Thursday, June 20, 2013

Down the stretch: The final weeks of NASL Spring 2013

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With just three weeks remaining, the race for the spring title and the right to host the NASL Soccer Bowl later this fall is a wide open race with five of the seven clubs still in the hunt with only six points separating the league-leading Atlanta Silverbacks and San Antonio Scorpions, who are tied for fifth.

The top three clubs in the table currently all have a full slate of games remaining whilst the fourth-place Tampa Rowdies, the defending league champion, have a tall task ahead of them, trailing by five points with only two games left on top of a stretch that has seen them go winless (0-3-1) in their last four since US Open Cup play began.

The long shot many may have to look out for are the Scorpions, who have been at the bottom most of the season. The regular season champions a year ago have won their last two and with a little help could make the jump all the way to first by winning out the remaining three games ahead of them. San Antonio also has the fortune of what is arguably the easiest remaining slate with a pair of games against already eliminated Edmonton and Fort Lauderdale before they close out at home against Carolina.

The second-place Carolina RailHawks are among the hottest teams in the league with three unbeaten (1-0-2) in league play and a pair of US Open Cup wins against MLS opposition, but will be competing for the league title while also preparing for the Open Cup Quarterfinals.

Minnesota United, in third, lies three points back and have won two of their last three. The club is the only team in the league that is unbeaten this season against the remaining opposition on their schedule having posted a 2-0-1 record against Carolina, Edmonton and Atlanta.

Atlanta and Carolina are the only other clubs that completely control their destiny at this point. The Silverbacks have momentum in their favor with the one-point lead and are unbeaten in their last four (3-0-1). However, the Silverbacks have to play the three teams directly behind them in the table, though Carolina's three opponents are all still alive for the title as well.

In addition, if every team posted the same results in their remaining games as they did in their first encounters, the Silverbacks would come out on top with 23 points with Minnesota finishing second at 21.

One of the factors keeping things up in the air is the tiebreaker policies which have head-to-head results third behind goal difference and goals scored.

NASL REMAINING TEAM FIXTURES -- Previous meeting result 

Atlanta Silverbacks 5-2-2, 17 pts (poss: 26)
June 22 vs Tampa Bay -- WIN 4:3 Away
June 29 @ Carolina -- WIN 2:0 Home
July 4 @ Minnesota -- LOSS 2:3 Home

Carolina RailHawks 4-1-4, 16 pts (poss: 25)
June 22 vs Minnesota -- DRAW 2:2 Away
June 29 vs Atlanta -- LOSS 0:2 Away
July 4 @ San Antonio -- WIN 5:2 Home

Minnesota United 4-3-2, 14 pts (poss: 23)
June 22 @ Carolina -- DRAW 2:2 Home
June 30 @ Edmonton -- WIN 2:0 Home
July 4 vs Atlanta -- WIN 3:2 Away

Tampa Bay Rowdies 3-4-3, 12 pts (poss: 18)
June 22 @ Atlanta -- LOSS 3:4 Home
June 29 IDLE
July 4 vs Fort Lauderdale -- WIN 2:1 Away

San Antonio Scorpions 3-4-2, 11 pts (poss: 20)
June 22 vs Edmonton -- LOSS 0:1 Away
June 29 @ Fort Lauderdale -- WIN 3:1 Home
July 4 vs Carolina -- LOSS 2:5 Away

--------- ELIMINATED ----------------
FC Edmonton 2-3-5, 11 pts (poss: 17)
June 22 @ San Antonio -- WIN 1:0 Home
June 30 vs Minnesota -- LOSS 0:2 Away
July 4 IDLE

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2-6-2, 8 pts (poss: 14)
June 22 IDLE
June 29 vs San Antonio -LOSS 1:3 Away
July 4 @ Tampa Bay -- LOSS 1:2 Home

##### MY PROJECTION #####
Minnesota @ Carolina (CAR Win)
Tampa Bay @ Atlanta (Draw)
Edmonton @ San Antonio (SA Win)
Atlanta @ Carolina (CAR Win)
San Antonio @ Fort Lauderdale (SA Win)
Minnesota @ Edmonton (Draw)
Fort Lauderdale @ Tampa Bay (TB Win)
Atlanta @ Minnesota (MIN Win)
Carolina @ San Antonio (CAR Win)

The key match will come in the second of the three weeks when Atlanta and Carolina square off. In my projections Carolina locks up the spring title with a win, making the final week of the season meaningless.

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