NASL: Semifinals set as RailHawks roll, Stars survive
Our NASL coverage continues with recaps from this past weekend’s quarterfinal play-in round.
Carolina RailHawks 3, Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1
The story of Carolina’s 2012 season has been the scoring exploits of former Red Bull and Union attacker Nick Zimmerman, who notched 15 goals – good for second in the Golden Boot race.
But on Friday at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C., Zimmerman took a back seat to Ty Shipalane, who banged home two goals in leading the RailHawks to a 3-1 win over the visiting Strikers.
The game, which commenced an hour late due to weather delay, was physical and fast-paced. Carolina opened the scoring in the 34th minute when Jason Garey played the ball to d-mid Amir Lowery, who fired upper-90 for the 1-0. Shipalane made it 2-0 in the 52nd minute, when his deflected shot ended up beating Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser off a nice feed from Brian Shriver.
Fort Lauderdale were able to cut the Carolina lead in the 61st minute with a goal from former MLS striker Abe Thompson, who was subbed in early in the match, but Carolina put it out of reach just six minutes later. Shriver once again found Shipalane, splitting the defense with a brilliant through ball for the South African to run onto and deposit past Glaeser. The score remained 3-1 despite a late flurry of attacks by both sides.
Shipalane’s night ended in the 84th minute where he exited to a standing ovation, the crowd recognizing his efforts.
“Today, we played a very good game,” said head coach Colin Clark. “The team definitely played playoff soccer tonight and we got the result we needed. Now we need to focus on our next opponent.”
That will be the Tampa Bay Rowdies, who had a bye thanks to their second place finish in the regular season. Carolina will host the first leg of the home-and-home series this coming Saturday.
Puerto Rico Islanders 1, Minnesota Stars FC 2
In the second quarterfinal match of the weekend, the defending champion Stars traveled to Puerto Rico to take on the Islanders at Estadio Juan Ramón Lourbriel and, just like last year, discovered some postseason magic.
First-half counterattack goals by Amani Walker and Miguel Ibarra proved the difference as the Stars defeated the host Islanders by a score of 2-1, for just their second win in their last 13 across all competitions, and first win in Puerto Rico since 2010.
While the goals came from the young duo, it was Simone Bracalello who was the star with a standout performance leading the counterattacks and directing the midfield. Former Real Salt Lake midfielder Jamie Watson, on loan Orlando City, also had notable showing, hitting the post once and testing the defense in multiple volleys.
Puerto Rico were persistent in their attack throughout the course of the match, eventually cutting into the Minnesota lead in the 80th minute courtesy of forward David Foley. They went close to equalizing minutes later, but Minnesota captain Kyle Altman’s sliding clearance kept Foley’s shot from crossing the line.
The Stars will host the first of their two-game, total goals series against the regular-season champion San Antonio Scorpions this coming Saturday at NSC Stadium in Blaine, Minn.