By MIKE GRAMAJO
A new champion will be crowned on Thursday when the 2013 spring season of the North American Soccer League comes to a close.
The Carolina RailHawks lead by league-leading goalscorer Brian Shriver and his eight goals travel to Toyota Field to battle the San Antonio Scorpions. A match where the RailHawks cannot suffer a defeat if they want to host the Soccer Bowl in the fall.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Silverbacks take on Minnesota United at the Metrodome in a must-win scenario for the Silverbacks to secure an opportunity of winning the spring campaign.
The games will be streamed live online, and for a closer look, here are the matchups (all times local):
SCORPIONS vs. RAILHAWKS (Thursday at 8:30pm, WATCH HERE)
After failing to secure the Spring Championship last week at WakeMed Soccer Park during a 1-1 draw against the Atlanta Silverbacks, The Carolina RailHawks look to close out the season with glory, that’s if they can stop a surging San Antonio Scorpions side.
“It’s a big, big game,” RailHawks coach Colin Clarke told NASL.com. “San Antonio is playing their best of late, so it won’t be easy for us traveling there in the final week of the Spring Season.”
If that 1-1 draw at home wasn’t surprising, the RailHawks have yet to register a victory on the road this season. The Scorpions are currently riding a four-game winning streak while also learning on Tuesday that the Seattle Sounders are extending Eriq Zavaleta loan deal.
League-leading goal scorer Brian Shriver has only found the back of the net twice in his last seven matches for the RailHawks, two of which came in June as he bagged a brace to help the Carolina side rally back from 2-0 against Minnesota United.
“Thursday’s game can obviously decide a title,” Scorpions head coach Tim Hankinson told NASL.com. “We can’t control what Atlanta does, but we can certainly control our own park and what we have to do.”
“Scoring three goals in any match is always a mountain to climb, but I feel that the team is ready to reach for that and they have been all season.”
UNITED vs. SILVERBACKS (Thursday at 8:00pm, WATCH HERE)
If momentum is the topic of the conversation heading into the season final of the spring campaign, then the Silverbacks deserve to be brought up.
The Atlanta Silverbacks have one task in hand on Thursday and that is win. Win against a battered Minnesota United side at the Metrodome and hope for all else to fail in order to see their hard work pay off.
Yes, the Silverbacks are currently two games winless, but looking at a larger spectrum, Brian Haynes’ side has gone to lose once in their last six matches. Add that to an already disqualified Minnesota United team that have lost four matches in their last six games, which saw them concede a staggering 14 goals.
“If we stick to the game plan in Minnesota, I think we’ll get a result that is favorable to us,” said Silverbacks head coach Brian Haynes told NASL.com. “We don’t care where the goals from. It’s going to be a concentrated effort from all of the guys.”
ROWDIES vs. STRIKERS (Thursday at 6:30pm, WATCH HERE)
With the NASL spring season coming to close, what better way to end it with a derby, and the Florida Derby should provide plenty of entertainment.
Despite already being out of the race to host the Soccer Bowl in the fall, the Tampa Bay Rowdies host the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Al Lang Field.
“Our fans love the traditional July 4th match, and we hope to finish the Spring Season with a win on Thursday,” Rowdies coach Ricky Hill told NASL.com. “Rivalries are one of the best things in sports and this historic derby between the Strikers and the Rowdies is an example of that.”
Last time both sides met was back in April, when the Rowdies took a 2-1 road victory at Lockhart Stadium with goals from of forward Luke Mulholland and midfielder Alex Dixon.
The match will also feature Strikers new head coach Ricardo Lopes after former manager Daryl Shore was fired earlier this week after finishing with a 2-7-2 record and a last place spot in the table.
What do you think of the Week 14 match-ups? Do you see the RailHawks clinching the Spring Championship? Can the Silverbacks snap their two-game winless skid at the Metrodome? See the Scorpions surprising the NASL and winning a title at home?
Share your thoughts below.