Predictions for the NASL’s Opening Weekend

The 2013 NASL season kicks off this weekend with several important and excellent matches
by Daniel Casey   |   Friday, April 05, 2013

The Minors - column on North America's lower division soccer leagues (NASL, USL PRO, CSL, NPSL, PCSL & USL PDL)

With the start of the 2013 season upon us, I thought it’d be best to reveal my predictions for the 3 matches we’ll see. You can check out my season previews of the team on my page to get a full view of what to expect this season.

I’d also like to say the Atlanta Silverbacks are on a bye week for the opening weekend, so they will not be featured.

Carolina RailHawks at Tampa Bay Rowdies

The defending champions will welcome Carolina to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg Saturday night and the hometown crowd should be in for a treat.

The Rowdies and RailHawks will both be fielding very experienced sides and I believe victory will come down to whichever side makes the fewest mistakes.

Austin Da Luz and Nick Zimmerman will be the main conduits to allow forwards Zack Schilawski and Brian Shriver to crack Tampa’s defense. If Takuya Yamada has an off night, look for things to get messy for the Rowdies.

Fortunately, Tampa will be one of teams this season that will look to fall back on the plan “just score more goals than your opponent.” New signing Amani Walker will look to make his presence felt in service to his new team as the forward to hold-up the ball, while strike partner Bulgarian Georgi Hristov gets into finishing position.

I have concerns about age at key positions on both these teams, but I think the Rowdies offense will be more than a match for Carolina.

Score: 3-1, Tampa Bay Rowdies

FC Edmonton at Ft. Lauderdale Strikers

Although FC Edmonton look like a much stronger team than it did last season, it’s going to be difficult to look past Ft. Lauderdale for this one.

David Foley and Walter Restrepo will flank attacking center midfielder Mark Anderson, giving the Eddies backline fits since each is a scoring threat in their own right, never minding the excellent service they’ll provide to forward Stefan Dimitrov.

The Strikers have had longer to prepare for the start of the first half of the season so fitness and rapport could be stumbling blocks for Edmonton. Look to Edmonton midfield star Shaun Saiko to pull the strings. And from his days with the Strikers, fullback Lance Laing should have a few clues about how to shutdown the Ft. Lauderdale attacks.

Thus, it should be very entertaining match. I have to give the win to Ft. Lauderdale, as I think they’ll make the home crowd proud but Edmonton will make them work for it.

Score: 2-1, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers

San Antonio Scorpions at Minnesota United FC

It what will arguably be the marquee match of the opening weekend of the NASL, last year’s regular season winners San Antonio Scorpions will travel north to face the re-branded Minnesota United FC in the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis.

Minnesota poached several of the Scorpions stars over the offseason, including last season’s Golden Boot winner Pablo Campos, all-star goalkeeper Daryl Sattler, and midfield stalwart Aaron Pitchkolan.

But San Antonio has replaced these players with an explosion of Eastern European talent. Bosnian midfielder Edin Husic has looked very sharp in the preseason, forwards Bosnian Adin Dzafic and Serbian Nikola Vasilic will complement current  No. 10 Hans Denissen very well and Croatian defender Luka Vucko will continue San Antonio’s reputation as an extremely physical team.

Against this, Minnesota will ply the hustle and speed of midfielders Miguel Ibarra and Kentaro Takada alongside the technical opportunism of Campos, 2011 Golden Boot winner Etienne Barbara and creative winger/forward Simone Bracalello.

The goal-scoring potential of this match is startling and it will most certainly get chipping early – at least, it will on Twitter between me (@winslowbobbins) and fellow columnist Chris Hockman (@chrisomni) as we’ll cheer our respective sides (me, Minnesota and Chris, San Antonio). I see a win for Minnesota due to San Antonio’s brief preseason and having to travel.

Score: 3-2, Minnesota United

Daniel CASEY

Carthage College Univ. of Notre Dame
Club Domestic:
Chicago Fire & Minnesota Stars
Club Foreign:
Manchester United
Founder/editor of the literary magazine Gently Read Literature, active but barely read poet and literary critic, and an occasional English professor. Never got to play soccer until his mid-30s, so he is routinely schooled by U10 crowd at pick-up games.