With the NASL Playoffs in full swing, the reigning Division-2 champions Puerto Rico Islanders (15-6-7) and NASL Regular Season Champions Carolina RailHawks (17-8-3) awaited to see whom they will face in the Semifinal Round. By having the best record in the NASL regular season, both teams had earned a first round bye.
On Saturday night, two Quarterfinals matches took place in Florida. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers took on FC Edmonton at the Lockhart Stadium while NSC Minnesota Stars faced FC Tampa Bay at the Al Lang Stadium. Winners of both contests advanced while the loser's season abruptly came to an end.
With FC Tampa Bay losing 1-0 to the NSC Minnesota Stars and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers annihilating FC Edmonton 5-0, the NASL Semifinal Rounds are set.
As stated in NASL.com:
For the Semifinal Round, the number 1 seed will be paired with the lowest seeded team to qualify from the Quarterfinal Round with the number 2 seed being paired with the highest seeded team to qualify from the Quarterfinal Round.
The winners of each series in the Semifinal Round will meet in the Final Round. In the event of a draw in either Quarterfinal Round game, such game will progress to a 30-minute extra time period (the golden goal rule will not be in effect). If the teams are still locked in a draw following the extra time period, the winner will be determined by a penalty shootout.
In each Semifinal Round series and the Final Round series, if the teams are tied on the number of aggregate goals scored in the series at the conclusion of the second game, the teams will progress to a 30-minute extra time period. As in the Quarterfinal Round, the golden goal rule will not be in effect. If the teams are still locked in a draw following the extra time period, the winner of the series will be determined by a penalty shootout.
With Saturday's matches decided, the Puerto Rico Islanders will now face the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The first match will take in Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium or La Islandera to their Supporters, the Orange Troop on Oct 8. The second leg will take place on Oct. 15 at the Lockhart Stadium.
While Abe Thompson hat trick and a Brian Shriver brace put the Fort Lauderdale Strikers through to the NASL semi-finals with a 5-0 victory over FC Edmonton, the Strikers are going to have a difficult time winning in La Islandera where the Islanders went undefeated this postseason.
In four regular season contests, both teams recorded a win, loss and two ties. The only difference in their series of contests was that the Islanders outscored the Strikers 8-7. While no team was able to defeat the Islanders at home, it should be noted that the Islanders was not able to win at Fort Lauderdale where they loss 3-2 and tied 1-1 this season.
With the regular season a thing of the past, will the Islanders be able to contain a Strikers team who made an empathic statement as they produced five goals in the in the opening round? Will the Strikers be able to do one thing that no NASL team did this season and win in Puerto Rico?
Cesar Diaz covers Soccer for LatinoSports.com. He also writes for 5 Points Press & USSoccerPlayers.com; your source for American Soccer news brought to you by members of the U.S. National Team. Easily accessible, you may reach Cesar at firstname.lastname@example.org and at Twitter at @CoveringSoccer.