow they won and kept a clean sheet on Edmonton turf, they must have the most grass-like turf?)
MNU Remaining Games - Tampa (H) Rayo OKC (A) Miami FC (H)
4. Indy Eleven - Indy did what was required on Saturday and beat Minnesota to peg them back and keep themselves in the race, the win was vital for their chances. Before the luxury of a home game in the final round against Carolina, Indy have to play two potentially tricky away games in Florida, first against Jacksonville then Miami FC. Alessandro Nesta was at Carroll to watch Indy and MNU, they need points for the overall season as do Armada, and they dipped into the transfer market again picking up Lahoud from Cosmos via Philadelphia Union. Indy should be looking at gaining at least 6 points from their final three games if they want a chance to win Spring, ideally they need seven.
IND Remaining Games - Jacksonville (A) Miami (A) Carolina (H)
5. Carolina Railhawks - Railhawks still trying to get back to that early spring form, only one point gained in the last four matches. One of the three teams with only two games remaining, they really need to win both to have a chance, they have Jacksonville at home but then the difficult task of playing Indy Eleven in the final game of Spring. Winning out is the only way for Railhawks at this stage and it still may not be enough.
CAR Remaining Games - Jacksonville (H) Indy Eleven (A)
6. Fort Lauderdale Strikers - A win in Oklahoma has put the Strikers back in contention and also put a dent in Rayo OKC's hopes. Sitting level with Tampa Bay on 9 points they also would need to win out to have any chance of a Spring Title, three wins would give them 18pts which most likely will not be enough. The team is improving though, and could cause upsets for New York and Edmonton in their final two games.
FTL Remaining Games - Ottawa Fury (A) Cosmos (H) FC Edmonton (A)
7. Tampa Bay Rowdies - Tampa could have helped themselves and everyone else by defeating Cosmos at the weekend, they took the lead but after two goals from New York and some dubious calls they helped send NYC to the top of the table. Like the Strikers they need to win out to have any chance. Next up a road trip to Minnesota before playing at home to Ottawa and away to Jacksonville. Won't be easy and again 18pts may not be enough, they could throw a massive wrench in the works by upsetting Minnesota though.
TBR Remaining Games - Minnesota (A) Ottawa (H) Jacksonville (A)
8. Rayo OKC - Rayo lost at home to Strikers on Saturday, although still mathematically in the race I think any team on 8pts or lower at this stage will not be likely to win the Spring Championship. Winning out would put them on 17pts, not enough, one more win for Cosmos would put them on 18, and Rayo OKC faces New York next. Still like other teams they need combined points and can be a spoiler for New York and Minnesota United.
OKC Remaining Games - Cosmos (A) Minnesota (H) Ottawa Fury (A)
9. Ottawa Fury - Ottawa picked off another win at the weekend effectively knocking Jacksonville out of the Spring running and lifting themselves onto 8pts along with Rayo. Again winning out their games probably still not enough. Probably not going to be a spoiler for any team either except possibly Tampa Bay, their last three games are not going to have much impact at the top.
OTT Remaining Games - Strikers (H) Tampa Bay (A) Rayo OKC (H)
10. Jacksonville Armada - [Eliminated] Defeat to Ottawa at the weekend ended any hopes, if there was any of Jacksonville competing for Spring honors. Every team has to focus on overall season so JAX are in prime position to be a spoiler with their last three games against three teams in contention, especially Indy who they play at home and Carolina away, their final game will be against Tampa Bay. Could they be the biggest party poopers or could that honor go to...... Miami FC?
JAX Remaining games - Indy Eleven (H) Carolina (A) Tampa Bay (H)
11. Miami F.C. - [Eliminated] Miami are bad and they know it, they are spending. Already have signed Richie Ryan from JAX and unconfirmed rumors today they have signed Michael Lahoud who was on loan at Cosmos from Philadelphia Union. Like all teams struggling they know the importance of any points picked up now and how those will impact their chances of combined season qualification. Should not be dismissed or underestimated. Miami come out of their bye week and will face three of the top contenders for Spring, the first two Edmonton and Indy Eleven at home before meeting Minnesota on the final day. Miami could still break a lot of hearts before all is said and done. With two of their three remaining games at home, they really need to give local fans a reason to come to the games.
MIA Remaining games - FC Edmonton (H) Indy Eleven (H) Minnesota Utd (A)
One of the good things about the NASL League and Playoff set up is that there is very rarely a game that has no importance, especially not this early. Even towards the end of fall last year the majority of teams were still in contention. I have no doubts there are some surprises in store in the next few games, some bringing joy and some heartbreak. Some teams will be focusing on winning Spring and some will not have that distraction but will be setting their sights on qualification via any route possible.
So what if the next round was a weekend of potential upsets? What results could put the Spring table into intensity overdrive?
If Ft. Lauderdale pulls off another win in Ottawa, Indy Eleven defeats Jacksonville, Cosmos draw with Rayo OKC, Miami draw with FC Edmonton and Minnesota defeats Tampa Bay Rowdies this would eliminate Rayo, Tampa and Ottawa and leave the table looking like this...
|With one or two games to go this situation would be insane!|
Looking forward to seeing what the real picture will look like after week nine. INTENSE! BRING IT ON!