Jacksonville Sports Day

NASL: Cosmos Defeat Armada to Win Fall Season, Clinch Top Seed

The New York Cosmos clinched the North American Soccer League (NASL) Fall Season title and the top seed in The Championship, the league’s four-team postseason tournament, after their victory over Jacksonville Armada FC was coupled with FC Edmonton’s loss against Minnesota United on Saturday night.

The defending NASL Champion Cosmos used a strong second-half performance, powered by Venezuelan star Juan Arango, to claim all three points in Jacksonville. The Cosmos clinched the No. 1 seed in the postseason for a second consecutive year and will host a semifinal game in The Championship, along with Indy Eleven.

Minnesota United got its first victory since early September, knocking off FC Edmonton in a game that saw league-leading goalscorer Christian Ramirez extend his lead in the NASL Golden Boot race. With the victory, Minnesota moved into sole possession of fourth place in the Combined Standings and is in the pole position for the final berth in the postseason.

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers kept alive their hopes of reaching The Championship with a key win over Puerto Rico FC, while the Carolina RailHawks’ postseason aspirations took a dent after a loss to Indy Eleven.

In Friday’s only game, Miami FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies battled to a draw as both teams stayed alive in the postseason hunt for another week. Rayo OKC can move into a tie, on points, with Minnesota with a win on Sunday night against Ottawa Fury FC.

New York Cosmos 4, Jacksonville Armada FC 2

The New York Cosmos scored three goals in the final 10 minutes, two from Juan Arango, to defeat Jacksonville Armada FC at Community First Park on Saturday night. The loss was Jacksonville’s first after a five-game unbeaten streak. The Cosmos have guaranteed the right to host a semifinal game in The Championship on Saturday, Nov. 5.

Largely against the run of play, New York (12W-5D-3L, 41 points Fall; 18-5-7, 59 Combined) took a 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute. Juan Arango led Jairo Arrieta with a pass into the Jacksonville (3-8-8-, 17 Fall; 4-12-13, 24 Combined) penalty area for a shot that was saved by Miguel Gallardo, but rebounded into the path of Yohandry Orozco, who directed it into the net. The goal ended the Armada FC’s 293-minute shutout streak.

Jacksonville got even in the 66th minute when Alhassane Keita scored his fifth goal of the year, roofing a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer from the top of the penalty area. Zach Steinberger gave the Armada FC the lead on an opportunistic goal in the 79th minute. After Maurer parried a shot, Steinberger beat two defenders to the ball and buried a shot for the lead.

Arango scored his 13th goal of the year when his free kick kissed the crossbar and bounced down over the goal line in the 83rd minute. The Venezuelan star did it again minutes later as he buried a patented left-footed free kick for his 14th of the year.

Minnesota United 3, FC Edmonton 1

Minnesota United won its first game in more than a month and moved into sole possession of fourth place in the Combined Standings as Christian Ramirez scored two goals in a victory over FC Edmonton at NSC Stadium.

FC Edmonton (9-6-5, 33 Fall; 14-8-8, 50 Combined) broke on top with a goal in the 16th minute. Minnesota (6-7-7, 25 Fall; 11-8-11, 41 Combined) goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock couldn’t cover a skidding free kick and Albert Watson pounced to put the rebound into the back of the net.

Christian Ramirez tied the score and added to his league-leading goal total with a one-time blast in the 23rd minute. J.C. Banks picked up an assist for a nifty flick that freed Ramirez for the open shot. Later, Ramirez scored his 18th of the year at the tail end of a beautiful counterattack. Kevin Venegas launched a long diagonal cross that Ibson, on the left, one-timed into the path of Ramirez for a quick shot.

The Loons scored an insurance goal in the 85th minute when Ben Speas struck a perfect cross to the near post that Stefano Pinho headed past Tyson Farago.

For the second game in a row, Eddies coach Colin Miller started Farago in goal in place of the league’s top ‘keeper Matt VanOekel, choosing to give his No. 1 a rest on the team’s two-game road trip. The Eddies lost their second game in the row for the first time since April.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2, Puerto Rico FC 0

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers are still in the hunt for the last remaining postseason berth after a 2-0 win over Puerto Rico FC at Central Broward Stadium on Saturday night. The loss ended Puerto Rico’s seven-game unbeaten streak.

Fort Lauderdale (6-5-9, 23 Fall; 10-8-12, 38 Combined), desperate for full points, scored the game’s first goal with only 12 minutes left in the game. Geison Moura pounced on a loose ball off a scramble in front of the Puerto Rico (4-9-10, 21 Fall; 4-9-10, 21 Combined) goal. Jose Angulo doubled the lead in the 85th minute, converting a pass from Ramón Núñez.

The Strikers came close in the 19th minute with Amauri leading the attack, dished to Moura for a shot that rebounded off the goalpost and could not be put away by the former Italian international. Amauri came close again in the 71st minute, forcing Puerto Rico goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg to make a save on a bicycle-kick attempt.

Indy Eleven 3, Carolina RailHawks 0

Indy Eleven extended its home unbeaten streak to 17 games, dating back to last year, and damaged the postseason hopes of the Carolina RailHawks with a victory at Carroll Stadium.

Indy Eleven (9-4-6, 31 Fall; 13-10-6, 49 Combined) waited until just before halftime to score the game’s first goal. A cross by Sinisa Ubiparipovic was headed past Carolina (6-5-9, 23 points Fall; 10-7-13, 37 Combined) goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre by Justin Braun. Indy’s Nicki Paterson, a substitute, made the score 2-0 when his searing free kick to the lower right corner in the 77th minute got past Sylvestre. Soulemayne Youla added a third goal just before the final whistle, slotting home a cross from Don Smart.

The loss was the second straight this week for the RailHawks at a crucial time of the year. Carolina dropped a 1-0 decision to visiting Rayo OKC at home last Wednesday and has only two games left in the Fall Season, but remains in the race. Indy is preparing to host one of the semifinals in The Championship on Saturday, Nov. 5.

Miami FC 2, Tampa Bay Rowdies 2

Miami FC had a two-goal advantage early, but was unable to hold on in the draw with the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Ocean Bank Field. Both sides needed three points in a tight race to The Championship.

Jaime Chavez opened the scoring in sensational fashion in the 16th minute. Blake Smith sent over a cross and the Miami forward struck the ball on the volley, sending it past Tampa Bay goalkeeper Matt Pickens.

Kwadwo Poku gave Miami (8-6-5, 30 Fall; 9-10-10, 37 Combined) a two-goal lead in the 21st minute when Chavez went from goalscorer to provider. He slotted the ball to Poku, who found space in the box and sent his shot to the right corner of the goal.

The Rowdies would pull a goal back just six minutes later. Georgi Hristov, Tampa Bay’s leading scorer, added his 10th goal of the year when he nodded in a cross from Eric Avila. Tampa Bay (5-7-7, 22 Fall; 9-11-9, 38 Combined) added the game-tying goal in the 66th minute. Juan Guerra was unmarked at the top of the box as Joe Cole played the ball into his path. Just inside the box, Guerra sent his shot past Miami FC goalkeeper Daniel Vega.

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