Miami Sports Day

Rayo NASL: OKC Down Strikers In Postseason Race, New York Defeats Miami

Rayo OKC scored two second-half goals and defeated the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on Saturday night to take control of the North American Soccer League (NASL) postseason race. Elsewhere on Saturday night, the defending champion New York Cosmos set the league’s home unbeaten streak record in a victory over Miami FC.

The scramble that saw six clubs battling for the No. 4 seed in The Championship, the league’s four-team postseason tournament, came into focus on Saturday night. With Rayo’s victory, the dominoes began to fall, leaving Minnesota United as the only club, alongside Rayo, in postseason contention. The Loons, who lost at Carolina, are three points back of Rayo going into their home contest against the New York Cosmos on Saturday.

With the race down to Rayo and Minnesota, four teams – Carolina, Fort Lauderdale, Miami FC, and the Tampa Bay Rowdies – saw their postseason hopes dashed. Tampa Bay and Ottawa Fury FC played to a draw, while Indy Eleven extended its home unbeaten streak to 18 games with a shutout of Puerto Rico FC.

To close out Week 17, FC Edmonton, which will face Indy Eleven in The Championship Semifinals on Nov. 5, hosts Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon.

Rayo OKC 2, Fort Lauderdale Strikers 0

Rayo OKC extended its unbeaten streak to nine games with a victory over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Central Broward Stadium. With the loss, Fort Lauderdale is eliminated from postseason contention, while Rayo will play for the No. 4 seed on the final weekend of the NASL Fall Season.

After a scoreless first half, Rayo (8W-8D-5L, 32 Fall; 11-11-9, 44 Combined) scored a quick goal to open the second interval. Michel’s free kick in the 50th minute was parried by Fort Lauderdale (6-5-10, 23 Fall; 10-8-13, 38 Combined) goalkeeper Bruno, but fell to Sebastien Ibeagha, who tucked it into the side netting. The visitors iced the game in second-half stoppage time when Michel slipped a pass to Pecka and the former Strikers player sent his shot past Bruno inside the far post.

New York Cosmos 4, Miami FC 0

The New York Cosmos scored two goals in the game’s opening 10 minutes and went on to defeat Miami FC at Shuart Stadium. The loss, its second of the week, ended Miami’s hopes of advancing to The Championship. The Cosmos extended their home unbeaten streak to a league record 19 games and closed out their 2016 home slate with a 14-2-0 record, and will host the No. 4 seed in a semifinal in on Nov. 5.

Jairo Arrieta scored for the second straight game to give New York (13-5-3, 44 Fall; 19-5-7, 62 Combined) the lead in the second minute. He headed a perfect cross from Juan Arango past Miami (8-6-7, 30 points Fall; 9-10-12, 37 Combined) goalkeeper Daniel Vega. It was Arango’s sixth assist of the year. The Cosmos doubled the lead five minutes later when a misplay in the Miami defense led to Yohandry Orozco chipping a shot over Vega.

Arango scored his 15th of the year to make it 3-0 before the half-hour mark, scoring from a dead-ball situation for the second straight game. New York was not finished in the first half. Orozco scored his second of the game on a low shot from distance in the 36th minute.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 1, Ottawa Fury FC 1

Ottawa Fury FC ended a four-game winless streak in a draw against the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium that, coupled with other results around the league, eliminated the club from postseason contention.

Ottawa (5W-7D-9L, 22 points Fall; 7-10-14, 31 Combined) took a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute. Tampa Bay (5-8-8, 23 Fall; 9-12-10, 38 Combined) defender Darnell King was shown a straight red card for denial of a scoring opportunity and Fury FC’s Maxim Tissot scored on a rebound from the subsequent free kick.

The Rowdies had a golden opportunity go by the wayside in the 23rd minute when Joe Cole walked in around Romuald Peiser, dribbled to the end line, and sent a pass across the face of the goal that rolled harmlessly clear. Georgi Hristov scored his 11th goal of the year to get Tampa Bay even in the 48th minute off a pass from Justin Chavez.

Carolina RailHawks 1, Minnesota United 0

The Carolina RailHawks did what they had to do in a victory over Minnesota United at WakeMed Soccer Park, but Rayo OKC’s victory at Fort Lauderdale eliminated Carolina from the postseason race. Minnesota remains alive in the hunt for the No. 4 seed in The Championship.

A quick counterattack by Carolina (7-5-9, 30 Fall; 11-7-13, 40 Combined) led to Matt Fondy’s seventh goal of the year, in the 52nd minute. Brian Shriver’s perfectly weighted cross found Fondy at the far post for a tap-in past Minnesota (6-7-8, 25 Fall; 11-8-12, 41 Combined) goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock. Nazmi Albadawi wasted a chance to put the RailHawks ahead by two goals when he sent a penalty kick over the crossbar in the 72nd minute.

The Loons came close to scoring the equalizer when Ben Speas’ shot from distance early in second-half stoppage time was pushed wide by Carolina goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre.

Indy Eleven 3, Puerto Rico FC 0

With a semifinal game looming, Indy Eleven is heating up at the right time. For the third straight game, the Boys in Blue tallied three goals in a victory – this time a comfortable triumph over 10-man Puerto Rico FC at Carroll Stadium on Saturday night. The Boys in Blue finished their home slate of games with a 13-3-0 record.

Indy (11-4-6, 37 Fall; 15-10-6, 55 Combined) forward Justin Braun opened the scoring in the 36th minute when he headed home a perfect cross from teammate Sinisa Ubiparipovic. After a second yellow card to forward Oliver reduced Puerto Rico FC (4-9-8, 21 Fall; 4-9-8, 21 Combined) to 10 men, the Eleven’s leading scorer, Eamon Zayed, doubled the club’s lead in the 45th minute, tapping home a rebound from his own penalty kick that was saved by visiting goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg.

The hosts snuck another goal in just before the halftime break, as Dylan Mares made it 3-0 well into first-half stoppage time with a low shot from 20 yards out. Braun, who had scored just 10 minutes earlier, supplied the assist.

Only one Fall Season game remains for the Boys in Blue before they host FC Edmonton in The Championship Semifinals on Nov. 5. Indy travels to Oklahoma City next Sunday with a chance to play spoiler against Rayo OKC, which leads Minnesota United by three points heading into the final weekend.

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