Thirst for goals = slaked. It’s the NASL Fall Season Power Rankings – Week 6.
1. Ottawa Fury FC
The Fury are atop the Combined table, the Fall Season table, and probably the Spring Season table somehow at this point. Most dangerously, Ottawa’s success this week came not from usual suspects Tommy Heinemann or Richie Ryan down the middle, but from more traditionally wide players such as Siniša Ubiparipović, Mauro Eustaquio, and a brace by Andrew Wiedeman. The unbeaten streak has reached twelve games, the win streak has hit five, and during those five games Ottawa has scored more than one goal all but once and have not been shut out a single time in the entire Fall Season. The club has learned to balance the stifling defense that defined its spring with the need for a potent attack. A #LastTimeFuryLost hashtag has even emerged on Twitter. It’s time to dub Ottawa “The Best Team In The United States.”
2. New York Cosmos
In a very congested week, the swirling ethereal mystery known as the Cosmos came together for seven points in seven days, as many points in a week as half of all NASL teams have earned in the entire Fall Season so far. After nabbing three at home against middleweights Ft. Lauderdale last weekend, New York earned all three against a strong Minnesota side on the strength of a Hunter Freeman wonderstrike from another time zone. Ft. Lauderdale got a small measure of revenge in tying the Cosmos on Saturday, but only achieved that against what must be called half a New York B-side. Adam Moffat proved his worth not just in adding the substitute goal but by also helping to stem the tide of goals from the defensive midfield position that had put the Cosmos behind by three goals. Encouraging, also, to see the increasing output of Leo Fernandes out of the left midfield.
3. Carolina Railhawks
The Railhawks enjoyed a chance to lick their wounds this week after a draw against beatable Tampa Bay and a loss to Ottawa the weekend before. With the weekend dust settled, Carolina finds themselves a game out of the playoff berths but with a game in hand over Minnesota. The Railies will earn their frequent flier miles this week with a very tough midweek match at Jacksonville (Armada is actually very good at home; when the boat leaves the harbor the water gets choppy) then a challenging game in Edmonton proper. The best teams find ways to pull points out of winnable games regardless of the circumstances. It is time for Carolina to decide whether it is among the best teams.
4. Atlanta Silverbacks
Attempting to ape the Fury’s hot streak, Atlanta earned a win on Wednesday and came inches from another that would have been its fourth win in a row. Alas, going up 3-1 against the Scorpions is not always enough when Omar Cummings laces up the boots. Though seven points in eight days is hardly a monkey on their backs, they will rue those lost points badly. But the team sits second in the Fall table and have a less than formidable slate of fallible Jacksonville, reeling Indy, and roll-of-the-dice Edmonton to feast on. With those teams on the menu and the white-hot combination of Pedro Mendes and Jaime Chávez leading the charge, the Silverbacks are poised to make a run. If there is an 800-pound gorilla in the room the league needs to be wary of, this club may be it.
5. Minnesota United FC
Is it time to head back to the drawing board in Minnesota? It was easier to gloss over the Loons’ failings when they were tearing the nets to shreds with goal after goal. But the days of eleven goals in three games feel long gone. A single point this week after ceding the win to the Cosmos (another late game concession) and failing to capitalize against an inconsistent Edmonton. The good news is that Christian Ramirez found the net once again for his sixth goal in six games since being restored to the starting lineup, though Saturday it came from the spot rather than from open play. The most surprising silver lining among the dark clouds right now: United currently sit in the top four in the Combined table, which would punch their postseason ticket. That’s the NASL right now.
6. Tampa Bay Rowdies
The bleeding seems to have stopped. The Rowdies followed up a goodish road draw against a goodish Railhawks team with a three-point goal fest at home against the Armada. Crucially, the goals came from forwards Maicon Santos and Brian Shriver, a sign of strong depth along the traditional scorers Corey Hertzog’s and Georgi Hristov’s of the world. One young man who did not don the green and gold was Freddy Adu, who sat a second consecutive game after injuring his leg in training before the Carolina game. Could it be that Adu’s presence was just an albatross around the neck of this team?
The Eddies went loss-win-draw this week. Just proof that the world is still turning. Incredibly, FC Edmonton’s random results have been good enough for third in the Fall standings and only two points outside the top four in the Combined. Tomi Ameobi at least put some consistency on display, netting twice in a week and inching up to fourth on the goals chart. If the team itself is ever going to settle into some kind of form, it may as well do so now with a two week homestand against beatable teams. Watching Lance Laing, Ameobi, and Sainey Nyassi all getting back out on the pitch, one feels they have the tools for a surge.
8. Ft. Lauderdale Strikers
In the Strikers’ defense, the team had a good little unbeaten run early in the fall before playing New York twice and Atlanta once in a single week. That’s a grueling week that will grind any team’s momentum to a halt. Unfortunately, that’s the only defense to speak of with this team. The club allowed seven goals in three games, the last three coming in a monumental collapse against the Cosmos that witnessed a three-goal lead melt into a single point. The good news is that for all the flack about lacking a suitable goalscorer behind Stefano Pinho, Walter Ramírez has emerged in scorching form, finding three goals in four days. After this unfairly challenging week, the club now has three straight games against lightweights. Time for the Pinho-Ramírez express to lead the club out of the tunnel.
9. Indy Eleven
You’ve got to hand it to the 10,000 or so fans who torture themselves at each Indy home game. Passion comes easy when the times are good; the times are really bad right now. Losers of four of five games, Indy will be praying for a rogue Cosmos game to pop up on the calendar to at least hand them a tie and put a halt to the slide. It is easy to look at the pair of four goal batterings the team took to Ottawa and blame Indy’s poor defense for their woes. But if Indy had scored two goals in every game they had played in the fall so far, it would have eight more points and would be trailing only the Fury and Silverbacks in the Fall Table. Granted, a lot of teams would take two goals per game; the point is that Indy has generally kept the team in games if it only had the firepower to take advantage. But the keys I use to type that criticism are getting pretty worn on this keyboard, and I can’t read them well enough anymore to type it one more time.
10. San Antonio Scorpions
And if the Scorpions scored two goals a game all fall? They would emerge with one fewer point and submerge to last in the standings. That’s how incredible this offense is, and how shambolic the defense is. Omar Cummings is making a scary MVP case and on any other team you might say he gives you a chance to win any game. In San Antonio, though, he only gives you a chance to maybe not lose it. The attacking-minded 4-5-1 formation isn’t doing the trick; replacing the center attacking midfield role with a defensive midfielder to shield the back line (and finding someone more suitable to that role than Rafael Castillo) might do the trick to calm things down. It may be at the expense of goals, but when a flurry of strikes isn’t enough to earn points, then what are you really giving up?
11. Jacksonville Armada FC
After a win and a tie against two of the league’s better teams, it seemed that Jacksonville might have pulled anchor finally. But losing to kind-of rivals Tampa Bay, which had looked entirely aimless for a month, puts Jacksonvillains right back on the ropes. Their fate followed a familiar plot, as well: a talented front line just wasn’t enough to compensate for a Swiss cheese defense. And if they scored two goals a game? The Armada would only net four more points, not even enough to emerge from the bottom half of the standings. It is more than finding cohesion and unlocking the right combination of tactics. This fleet needs to be reassembled, starting at the bottom.
Disagree with our rankings? Let us know in the comments.