sixth edition of the event will kick off on April 24 with the semifinals next season, utilizing the same format as this year with the three MLS clubs and FC Edmonton of the NASL.
NASL News: Matt Horth of the Atlanta Silverbacks was recognized as the Player of the Month... Last place FC Edmonton announced it has cut ties with coaches Harry Sinkgraven and Hans Schrijver, due to budgetary reasons according to the release.
NASL PLAYOFF PREVIEW - FIRST ROUND
#5 Fort Lauderdale Strikers @ #4 Carolina RailHawks
Only two goals separated the two sides in the four-game series this season. Despite a pair of three-goal, games, the RailHawks, however, just could not find a victory, settling for a pair of 3-3 draws at home along with 1-0 and 2-1 losses in Florida.
The two sides have not seen one another since their early August showdown in Fort Lauderdale in which Andy Herron provided the only goal. In July, Mike Palacio gave Carolina the lead only to see the visiting Strikers take a 3-1 lead through two assists from Abe Thompson, a pair of goals from Walter Restrepo and a goal and assist from Darnell King. Palacio, however, fought back, scoring in the 87th and setting up Ty Shipalane in stoppage time for the equalizer. In the earlier meetings, Mark Anderson provided both goals in the Strikers' victory at home. Nick Zimmerman, who scored in the loss, was the star of the first contest for Carolina, netting two goals in the draw while Restrepo provided a goal and an assist.
The RailHawks come into the match unbeaten in the last four outings (2-0-2) and their only loss in the last eight (5-1-2) coming, 1-0, at the hands of the regular season champion San Antonio Scorpions, who they also beat, 2-1, during the span.
Meanwhile, Fort Lauderdale is winless in the last four matches (0-2-2) and are coming into the postseason with some unfortunate results against the two bottom clubs in the table, dropping a 1-0 decision in Atlanta and playing to a 2-2 draw in Edmonton.
#6 Minnesota Stars @ #3 Puerto Rico Islanders
The good news for Puerto Rico is that the home team has won all four meetings this season between the two clubs with shutout performances. The bad news is that both victories for the stars were to the tune of 4-0 while the Islanders only managed 2-0 and 1-0 wins.
The two clubs squared off twice just a few weeks ago with the Stars taking the first meeting with standout performances from Jamie Watson (goal and assist), Miguel Ibarra (goal, two assists) and Amani Walker (goal and assist). The return meeting in the Caribbean was led by the goal and assist from David Foley. The first two meetings were three weeks apart in July with Minnesota winning at home on the Fourth behind, in part, two goals from Martin Nunez. At the end of the month Noah Delgado gave Puerto Rico the lone goal for the win.
Minnesota is coming into the match with its only loss in the last seven outings coming in Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, the results aside from that match are not exactly confidence-building as they have only the win against the Islanders as the only victory in the other six matches for a record of 1-1-5 in that span. On top of that, the four-goal performance against Puerto Rico is the only instance in last 12 games in which Minnesota has found the back of the net more than once in a game. The good news is that Puerto Rico is the only team in the last 11 games to score more than one goal against the Stars defense.
The Islanders, meanwhile, are all over the map of late, figuratively and literally. Perhaps due in part to their play and travel in the CONCACAF Champions League, the Islanders have been inconsistent over the past two months. The victory against Minnesota is the lone win in the past eight games (1-3-4), excluding the CCL, which they concluded earlier this week with a surprising 3-0 victory against Isidro Metapan despite using its reserve players in preparation for the playoff match.