We’re almost at the close.
You know what’s nuts? If the New York Cosmos, like Puerto Rico FC, had skipped the Spring Season and started after ten games…they’d still be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
This past week, I submitted my ballot for Gio Savarese for NASL Coach of the Year. It wasn’t a difficult choice. The Cosmos now lead the field by nine points in the overall table, and by eight in the fall. This, despite losing the services of Niko Kranjčar, Michael Lahoud, Gabriel Farfan, and Hunter Freeman, and not replacing them. This is the leanest New York Cosmos team we’ve seen since their entry into the league, and perhaps a harbinger of a more cautious approach to team building for the green and white. But for Gio Savarese? He’s winning anyway. It doesn’t matter.
In a normal universe, the Cosmos are overwhelming favorites to win the championship. I fear only their inability to host the finals can stop them.
Edmonton had a bad weekend in Minnesota, following a bad midweek loss in Fort Lauderdale. Two losses in a row is a warning sign for this club, but I’m inclined to cut a bit of slack for the Eddies, as they rested some key players during the trip. That being said, two losses in a row is not a good look at all. Both games were away, and the Eddies are certain to play away in the first leg of the playoffs, and highly likely to play away in the second leg as well.
Colin Miller’s men need to recapture some momentum this coming weekend at home against the Armada. Getting Matt VanOekel back in goal would be a good start. The Loons attack devoured Albert Watson, Papé Diakité, and especially poor Cristian Raudales. But back-up goalkeeper Tyson Farago didn’t help his case either. When the full gang is back together, this defense ought to clam right back up again.
IUPUI is home sweet home for the Eleven, as it’s been all year. The Eleven smashed the visiting Carolina RailHawks 3-0 to extend their home record to 12-3-0. To close out the season, Indy will travel to Tampa Bay to play spoiler, then return back to Indianapolis to roast Puerto Rico, and finally end the season trying not to get injured in Oklahoma City. Then it’s Edmonton in the first round of the playoffs.
With their sterling home record, you’ve got to think the Eleven are just about booked in the finals. The odds are fairly straightforward I think. If they are able to buy the hosting rights from New York, I think they win the championship as well. If they have to travel to a neutral site in the NY metro, they’ve got a better chance than if they were at Hofstra, but the odds are still against them.
It was an absolutely wild week among the teams chasing the fourth seed in the NASL playoffs, and my rankings of probability were proven comically wrong almost immediately. The stunning surprise this week came from Oklahoma City, who stuck a fork in the RailHawks’ playoff hopes in Cary, then bolstered their own with a decisive win over Ottawa at home. The Scissortails are unbeaten in seven, and tied on points for the fourth spot. Their final matches: away to Fort Lauderdale and at home against Indy are both winnable. Nobody really saw this run coming (Nobody is seeing it happen either). It’s nuts, but with two games left, OKC have the best shot.
Second most likely are Minnesota, who showed up on Saturday as if nothing had happened in between the fourth week of the season and the twenty seventh. The Loons battered Edmonton 3-1, their offense was humming, their defense was on point, and the three points came easily. In the old fable, the Loons are the hare. They have the ability to put this playoff race away, but they’ve had that ability for months and haven’t exercised it. This weekend, they travel to Carolina, which has historically been tough. The last week of the season, they host New York. They’ve got tougher matches than Oklahoma, but they’ve got the edge in goal differential and looked equally impressive in the past match.
Tampa Bay meanwhile continue to tread water. Opportunity has been pounding on the Rowdies’ door, demanding to be let in for weeks and Stuart Campbell’s men are still in the shower, blissfully singing showtunes. The green and gold are three points back with three games to go, and their matches are winnable. They host Indy midweek and Ottawa on the weekend, before capping off the season in Jacksonville. If they actually had a history of taking advantage of their chances, maybe I’d have a bit more faith. Year two of the #OneYearPlan continues on…
Miami seemed a brilliant bet to make the playoffs a few weeks ago, but then, at the point of success, something happened and they’ve faded horribly since. The teal and tangerine have three games left, which still gives them a shot. But they’re now four points off the pace. Furthermore, after playing in Jacksonville this Wednesday, Miami face New York at home and then host Edmonton. That’s a brutal finish for a team that needs every last point. Fall short against the Armada, and Miami could be essentially eliminated.
I didn’t even include Fort Lauderdale among the playoff contenders last week. They had lost four straight and looked terrible. Yet they managed to edge a depleted Edmonton team in the middle of last week, then beat Puerto Rico on the weekend. Suddenly with two wins, the Strikers are back in the mix. The odds are still long, with two games remaining and a gap of three points. But they’ll have a chance to stake their case this weekend when they host OKC. Finishing the season away in Ottawa is tougher than it looks, but not an impossible ask either.
Finally the RailHawks, who I thought had among the best chances last week, are now almost certainly out of the hunt, thanks to two loses. The defeat away to Indy was expected, but their midweek home capitulation to OKC was really unacceptable, and it’s probably doomed their season. Occasionally I come back to the fact that Carolina started the year with four straight wins. They earned a third of their points this season in the first four weeks and it’s been downhill ever since.
#10. Ottawa Fury – (7-9-14, 30 pts) – Down One
Ottawa have dutifully resumed their role as a league doormat. The Fury traveled to Oklahoma and were crushed by the Scissortails. At this point, we’re counting down the games left for this club. It’s all a bit of a mystery what will happen this offseason. A move to USL seems likely, but will the USL accept them? Will the CSA accept the move? Lots of bureaucracy to manage, and the club is probably more focused on that than the actual games at this point.
#11. Puerto Rico FC – (4-9-7, 21 pts) – Down One
Time is running out for Los Naranjas to catch Jacksonville in the combined table. Puerto Rico’s run of good form evaporated this weekend with a loss to Fort Lauderdale. They next travel to Indy (near-certain loss) before ending the year at home against Carolina (could be anything). It’s been a good run, this team was more fun than I expected.
Jacksonville have three matches remaining, and while their playoff hopes died basically by week five, they can still play the spoiler. They host Miami this Wednesday and host Tampa Bay in the final week of the year, with a trip to Edmonton in the middle. But whether the Armada are capable of playing the spoiler is another issue. They did look decent for a while against New York before getting buried in the final minutes…
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