By JOHN BOSCHINI
Week 3 in the NASL has already seen one surprising upstart stumble against a league favorite, and fans now look forward to weekend matchups featuring teams looking to get back on track.
On Wednesday, the Carolina Railhawks handed a surprising FC Edmonton team its first loss. After an opening-day loss to Puerto Rico, Carolina has won two straight and leads the league with five goals from three games.
The league turns its attention to the weekend where the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers travel to Atlanta in a matchup of still-winless teams. The other Saturday fixture features the Montreal Impact looking to jump-start its season in a home opener against Tampa Bay.
Puerto Rico and Minnesota are off this weekend in preparation for their game on Tuesday. Minnesota will prepare with friendlies against Creighton University and the University of Wisconsin.
There is now a three-way tie at the top of the eight-team NASL with Puerto Rico, Carolina and Edmonton sitting on six points, although the Islanders have a game in hand.
Here is a recap of Carolina’s victory over Edmonton and a look ahead to the weekend’s action:
Carolina Railhawks 2, FC Edmonton 0
It was the first weather-free weekend in Cary as the Carolina Railhawks put an end to FC Edmonton’s hot start with a 2-0 victory. Kupono Low’s shot was deflected in by Etienne Barbara to give Carolina a lead in the 20th minute.
Former Real Salt Lake striker Pablo Campos almost doubled the Railhawks’ advantage, but 39-year-old goalkeeper Rein Baart came up with a couple of nice saves. Nick Zimmerman finally provided Carolina with an insurance goal in the 76th minute with a shot from long range. Edmonton failed to put much pressure on Brad Knighton's goal, settling for speculative shots from distance rather than creating legitimate scoring opportunities.
FC Tampa Bay at Montreal Impact (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.)
FC Tampa Bay opened strong with a win against the Impact but lacked a finishing touch in a 2-0 loss to Puerto Rico. Tampa Bay, while fairly solid in defense, is having difficulty finding the back of the net with only one goal this season. This will be the first road game of the season for Tampa Bay and it will have to find away to shake off the long flight north.
The Montreal Impact is off to a poor, 0-2 start. The MLS-bound side has yet to lead in a game so far this season and will have to pick up its offensive production. The Impact will also be without veteran Eduardo Sebrango, who retired after a 12-year career.
Ft. Lauderale Strikers at Atlanta Silverbacks (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
The Ft. Lauderdale Strikers were unable to notch a win in their opening two-game home stand but will like their chances against an Atlanta team that has dropped two straight. The defensive pairing of Martyn Lancaster and Zach Kirby will try to keep Ft. Lauderdale's first clean sheet of the season against their former club. The Strikers are also sitting on a 133-minute scoreless and will look to spark their offense against a young Silverbacks defense.
Atlanta has endured a couple of tough losses in its first games back, and the Silverbacks will try to wrap up their three-game home stand with their first win since returning to the league. Matt Horth is emerging as a promising prospect, and the 6-foot-3, 21-year-old forward has scored the only goal for Atlanta this season. On the positive side for Atlanta, the crowd support is still there and the team is slowly starting to develop some chemistry.
Both teams are in desperate need for a win to kick-start their season and avoid falling down the NASL table early in the season.
What do you think of the Week 3 action in the NASL? Impressed with Carolina? How do you think Edmonton will respond to its first loss? Do you think Montreal can turn it around at home? Will the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers or the Atlanta Silverbacks get their first win this weekend?
Share your thoughts below.