Goals were hard to come by in Saturday’s NASL action, leaving both matches closely contested until the final whistles.
Michel’s second-half penalty kick was enough for Rayo OKC to edge Miami FC on the road. The victory gives Rayo a significant jump in the standings up to fifth place.
Meanwhile, Miami will surely rue its missed opportunity on the night, having had the chance to move up to second place. With just four matches remaining in the Fall Season, Miami trails the New York Cosmos by eight points.
Puerto Rico FC and Minnesota United finished scoreless in Bayamon, despite a late flurry of chances from the road side. Both clubs struggled to earn quality attempts on goal Saturday, with each team posting one shot on target throughout the match.
Kevin Venegas had several chances in the dying minutes, including a free kick from directly outside the penalty area, however, the Minnesota attacker couldn’t break through for the visitors. Minnesota currently sits sixth on the table, while Puerto Rico moved up one spot to seventh place following the draw.
With the top half of the NASL table separated by a mere four points, every match is critical as teams look to dethrone Spring Season winners Indy Eleven at the summit.
The Eleven will host the Ottawa Fury on Saturday night, while the weekend’s biggest matchup pits the second-ranked New York Cosmos against third place Rayo OKC the following afternoon.
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While Ottawa travels to Indy, the league’s other Canadian side will head south on Saturday when FC Edmonton meets newcomers Puerto Rico FC in Bayamon.
Meanwhile, all four Florida-based teams sit in the bottom half of the league, with Miami FC currently ranked the highest of the bunch in seventh place. With two games in hand, Miami has a strong opportunity to leap up the standings with on the road against Minnesota United.
Carolina RailHawks at Jacksonville Armada — 7 p.m. Saturday
Tampa Bay Rowdies at Fort Lauderdale Strikers — 7:30 Saturday
FC Edmonton at Puerto Rico FC — 7:30 Saturday
Ottawa Fury at Indy Eleven — 7:30 Saturday
Miami FC at Minnesota United — 8 p.m. Saturday
Rayo OKC at New York Cosmos — 5 p.m. Sunday
Following a midweek loss against FC Edmonton, the New York Cosmos will try to rebound at home against Puerto Rico FC.
The Cosmos currently have two losses during the Fall Season, having conceded 10 goals in six matches, which is the second-most in NASL.
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With no unbeatens remaining, Spring Season champion Indy Eleven looks to keep its place near the top of the table against Miami FC.
Minnesota United looks to build off of its strong start against league leaders Rayo OKC, with the two teams separated by a mere two points.
Meanwhile, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers continue to search for their first win of the Fall Season against the struggling Jacksonville Armada.
New York Cosmos vs. Puerto Rico FC
Ottawa Fury vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. Jacksonville Armada
Miami FC vs. Indy Eleven
Rayo OKC vs. Minnesota United
FC Edmonton vs. Carolina RailHawks
Rayo OKC’s newest signing might be its biggest pickup yet.
Georgios Samaras, 31, is coming to the NASL with the expansion side, having scored nine goals in 81 caps for the Greek national team — including the game-winning goal against Ivory Coast in the 2014 World Cup — and played club ball with Celtic, Man City, West Brom and Heerenveen.
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His last two stops have been rough, with just two goals in 19 appearances between the Premier League’s Baggies and Al-Hilal of the Saudi League.
Can he shake it off and find the form that saw him score 74 goals for Celtic between 2007-14? His size and style should have zero problem transitioning to the North American game.
And how far off is the NASL from the Scottish Premiership? These will be stories to monitor moving forward, especially given the influx of internationally-known names in the NASL.
Rayo OKC is striving to make an impact as the NASL duels with the USL in the Oklahoma City market. Owned by Rayo Vallecano of La Liga, the club has signed ex-MLS players Robbie Findley and Michel, and also has Ghana veteran Derek Boateng and Honduras midfielder Marvin Chavez.
New York Cosmos continues to assert itself as both powerful and bitter for how the Spring Season ended (with the club missing the playoffs on a final day third tiebreaker).
Now they travel to a Rayo OKC side that has a win and two draws in their first three games. Rayo boasts goalless Georgios Samaras and plenty of familiar names to the MLS crowd: Robbie Findley, Michel, Kosuke Kimura, and Futty Danso among them.
The Cosmos got a screamer from Adam Moffat on Wednesday, and he’s got four goals on the season to join Juan Arango on the team leaderboard.
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Elsewhere, winless Ottawa Fury heads across Canada to face unbeaten Edmonton, while Indy Eleven looks to pick up an impressive win in Minnesota against United.
Carolina at Fort Lauderdale — 7 p.m. ET
Puerto Rico at Tampa Bay — 7:30 p.m. ET
Jacksonville at Miami — 8 p.m. ET
Indy Eleven at Minnesota United — 8 p.m. ET
NY Cosmos at Rayo OKC — 9 p.m. ET
Ottawa at Edmonton — 4 p.m. ET