The regular season is done and dusted in the second-division NASL, and the New York Cosmos made an early statement of intent in their Fall Season finale this past weekend with a 1-0 win over the Spring Season champion Atlanta Silverbacks in a preview of the upcoming league championship.
Chicago Fire forward Kellen Gulley started and played the full 90 for Atlanta. His efforts were in vain as the Cosmos defense stifled him time and again, including a pair of 67th- and 68th-minute saves by backup goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, who refused to be beaten on the night.
The Cosmos have now now gone unbeaten in 11 straight matches. Atlanta, for their part, have conceded 11 goals in three consecutive losses to close the season, a trend they’ll look to buck in next Saturday's NASL Soccer Bowl (7:30 pm ET, WatchESPN/ESPN Deportes).
Also on Saturday were a pair of matches that each carried very different storylines. In a bittersweet closing to their 2013 campaign, the Carolina RailHawks collected yet another home win with a 2-1 victory over the San Antonio Scorpions. The RailHawks were unbeaten at home in all competitive games this year, thanks in no small part to a trio of MLS loanees.
On this night, midfielders Enzo Martinez (above left) of Real Salt Lake and Kenney Walker of the LA Galaxy both started and went 90 minutes. Galaxy defender Bryan Gaul came on for the final five minutes to close out the win.
The RailHawks accumulated more total points across the spring and fall seasons than any other team in NASL. Onetime FC Dallas trialist Brian Shriver secured the NASL Golden Boot, scoring his 14th and 15th goals in the season finale.
Several hundred miles south, the FC Dallas duo of Richard Sanchez and Bradlee Baladez helped the Fort Lauderdale Strikers to a 1-1 draw with Vancouver Whitecaps forward Corey Hertzog and FC Edmonton. Hertzog had a handful of chances in the match, including a second-half volley that flew wide of Sanchez’s goal.
Sanchez also denied Hertzog straight on in a pair of saves in the 71st minute to help the Strikers avoid a loss. Baladez joined the fray for the final 15 minutes, but was unable to bolster the Strikers to a win.
As the match and their seasons came to a close, Fort Lauderdale finished in fifth and Edmonton in sixth, with each team lamenting missed chances on the night.
Atlanta Silverbacks 0, New York Cosmos 1; Saturday, Nov. 2
F Kellen Gulley, Atlanta (Chicago Fire) - Started, played 90 minutes
Carolina RailHawks 2, San Antonio Scorpions 1; Saturday, Nov. 2
M Enzo Martinez, Carolina(Real Salt Lake) - Started, played 90 minutes
D Bryan Gaul, Carolina (LA Galaxy) - Substitute, played 5 minutes
M Kenney Walker, Carolina (LA Galaxy) - Started, played 90 minutes
Fort Lauderdale 1, FC Edmonton 1; Saturday, Nov. 2
F Bradlee Baladez, Ft. Lauderdale (FC Dallas) - Substitute, played 15 minutes
GK Richard Sanchez, Ft. Lauderdale (FC Dallas) - Started, played 90 minutes
F Corey Hertzog, Edmonton (Vancouver Whitecaps) - Started, played 90 minutes