Thursday, June 2, 2016

NASL 2016 Spring Championship Final Sprint Part 3 - FC Edmonton, Rayo OKC and Ottawa Eliminated!

The Cosmos are one win away from being Spring Champs, but will they win?
By: James Cormack

After a great night of NASL action in the US Open Cup where our league teams won 7 of the 9 matches played and 6 of them against USL opposition, it's time to get back to the Spring Championship.

We are now at a point when things are becoming more clearly defined. New York have put themselves in a win and win situation. Sitting atop the table on 18 pts, if they win their final game this weekend in Florida against the Strikers they will finish on 21pts. No other team can catch that even if they win out. 

Minnesota lost and Indy Eleven drew last week ending their chances of finishing the Spring season on 22pts. Both sides can only finish on 20pts if they win out their last two games.

FC Edmonton were eliminated from the running after defeat in Miami. They currently only have one game left, they could achieve three more points but currently sit four points behind the Cosmos. 

Rayo OKC and Ottawa Fury also unsurprisingly are no longer mathematically capable. So we are left with six teams still in the chase, and some of them have to play each other. All eliminated teams can still have a say but this week I'll take a look at the six remaining runners first.

Current Top 7 in the standings from NASL.COM

1. New York Cosmos - The Cosmos have one game left, the task is simple - win the game and win Spring. The worst thing that could happen for New York would be to lose in Fort Lauderdale, a draw would put them on 19pts and still leave everyone else chasing. The Cosmos will play Jersey Express in the US Open Cup third round before traveling to Florida to open the NASL weekend at 7.00pm on June 4th. 

By 9.00pm on Saturday the Spring Championship could be over, but of course The Strikers will have something to say about that, they have no option but to win out if they want that trophy. Anything other than a Cosmos win means the New York side will have to watch from the outside on the final weekend as they serve their bye week.

NYC Remaining Game - @ Ft. Lauderdale Strikes 7.00pm June 4th

2. Indy Eleven - Indy could have done themselves a big favor by winning in Jacksonville, they only took one point and now their fate is no longer in their own hands. Like pretty much every other team they must win out and hope for NYC to slip. Indy are struggling with injuries and will play a USOC tie against Louisville City FC before departing for Florida to play Miami FC on Saturday. 

Indy's back line are dropping like flies and Miami have now picked up four points from two top 5 teams in their last two games. Miami will also play in USOC against Wilmington before playing Indy. The Eleven will round out their season at home against Carolina. There is a chance they could clinch Spring with a win and a draw, six points would be preferred to finish on 20pts but it's going to be tough for an injury laden roster. The Miami game will be crucial, after that they can rest a week and possibly get some players back healthy.

IND Remaining Games - Miami FC (A) June 4th & Railhawks (H) June 11th

3. Minnesota United - Minnesota lost control of their own destiny by losing at home to Tampa Bay Rowdies last weekend, with back to back defeats in the last two rounds their goal difference has also received a dent and they lost a point on Indy Eleven. Winning out would put then on 19pts and they would have to rely on an NYC loss, or a draw but would then have to overcome the Cosmos differential which currently stands at +8. 

Their next tie is potentially tricky, playing on the patchwork turf of Rayo OKC who badly need to win at home. The Loons will round out their season, like Indy, at home against Miami FC. Minnesota will travel to St Louis FC to play in the Open Cup before heading to Oklahoma. Rayo themselves have a tough derby in USOC against Energy OKC. With an extra game for all teams weird things could happen this weekend. Minnesota on 13pts must win in Oklahoma, a draw or a defeat will eliminate them.

MNU Remaining Games - Rayo OKC (A) June 4th & Miami FC (H) June 11th

4. Carolina Railhawks - The Railhawks return from their bye with two games remaining and thirteen points in the bag, they sit below Minnesota on goal difference and no have to rely on winning out and scoring plenty. The biggest problem for Carolina is they have to play their last game of the season in Indianapolis against another team pushing for the title. That last game could end up being a title decider.

The Railhawks face a reasonably tricky USOC tie against Charlotte Independence before entertaining Jacksonville Armada at home this weekend. Carolina must defeat Armada first to have any chance, if they don't they are eliminated, not even a draw will allow them to catch the 18pt mark of the Cosmos. If they win and the Cosmos don't, then they can turn their attention on Indy Eleven, however if Cosmos draw it will be extremely difficult for the Railhawks to overhaul the goal difference even if they win out, currently -7 on NYC.

CAR Remaining Games - Jacksonville (H) June 4th & Indy Eleven (A) June 11th

5. Tampa Bay Rowdies - Tampa gave themselves a lifeline and a few others by beating Minnesota last weekend. It's a fleeting chance for them and the Strikers however, both sitting on 12pts they must win out and win good and also hope that the Cosmos lose, preferably by more than one goal.

Tampa have as good a chance as any to win out. They have a pretty tough USOC tie against FC Cincinnati first then play at home to Ottawa before making the short trip to Jacksonville to round out Spring. Six points is achievable, but their fate lies in the hands of another Florida team, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Like Carolina their GD is only +1 right now, so they will have to put several past their last two opponents to increase their chances.

TBR Remaining Games - Ottawa (H) June 4th & Jacksonville (A) June 11th

6. Fort Lauderdale Strikers - Last but by no means least, the fate of the Spring Championship can be determined by them, they are all that can stop the Spring Championship finishing a week early and they could be the team that causes New York to sit around nervously in front of the TV on June 11th.

The Strikers are currently playing Richmond Kickers in the US Open Cup as I write this, they started at 11am so get a little more rest time than other teams. It goes without saying their next game is their biggest of the year and all eyes will be on them. On Saturday at 7pm they will play at home against the Cosmos knowing they must win to have any chance of winning Spring. 

The Strikers also must win impressively because their goal differential is at ZERO right now and they lag 8 goals behind New York, they will have to be equally impressive in their final game at Edmonton. If they can win this weekend, the Spring Title stays open for all of the above teams. If they lose then the Cosmos will return home as Spring Champions.

FTL Remaining Games - Cosmos (H) June 4th & FC Edmonton (A) June 11th

Can't we just have a beer and ignore the math?

Scenarios, Scenarios and More Scenarios.......

1. The most obvious one, the New York Cosmos win in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday night and they win the Spring Championship. A 21pt finish cannot be caught by any other team regardless of winning our or scoring a boat load of goals.

2. What if Cosmos take a point in Ft. Lauderdale? This would put them on 19pts and eliminate both the Strikers and Tampa from the race. Carolina would have to win out both of their final games and hope they can overhaul the goal difference to have any chance, Minnesota would also have to do the same, both teams sit on 13 pts and can only achieve 19. Indy Eleven also would have to win out but would not have to be concerned about goal differential as they would finish on 20pts, there is no other scenario for Indy, a draw and a win would leave them on 18.

3. What if the Strikers win and the Cosmos lose their final game? This is the scenario that keeps the dream alive for everyone and has the Cosmos biting their nails on June 11th. It also opens up a whole new set of complications. Assuming that Indy Eleven, Minnesota, Tampa and Carolina all win their games how does this affect things?

Indy Eleven would have the upper hand if they manage to win at Miami, they would be the only remaining team that could potentially finish on 20pts. They could draw in Miami and win their final home game to end on 18 and hope that Minnesota does not win out. It would then come down to whether Tampa or Ft. Lauderdale also win out and the goal difference between them.

Minnesota and Carolina both have to win out, they have to finish on 19pts to have any chance because if either of them draw they would finish on 17pts, less than New York's 18. Minnesota have the strongest chance playing Miami in their final game, Carolina have to face off against Indy Eleven in Indianapolis.

Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa would be on 15pts, meaning only a win is acceptable in their final game in order to finish on 18pts and hope that they can cover the goal differential and also hope that neither Indy, Carolina or Minnesota win out.

4. I could add quite a few nightmare scenarios here, but I will just stick to one! WHAT IF..... the Strikers, the Rowdies, Indy, Minnesota, and Carolina all won by two clear goals this weekend? This would create a situation where the title may not be decided until June 12 (well done on the scheduling there NASL? All fixtures on penultimate weekend on same day, but the last has them spread over two days?).

If Indy Draw their final game it would eliminate Carolina, but leave a situation where Minnesota wins with 19. In the same respect if MNU loses and Indy draws then Strikers and Rowdies can pull level on 18 and it all comes down to goal differential. If Indy and Minnesota loses then Carolina becomes Spring Champs.... okay okay my head is getting sore and I have already written too much! (see imaginary final week table below)

If Indy, Minnesota, Strikers, Tampa and Railhawks all win by 2 this weekend?

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