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The Venerated Loboa! It Is Unveiled At Last! The Worst Puebla Player of the Decade!!!!!

The complete intro of the two previous The 20/11 Rule How Teams Are Doing can be here. Just a little house-keeping thing for me to have around and for you if anyone actually liked whatever happened.
Loboa, The Abridged Bio
Eisner Loboa was – no, is, because he’s still playing somewhere in South America – a Colombian-born football player who plied his trade as either a left or right midfielder and enjoyed going deep into the opponent's box, though he never scored a lot of goals during his career. His adventure through football land began in 2006 for Deportivo Cali in his home country of Colombia, appearing only seventeen times with the club, until 2010 when he was loaned to Deportivo Pasto, another club in Colombia but at the time played in the second division, with the hopes of gaining some minutes there. Didn’t really work out though, so he packed up his bags, said goodbye to his family, and set sail for new land with a rich culture and a new professional football league: Chinese Super League. There he arrived at his new club Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, which resides in Shanghai, as the name implies, with renewed hopes to finally establish himself as a regular player. Loboa was only in China for six months, appearing fifteen times with eight of them coming off the bench, the goal of becoming a starter kind of didn’t go so well, but he did enough. He received a call to once again go to a foreign land, not on a loan this time, because you see Loboa had been bought, no longer owned by Deportivo Cali, and his destination was Leon, a Mexican club that played in the Ascenso MX, his new owners.
Mexico Lindo
The Ascenso MX, or as it was known before 2012, Primera A, has always been a league with major instability. Loboa arrived at an Ascenso MX that looks very different from what it does today, there were a total of 16 teams, only five of which are still in the league: Leones Negros, Correcaminos, Celaya, Dorados, and Merida. The rest have either disappeared – Lobos BUAP, Veracruz, Neza, Altamira, Morelos, and Indios – or currently in the Liga MX – Necaxa and Leon – or have gone down to lower divisions – Cruz Azul Hidalgo, Irapuato, and La Piedad. None of that really matters though. Eisner Loboa was signed before the start of the Clausura 2012 season, where he had hopes of becoming a starter. He continued to be a sub player, making sixteen appearances in the regular season with twelve of them being from off the bench. Nevertheless, he had finally made an impact, he scored goals, 3 of them, and he was playing well. At age 24 Eisner Loboa under Gustavo Matosas had clicked as an impact sub, and the team was the undisputed leader of the Ascenso MX that season, beating Lobos BUAP 7-2 aggregate for the Clausura Championship; culminating with a 6-2 aggregate win over Correcaminos for a spot in the Liga MX, Leon was a first division team after so long.
El Bi and the Rise of Loboa
Being a team in the Liga MX is never easy, it’s a tough business that very few can manage. Being a recently promoted team in the Liga MX is never easy, from the beginning there’s a huge disadvantage, everything is stacked against the team, and most fail to stay up. There are various strategies a team can employ to stay afloat, and by many, I mean two important ones. Pump money into the team to buy first division class players with the intention of having their higher quality be good enough to become a decent team. Or stick it out with the promoted players, the ones that have been with the team, manager, and fans, with the hopes that they will be good enough. Leon stuck to the latter, most of the squad was retained with a few new signings and Matosas was given the green light to keep the historic Leon in the Liga MX for good. Eisner Loboa was kept, he had done well in the Ascenso MX and was owned by Leon. Now in the Liga MX Loboa had new hopes to be a starting player, finally, his work had paid off, from the Apertura 2012 to the Clausura 2014, he would appear 68 times for Leon, with 43 of them being as a starter, as well as participating in the Copa Libertadores. He was a part of the squad that won both the Apertura 2013 and Clausura 2014 championships. He was an important piece in the historic Bicampeon Leon, a well-loved player in the fanbase. Then during the transfer season of the summer of 2014, from the halls of the hotel where the draft was once held, came one of the bombas del mercado. Eisner Loboa was going to Puebla.
The Arrival of the Venerated Loboa
At the time of Loboa’s unexpected transfer to Puebla, he had hit his peak market value: $1.14 million US dollars. Why was someone worth that much going to Puebla, a team that was going through a very rough time? No one knows, I mean someone knows, it’s just not any one of us, only the people in Leon and Puebla at the time know. Nonetheless, a deal had been struck, Loboa was to head to Puebla on a year-long loan.
In Puebla this signing was met with much anticipation, the team was preparing for a fight to finally leave any fear of relegation in the past. The other signings on the season had left the fans a bit cold, most of the extranjeros had little clout in the Liga MX like Jhon Fredy Pajoy and Wilberto Cosme, others were just decent players like the return on Luis Noriega or Luis Loroña, then there were the obligatory loaned players, like Rodolfo Cota from Pachuca; Luis Esqueda from Queretaro; Marlon de Jesus Pabon from Monterrey; the list goes one. The biggest signing thus far was the legend himself Cuauhtémoc Blanco, but he was like forty years old. To make matters worse, there had been a major shake-up in the squad thanks to the departure of key players. Matias Alustiza was leaving the squad for the first time since arriving back in the Apertura 2012, as was Carlos Sanchez (Yes, the same one that was in Monterrey two years ago, the River Plate player, that scoundrel.) whose one year loan was over and was more than happy to leave this shipwreck behind for River Plate. Just those two were some of the brightest spots in the weak squad from last season, but the one departure that really hurt the most was everyone’s favorite American: Damarcus Beasley. After the Clausura 2014, Beasley felt it was time to go back home to the MLS, after more than a decade of having left the US.
By the time the presentation of the team before the fans in the Estadio Cuauhtémoc rolled around, the total number of signings was fourteen - I don’t even remember when the presentation happened, the opening game was against Xolos on July 18, so it must have been a week earlier – there was, admittedly a little bit of hope surrounding the team, sure most the new arrivals were decent to troncos at best, but with Eisner Loboa? Perhaps Ruben Omar Romano could breathe some life into the older players, and the new extranjeros might turn out to be serviceable, add those together to the quality of Loboa, then we might have a shot at having a good tournament. As Romano had said in a press conference a few days earlier, “We have armed a team to compete and be in the top eight.” The fans, all one hundred of them who showed up that chilly morning, held on to that sliver of optimism, as the players were paraded in front of them, going up the catwalk one by one. The barra doing their classic barra things, which is creating hype, (Coincidentally, I remember the barra taking up half of the space in the little section opened of the stadium but looking through photos of the event show that there were very few of them. I guess memory really is the smoothest of liars.) as the players smiled and waved, showing they were happy to be here. Then the announcer said the magic words: Eisner Loboa. The clapping grew louder, you could hear the cheers from the stands, Venga Loboa! Venga Loboa! Venga Loboa! Excitement! Here he came! The man of the hour! Loboa was the man, man! Our ticket to a good tournament, our hopes and dreams rest on your shoulders Loboa, with your skills this could be it!
The Apertura 2014
One can’t know what happens in the locker room, what the coach practices with the players daily, or what emotional state the players are in, but there is one thing we can tell: when the team is playing like garbage. It didn’t really take that long for the team to fall apart honestly. One of the best games of the entire season was the first match, Xolos vs Puebla when my lifelong crush with the Loroña family began thanks to the winning goal by Luis Loroña. Loboa was a starter in that match, alongside other new refuerzos Rodolfo Cota, Efrain Cortes (Who is distinctly remembered for getting a red card then spitting on a Xolos player - I can’t remember their name - and promptly being suspended for a few games, only to get injured on his return and be out for the rest of the season. What fond memories you and I have.), Wilberto Cosme, and others that aren’t too important. The gist is, Loboa, in his debut game with Puebla, did bupkis. It wasn’t entirely his fault, sure, for the most part, he was just kind of there, then when Cortes got sent-off he couldn’t go on the offensive anymore. What the hell, he gets a pass.
Unfortunately for him, the next few games wouldn’t provide many excuses. The next game was against Veracruz, a classic 0-0 tie for a Clasico that was suffocatingly boring, followed by the other fondly remembered match against America that was a loss by four goals to one. I only remember it because Raul Jimenez scored a hat-trick and was immediately sold to Atletico de Madrid, that match was also the birth of the Cuauh meme. The fourth game was Cruz Azul, a 1-0 loss. However, by that point it was already clear to anyone who had watched Puebla play, Loboa was pretty bad, Christ was he bad. In the first three games, he was a literal ghost, nonexistent presence on the field, and merely content to spectate. That Cruz Azul loss? Eisner Loboa was already a bench warmer. He wasn’t even in the next game against Tigres, which was a 1-1 tie, but he was present on the pitch for Monterrey, Romano’s last chance to not be sacked. Puebla lost so he was sacked and replaced with no less than El Chelis, everyone’s favorite schlockmeister.
El Chelis, as we all know, is a very strange creature, both an honest man and a pathological liar, who can very quickly change opinions and contradict himself. When Ruben Omar Romano was sacked after the sixth game, El Chelis was brought in to reinvigorate the team with his patented hyping up, so he quickly started picking his favorites. That’s what El Chelis does you see, he finds the players he is emotionally connected to, which is to say, his friends, and exclusively uses them, everyone else can skydive into the elevator shaft of the Burj Khalifa without a parachute. Eisner Loboa was snubbed, of course, why else would I be telling you this?
Pause, for a moment, what I’ve been relating to you thus far has come from two places, first research, going back through the internet to find the match info from the Apertura 2014, Eisner Loboa’s past, and other things that required a refresher. The primary source has been me, my memory, what I remember from those days of antiquity because I was already neck-deep in this Puebla craze that started in 2010. Unfortunately, things that may have been important, such as the entire roster of Puebla from the 2014-2015 football year or the lineups or when a manager was sacked, five years ago have been cast out by memory; likewise, we live in a time where everything can be documented and accessed easily, but the Liga MX or Puebla for that matter, have never been that smart. I say this to you now, upfront because I can’t remember if Loboa was snubbed by Chelis or was simply injured and the internet can’t remember either.
For the next four games Eisner Loboa was not considered by El Chelis, stay at home, no need for you, four games in which Puebla won one (Morelia) and tied three (Queretaro, Jaguares, and Chivas). He had been replaced, in his stead Chelis placed his bets on a young Alfonso Tamay, who was in his prime, and “Messi” Acuña, who was not in his prime; both turned out to be very satisfactory. Certain circumstances by week 11 – against Pumas- meant that Eisner Loboa had to be called up to sit on the bench since the starter now was Jhon Freddy Pajoy, Chelis is very strange, he can never have a consistent line-up even when he has good results. Loboa was subbed in at the 65th minute, the game was tied 1-1, Noriega opened the score at the 29th minute and Lalo Herrera tied at the 48th, for Mario de Luna, a defender, Chelis wanted to win. Well if that was his intention then he failed because Puebla lost. Loboa did nothing, again. This is a recurring theme you see, like in music, the tonic of the piece. Again, those certain circumstances meant that Eisner Loboa was once again relevant, he saw action in every match henceforth, either as a sub-in or as a starter, but never completed a game. He never really had an impact in any of those games, always just kind of… there… participating, but not being the Loboa he was brought in to be. This all culminated in the week 15 match at home against Pachuca (Tie, tie, and loss, were the results of the previous games.), when at half-time, with a score of 1-0, Loboa was subbed in to replace Pajoy to keep up the intensity and hopefully increase the scoreboard. What happened was something a person only gets to witness once, like Haley’s Comet passing by Earth, after 39 minutes on the field Loboa was subbed out for Flavio Santos. The sub had been subbed. In the 39 minutes he was on the field Pachuca tied the game, and he was not helping the team, so he was replaced. El Chelis later in the post-match press conference called it an attitude problem, Loboa wasn’t showing any attitude on and off the field, that’s why he had to sub him out.
The last few games of the season were just as unmemorable as those preceding them, save the last one. Week 17, last game of the season, Puebla vs. Santos. It was the last call to enter the liguilla, Santos needed to win to secure their spot, a tie would leave them in the hands of fate. I can tell you one thing, it wasn’t exciting because of Loboa, he was subbed out at halftime to bring in the real hero: Cuauhtémoc Blanco. Santos had laid all their cards on the tables, they WANTED to win, so by half time they were up two goals with a dazed Puebla that didn’t know what to do. Thanks to the godlike efforts of Cuauh the playing field was evened 2-2, but Santos wasn’t ready to let go of the liguilla dream, and at the 82nd minute Carlos Izquiredoz put the final nail in the coffin with a devastating third goal. Was it over? Of course not! A Santos player, El Chato I think, forfeited a penalty during extra time. Who else but El Cuauh to take the penalty? 3-3, a heart-stopping tie that cock-blocked Santos. With that exciting ending the Apertura 2014 curtain closed for Puebla, a total of 16 points, the product of two victories, 10 ties, and 5 losses. Eisner Loboa played 702 minutes, participated in 12 games, and 8 games as a starter, the relative same numbers he got in one good season at Leon, yet, it was different, in those 702 minutes, 12 games, and 8 starting lineups he did nothing. In 702 minutes, 12 games, and 8 starting lineups all Loboa managed to do was stand around playing safe passes and weak crosses and failed dribbles and no assists and weak plays and get subbed off. In 702 minutes, 12 games, and 8 starting lineups he couldn’t even deliver a scintilla of the talent he had demonstrated at Leon, and if for some reason the planets had aligned while Haley’s Comet was in the sky making a Supermoon that was also a Bloodmoon allowed Eisner Loboa to make a good play or pass, it wouldn’t be one one-billionth of talent he had in him.
Conclusion
Eisner Loboa was loaned to Puebla for a year, the Apertura 2014 and the Clausura 2015, there’s no need to even go into the Clausura 2015, he was no show. He only played 3 games the entire season, for a total of 123 minutes. It was even more miserable than the first season, completely erased from the team, not even considered for the bench, what a low point. Whatever he did with his career after Puebla doesn’t mean anything to me, because Loboa was never the same again. After the year at Puebla he was loaned to Atlas, where he was reunited with Gustavo Matosas, then one season later he was moved to Morelia, afterward, he left the Liga MX and hasn’t returned. He was once valued at $1.14 million US dollars, today is only worth one-fourth of that. Eisner Loboa was the worst signing of the Puebla of the entire decade because of who he was and what he represented, not because he was, objectively speaking, the worst player in Puebla of the decade, far from it. His teammate, Marlon de Jesus Pabon, was an infinitely worse player than him, as was Ivan Bella, or Nano Ramos, or Matias Abelairas, or Carlos Salom, or Armando Wila, or Maicon dos Santos, Edgar Hernandez, Luis Landin, Venado Medina, Daniel Osorno, Jhon Freddy Pajoy, Ezequiel Rescaldani, Isaac Diaz, Ricardo Centurion, Cristian Palacios, Saul Villalobos, Damian Schmidt, Franco Arrizala, Federico Gonzalez, Mauro Cejas, Pablo Caceres, Gabrial Esparza, Jhon Mondragon, all of these players were worse players, but they aren’t the worst signing. Eisner Loboa was THE fichaje bomba; the one who was supposed to rise up as the star player; the one to lead with quality; the one TV pundits were supposed to say, he should be in a better team; the one to save the team from relegation. The one who didn’t transcend, that’s what he was. A disappointment to the fans. No one ever expected anything from the list of players mentioned above, they were troncos, then they left, and nobody gave a damn. Eisner Loboa was different. The hype made the fall even harder; the resentment is greater because we knew there was talent in him. How did he dip in quality so hard? You might say he was never that good, to begin with, the Bicampeon era was his absolute peak, something he would never reach again. Maybe he resented the move to Puebla, he was having success in Leon, he thought Puebla was beneath him, so he wasn’t going to try. Maybe he couldn’t keep his ego in check, but as a card-carrying Puebla fan, I reveal at last! Eisner Loboa, the worst player in the last ten years
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The 20/11 Rule How Teams Are Doing: Week 4

The Arrival of the Venerated Loboa
(This is the continuation of last week's post, practically 3/4 of the entire thing. Sorry.)
At the time of Loboa’s unexpected transfer to Puebla, he had hit his peak market value: $1.14 million US dollars. Why was someone worth that much going to Puebla, a team that was going through a very rough time? No one knows, I mean someone knows, it’s just not any one of us, only the people in Leon and Puebla at the time know. Nonetheless, a deal had been struck, Loboa was to head to Puebla on a year-long loan.
In Puebla this signing was met with much anticipation, the team was preparing for a fight to finally leave any fear of relegation in the past. The other signings on the season had left the fans a bit cold, most of the extranjeros had little clout in the Liga MX like Jhon Fredy Pajoy and Wilberto Cosme, others were just decent players like the return on Luis Noriega or Luis Loroña, then there were the obligatory loaned players, like Rodolfo Cota from Pachuca; Luis Esqueda from Queretaro; Marlon de Jesus Pabon from Monterrey; the list goes one. The biggest signing thus far was the legend himself Cuauhtémoc Blanco, but he was like forty years old. To make matters worse, there had been a major shake-up in the squad thanks to the departure of key players. Matias Alustiza was leaving the squad for the first time since arriving back in the Apertura 2012, as was Carlos Sanchez (Yes, the same one that was in Monterrey two years ago, the River Plate player, that scoundrel.) whose one year loan was over and was more than happy to leave this shipwreck behind for River Plate. Just those two were some of the brightest spots in the weak squad from last season, but the one departure that really hurt the most was everyone’s favorite American: Damarcus Beasley. After the Clausura 2014, Beasley felt it was time to go back home to the MLS, after more than a decade of having left the US. By the time the presentation of the team before the fans in the Estadio Cuauhtémoc rolled around, the total number of signings was fourteen - I don’t even remember when the presentation happened, the opening game was against Xolos on July 18, so it must have been a week earlier – there was, admittedly a little bit of hope surrounding the team, sure most the new arrivals were decent to troncos at best, but with Eisner Loboa? Perhaps Ruben Omar Romano could breathe some life into the older players, and the new extranjeros might turn out to be serviceable, add those together to the quality of Loboa, then we might have a shot at having a good tournament. As Romano had said in a press conference a few days earlier, “We have armed a team to compete and be in the top eight.” The fans, all one hundred of them who showed up that chilly morning, held on to that sliver of optimism, as the players were paraded in front of them, going up the catwalk one by one. The barra doing their classic barra things, which is creating hype, (Coincidentally, I remember the barra taking up half of the space in the little section opened of the stadium but looking through photos of the event show that there were very few of them. I guess memory really is the smoothest of liars.) as the players smiled and waved, showing they were happy to be here. Then the announcer said the magic words: Eisner Loboa. The clapping grew louder, you could hear the cheers from the stands, Venga Loboa! Venga Loboa! Venga Loboa! Excitement! Here he came! The man of the hour! Loboa was the man, man! Our ticket to a good tournament, our hopes and dreams rest on your shoulders Loboa, with your skills this could be it!
The Apertura 2014
One can’t know what happens in the locker room, what the coach practices with the players daily, or what emotional state the players are in, but there is one thing we can tell: when the team is playing like garbage. It didn’t really take that long for the team to fall apart honestly. One of the best games of the entire season was the first match, Xolos vs Puebla when my lifelong crush with the Loroña family began thanks to the winning goal by Luis Loroña. Loboa was a starter in that match, alongside other new refuerzos Rodolfo Cota, Efrain Cortes (Who is distinctly remembered for getting a red card then spitting on a Xolos player - I can’t remember their name - and promptly being suspended for a few games, only to get injured on his return and be out for the rest of the season. What fond memories you and I have.), Wilberto Cosme, and others that aren’t too important. The gist is, Loboa, in his debut game with Puebla, did bupkis. It wasn’t entirely his fault, sure, for the most part, he was just kind of there, then when Cortes got sent-off he couldn’t go on the offensive anymore. What the hell, he gets a pass.
Unfortunately for him, the next few games wouldn’t provide many excuses. The next game was against Veracruz, a classic 0-0 tie for a Clasico that was suffocatingly boring, followed by the other fondly remembered match against America that was a loss by four goals to one. I only remember it because Raul Jimenez scored a hat-trick and was immediately sold to Atletico de Madrid, that match was also the birth of the Cuauh meme. The fourth game was Cruz Azul, a 1-0 loss. However, by that point it was already clear to anyone who had watched Puebla play, Loboa was pretty bad, Christ was he bad. In the first three games, he was a literal ghost, nonexistent presence on the field, and merely content to spectate. That Cruz Azul loss? Eisner Loboa was already a bench warmer. He wasn’t even in the next game against Tigres, which was a 1-1 tie, but he was present on the pitch for Monterrey, Romano’s last chance to not be sacked. Puebla lost so he was sacked and replaced with no less than El Chelis, everyone’s favorite schlockmeister.
El Chelis, as we all know, is a very strange creature, both an honest man and a pathological liar, who can very quickly change opinions and contradict himself. When Ruben Omar Romano was sacked after the sixth game, El Chelis was brought in to reinvigorate the team with his patented hyping up, so he quickly started picking his favorites. That’s what El Chelis does you see, he finds the players he is emotionally connected to, which is to say, his friends, and exclusively uses them, everyone else can skydive into the elevator shaft of the Burj Khalifa without a parachute. Eisner Loboa was snubbed, of course, why else would I be telling you this?
Pause, for a moment, what I’ve been relating to you thus far has come from two places, first research, going back through the internet to find the match info from the Apertura 2014, Eisner Loboa’s past, and other things that required a refresher. The primary source has been me, my memory, what I remember from those days of antiquity because I was already neck-deep in this Puebla craze that started in 2010. Unfortunately, things that may have been important, such as the entire roster of Puebla from the 2014-2015 football year or the lineups or when a manager was sacked, five years ago have been cast out by memory; likewise, we live in a time where everything can be documented and accessed easily, but the Liga MX or Puebla for that matter, have never been that smart. I say this to you now, upfront because I can’t remember if Loboa was snubbed by Chelis or was simply injured and the internet can’t remember either.
For the next four games Eisner Loboa was not considered by El Chelis, stay at home, no need for you, four games in which Puebla won one (Morelia) and tied three (Queretaro, Jaguares, and Chivas). He had been replaced, in his stead Chelis placed his bets on a young Alfonso Tamay, who was in his prime, and “Messi” Acuña, who was not in his prime; both turned out to be very satisfactory. Certain circumstances by week 11 – against Pumas- meant that Eisner Loboa had to be called up to sit on the bench since the starter now was Jhon Freddy Pajoy, Chelis is very strange, he can never have a consistent line-up even when he has good results. Loboa was subbed in at the 65th minute, the game was tied 1-1, Noriega opened the score at the 29th minute and Lalo Herrera tied at the 48th, for Mario de Luna, a defender, Chelis wanted to win. Well if that was his intention then he failed because Puebla lost. Loboa did nothing, again. This is a recurring theme you see, like in music, the tonic of the piece. Again, those certain circumstances meant that Eisner Loboa was once again relevant, he saw action in every match henceforth, either as a sub-in or as a starter, but never completed a game. He never really had an impact in any of those games, always just kind of… there… participating, but not being the Loboa he was brought in to be. This all culminated in the week 15 match at home against Pachuca (Tie, tie, and loss, were the results of the previous games.), when at half-time, with a score of 1-0, Loboa was subbed in to replace Pajoy to keep up the intensity and hopefully increase the scoreboard. What happened was something a person only gets to witness once, like Haley’s Comet passing by Earth, after 39 minutes on the field Loboa was subbed out for Flavio Santos. The sub had been subbed. In the 39 minutes he was on the field Pachuca tied the game, and he was not helping the team, so he was replaced. El Chelis later in the post-match press conference called it an attitude problem, Loboa wasn’t showing any attitude on and off the field, that’s why he had to sub him out.
The last few games of the season were just as unmemorable as those preceding them, save the last one. Week 17, last game of the season, Puebla vs. Santos. It was the last call to enter the liguilla, Santos needed to win to secure their spot, a tie would leave them in the hands of fate. I can tell you one thing, it wasn’t exciting because of Loboa, he was subbed out at halftime to bring in the real hero: Cuauhtémoc Blanco. Santos had laid all their cards on the tables, they WANTED to win, so by half time they were up two goals with a dazed Puebla that didn’t know what to do. Thanks to the godlike efforts of Cuauh the playing field was evened 2-2, but Santos wasn’t ready to let go of the liguilla dream, and at the 82nd minute Carlos Izquiredoz put the final nail in the coffin with a devastating third goal. Was it over? Of course not! A Santos player, El Chato I think, forfeited a penalty during extra time. Who else but El Cuauh to take the penalty? 3-3, a heart-stopping tie that cock-blocked Santos. With that exciting ending the Apertura 2014 curtain closed for Puebla, a total of 16 points, the product of two victories, 10 ties, and 5 losses. Eisner Loboa played 702 minutes, participated in 12 games, and 8 games as a starter, the relative same numbers he got in one good season at Leon, yet, it was different, in those 702 minutes, 12 games, and 8 starting lineups he did nothing. In 702 minutes, 12 games, and 8 starting lineups all Loboa managed to do was stand around playing safe passes and weak crosses and failed dribbles and no assists and weak plays and get subbed off. In 702 minutes, 12 games, and 8 starting lineups he couldn’t even deliver a scintilla of the talent he had demonstrated at Leon, and if for some reason the planets had aligned while Haley’s Comet was in the sky making a Supermoon that was also a Bloodmoon allowed Eisner Loboa to make a good play or pass, it wouldn’t be one one-billionth of talent he had in him.
Conclusion
Eisner Loboa was loaned to Puebla for a year, the Apertura 2014 and the Clausura 2015, there’s no need to even go into the Clausura 2015, he was no show. He only played 3 games the entire season, for a total of 123 minutes. It was even more miserable than the first season, completely erased from the team, not even considered for the bench, what a low point. Whatever he did with his career after Puebla doesn’t mean anything to me, because Loboa was never the same again. After the year at Puebla he was loaned to Atlas, where he was reunited with Gustavo Matosas, then one season later he was moved to Morelia, afterward, he left the Liga MX and hasn’t returned. He was once valued at $1.14 million US dollars, today is only worth one-fourth of that. Eisner Loboa was the worst signing of the Puebla of the entire decade because of who he was and what he represented, not because he was, objectively speaking, the worst player in Puebla of the decade, far from it. His teammate, Marlon de Jesus Pabon, was an infinitely worse player than him, as was Ivan Bella, or Nano Ramos, or Matias Abelairas, or Carlos Salom, or Armando Wila, or Maicon dos Santos, Edgar Hernandez, Luis Landin, Venado Medina, Daniel Osorno, Jhon Freddy Pajoy, Ezequiel Rescaldani, Isaac Diaz, Ricardo Centurion, Cristian Palacios, Saul Villalobos, Damian Schmidt, Franco Arrizala, Federico Gonzalez, Mauro Cejas, Pablo Caceres, Gabrial Esparza, Jhon Mondragon, all of these players were worse players, but they aren’t the worst signing. Eisner Loboa was THE fichaje bomba; the one who was supposed to rise up as the star player; the one to lead with quality; the one TV pundits were supposed to say, he should be in a better team; the one to save the team from relegation. The one who didn’t transcend, that’s what he was. A disappointment to the fans. No one ever expected anything from the list of players mentioned above, they were troncos, then they left, and nobody gave a damn. Eisner Loboa was different. The hype made the fall even harder; the resentment is greater because we knew there was talent in him. How did he dip in quality so hard? You might say he was never that good, to begin with, the Bicampeon era was his absolute peak, something he would never reach again. Maybe he resented the move to Puebla, he was having success in Leon, he thought Puebla was beneath him, so he wasn’t going to try. Maybe he couldn’t keep his ego in check, but as a card-carrying Puebla fan, I reveal at last! Eisner Loboa, the worst player in the last ten years
Abbreviated Rule:
The 20/11 Rule 3.0 states that every team must field Formed in Mexico U-22 players (Born in 1998 or later) for at least 1,000 minutes. Players born in 1998 can provide fifty percent of minutes from each match, while players born in 1999 or later can make the 1,000 minutes, or one hundred percent. If a team fails to meet this requirement by the end of the season they will face a 3 point penalty at the end of the season. A team cannot exceed 270 minutes per game, regardless of how many players are on the field.
National Team Rule/Loophole:
The exception to this rule is the National Team, any player that participated with any National Team during the season, excluding FIFA international breaks, can apply those minutes to this requirement, regardless of whether they played or not. However, the team must field this player for at least 50 minutes in order to keep those National Team minutes at the end of the season. Failing to do so would result in a loss of said minutes.
Team Table
Teams Week 1 Minutes (# of Kids) Week 2 Minutes (# of kids) Week 3 Minutes (# of kids) Week 4 Minutes (# of kids) Raw Total League Minutes 98 Kids Minutes 99 and Under Kids Minutes National Team Minutes Scaled League Minutes Total Minutes Have They Met The Requirement?
America 2(1) 90(1) 90(1) 0(0) 182 0 182 0 182 182 No
Atlas 266(4) 215(3) 127(3) 293(4) 901 157.5 586 0 743.5 743.5 No
Atlético de San Luis 25(2) 24(2) 0(0) 0(0) 49 3.5 42 0 45.5 45.5 No
Club Tijuana 0(0) 90(1) 0(0) 90(1) 180 90 0 0 90 90 No
Cruz Azul 203(4) 135(3) 179(2) 163(4) 680 179.5 321 0 500.5 500.5 No
FC Juárez 180(2) 166(2) 90(1) 90(1) 526 263 0 0 263 263 No
Gallos Blancos 128(2) 68(1) 86(1) 90(1) 372 0 372 0 372 372 No
Guadalajara 260(3) 270(3) 160(2) 159(2) 839 154.5 540 0 694.5 694.5 No
León 6(1) 0(0) 48(2) 0(0) 54 0 54 0 54 54 No
Monarcas 88(2) 4(1) 32(1) 0(0) 124 0 124 0 124 124 No
Necaxa 90(1) 0(0) 0(0) 96(2) 186 3 180 0 183 183 No
Pachuca 0(0) 10(1) 55(2) 15(2) 80 0 80 0 80 80 No
Puebla 90(1) 0(0) 9(1) 135(2) 324 94.5 45 0 139.5 139.5 No
Rayados de Monterrey 23(1) 22(1) 0(0) 0(0) 45 0 45 0 45 45 No
Santos Laguna 90(1) 91(2) 138(3) 173(3) 492 228 36 0 264 264 No
Tigres de la U.A.N.L. 80(1) 15(1) 82(1) 174(2) 351 49.5 252 0 301.5 301.5 No
Toluca 90(1) 90(1) 90(1) 102(2) 372 180 12 0 192 192 No
Universidad Nacional 118(3) 90(1) 102(2) 119(2) 499 180 69 0 249 249 No
Liga MX C-20 U-22 Player Table
Teams Player Name Age Year Minutes in Week 1 Minutes in Week 2 Minutes in Week 3 Total Minutes Played
America Oscar Ortega 19 2000 2 90 90 0 182
Atlas Christopher Trejo 20 1999 9 0 13 82 104
Atlas Ulíses Cardona 21 1998 90 90 45 90 315
Atlas Ángel Márquez 19 2000 77 80 69 56 282
Atlas Ían Torres 19 2000 90 45 0 65 200
Atlético de San Luis Carlos Gutiérrez 20 1999 15 17 0 0 32
Atlético de San Luis Diego Hernández 20 1999 10 0 0 0 10
Atlético de San Luis Oscar Macías 21 1998 0 7 0 0 7
Club Tijuana Vladimir Loroña 21 1998 0 90 0 90 180
Cruz Azul Alexis Gutiérrez 19 2000 63 0 0 0 63
Cruz Azul Josué Domínguez 20 1999 5 14 0 0 19
Cruz Azul Roberto Alvarado 21 1998 90 90 89 90 359
Cruz Azul Santiago Giménez 18 2001 45 31 90 73 239
FC Juárez José Esquivel 22 1998 90 76 90 90 346
FC Juárez José Rodríguez 21 1998 90 90 0 0 180
Gallos Blancos Marcel Ruiz 19 2000 72 68 86 90 316
Gallos Blancos Salvador Manríquez 19 2000 56 0 0 0 56
Guadalajara Fernando Beltrán 21 1998 80 90 70 69 309
Guadalajara Gilberto Sepúlveda 20 1999 90 90 90 90 360
Guadalajara José Macías 20 1999 90 90 0 0 180
León Fidel Ambríz 16 2003 0 0 29 0 29
León Mauricio Isais 18 2001 0 0 19 0 19
León Saúl Zamora 16 2003 6 0 0 0 6
Monarcas César Huerta 19 2000 16 4 0 0 20
Monarcas Paolo Medina20 20 1999 72 0 32 0 104
Necaxa José Cobián 21 1998 0 0 0 6 6
Necaxa Raúl Sandoval 20 2000 90 0 0 90 180
Pachuca Efraín Orona 20 1999 0 0 0 10 10
Pachuca Eugenio Pizzuto 17 2002 0 0 7 0 7
Pachuca Josué Gómez 20 1999 0 0 0 5 5
Pachuca Roberto de la Rosa 20 2000 0 10 48 0 58
Puebla Diego Zago 17 2002 0 0 0 45 45
Puebla Salvador Reyes 21 1998 90 0 9 90 189
Rayados de Monterrey Jonathan González 20 1999 23 22 0 0 45
Santos Laguna Alan Cervantes 22 1998 0 0 0 7 7
Santos Laguna Edgar Games 18 2001 0 0 36 0 36
Santos Laguna Gerardo Arteaga 21 1998 90 90 90 90 360
Santos Laguna Eduardo Aguirre 21 1998 0 1 12 76 89
Tigres de la U.A.N.L. Juan Martínez 20 1999 80 0 82 90 162
Tigres de la U.A.N.L. Juan Sánchez 22 1998 0 0 0 84 84
Tigres de la U.A.N.L. Francisco Venegas 21 1998 0 15 0 0 15
Toluca Kevin Castañeda 20 1999 0 0 0 12 12
Toluca Luis Hernández 21 1998 90 90 90 90 360
Universidad Nacional Jesús Rivas 17 2002 6 0 0 0 6
Universidad Nacional Johan Vásquez 21 1998 90 90 90 90 360
Universidad Nacional Marco García 19 2000 22 0 12 29 63
Team Ranking
Ranking Teams w/o National Team Minutes
1 Atlas
2 Guadalajara
3 Cruz Azul
4 FC Juárez
5 Universidad Nacional
6 Santos Laguna
7 Gallos Blancos
8 Toluca
9 Tigres de la U.A.N.L.
10 Puebla
11 Necaxa
12 America
13 Club Tijuana
14 Monarcas
15 Pachuca
16 León
17 Atlético de San Luis
18 Rayados de Monterrey
Player Ranking
Ranking U-22 Player W/ Most Minutes
1 Gilberto Sepúlveda
1 Gerardo Arteaga
1 Luis Hernández
1 Johan Vásquez
2 Roberto Alvarado
3 José Esquivel
4 Marcel Ruiz
5 Ulíses Cardona
6 Fernando Beltrán
7 Ángel Márquez
The Sauce
A picture of Loboa
As well as thanks to Wikipedia, Transfermarkt, and Soccerway
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The American/Canadian second division, the North American Soccer League, kicks off in two days. Here's my preview for those who want to learn a little more.

Whether you knew it or not, the North American Soccer League (NASL), America's second division, is kicking off in two days' time. There's been a whirlwind of activity in the preseason, with new teams coming in, broadcast deals being signed, and recognizable players joining up. I'm someone who follows the league pretty closely, and while I'm certainly not an expert analyst, I've taken some time to put together a capsule for each club competing to provide a brief introduction to the league.
With that said, a quick overview of the NASL and its structure: The NASL is the second tier of U.S./Canadian soccer, having formed in 2011 after breaking away from the USL First Division. It is in no way connected to MLS. Twelve teams will compete in 2016 across two seasons - Spring and Fall. The Spring Season, being previewed here, consists of 10 games and will only feature 11 teams (Puerto Rico FC enters in the Fall). The Fall Season starts in July and will consist of 22 games. At the conclusion of the Fall Season, four teams - the Spring and Fall Season winners, along with the two remaining teams with the best overall records - will enter the Championship playoffs for a chance to win the Soccer Bowl Trophy.
For a short recap on last season, you could watch my attempt at making a season review video. Oh, and be sure to check out /NASLSoccer! I'm over there a lot, and it's a good place to learn more.
Got it? Alright, let’s get started.
Team Name: Carolina RailHawks
Location: Cary, North Carolina
Manager: Colin Clarke
Stadium: WakeMed Soccer Park
History: Founded in 2006, Carolina was one of the breakaway members from the USL First Division that formed the NASL. The team's name is mean to represent both the rail lines that run directly across from the field and the hawks that are indigenous to the area. The RailHawks play their home games at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC. In 2015, the RailHawks' owners, Traffic Sports, were indicted in a FIFA corruption scandal, leading to the sale of the club to local tech entrepreneur Stephen Malik.
2015 In Review: Carolina got off to a promising start in the spring, taking 14 points from 10 games and winning a 3rd place finish in the standings. Led by the creativity in the midfield of club legend Tiyi Shipalane and the goals up front from former Rangers striker Nacho Novo, the RailHawks picked up some good results at the beginning of the Fall Season as well. From that point, though, the wheels came off, particularly in road matches. Out of 10 away matches in the Fall, Carolina took just a single point. In the end, the result was 7th place in the Fall, and 6th in the combined table.
2016 Preview: The RailHawks marked their 10th anniversary in style off the field, inking a local TV deal, making stadium upgrades, and promising higher investment in the club. They doubled down on their commitment by re-signing club captain Connor Tobin as well as key players Tiyi Shipalane and Nazmi Albadawi. Then, they cleaned up by signing several high-level players, such as NASL Best XI midfielder James Marcelin, and former RailHawks Matt Watson and Akira Fitzgerald, who had most recently spent time in MLS. Carolina are the perfect example of a revamped and growing NASL: They've found a new owner who is excited and willing to spend, and they've invested all around the club and have reloaded their roster. Expect the RailHawks to challenge from right out of the gate in 2016.
Key Players: Ty Shipalane, MF; Connor Tobin, MF; Nazmi Albadawi, MF
One to Watch: Marvin Ceballos, MF. The Guatemalan international has been described as a "natural #10" by manager Colin Clarke and has the potential to be a breakout star for Carolina this year.
Predicted Finish: 4th. I think they fly under the radar as a well put-together team, and pressure from FIFA scandal gone. This prediction could blow up in my face.
Team Name: FC Edmonton
Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Manager: Colin Miller
Stadium: Clarke Stadium
History: Edmonton is a growing team, having only formed in 2010, just in time for the first NASL season. The Eddies are slight rivals with Minnesota United, participating in the Flyover Cup and raising money for charities together. Edmonton is currently the furthest west of all NASL teams, and has struggled with attendance figures as well as play on the field. Their best season finish was 5th place, and the closest they've been to a championship was the league's quarterfinals in its first year of existence.
2015 In Review: Despite progress made in 2014, things turned south for the league's northernmost club in the Spring Season of 2015. Two wins meant a 10th place finish out of 11. The Eddies' relief came in the form of a Canadian Championship cup run, in which they came inches away from defeating Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the semifinal, only to be knocked out by a goal in the last seconds of stoppage time. In the fall, results picked up for Edmonton. Lance Laing marked his record third appearance in the league's Best XI with eight goals and seven assists throughout the Spring and Fall Seasons, but the team suffered when he was on international duty with Jamaica. The team's playoff hopes fell away during the final five games of the season, during which they found only one point. FC Edmonton finished 5th in the Fall and 7th in the combined table.
2016 Preview: Edmonton would seem to be in a spot of trouble. Over the offseason, winger Lance Laing, who put the Eddies on his back at times, left to join Minnesota United. So, FC Edmonton made some changes. In the front office, they added Jay Ball as general manager; Ball played a significant role in the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada. On the field, they brought back Daryl Fordyce, the club's all-time leading scorer, and made a splash by signing Canadian international Nik Ledgerwood from Germany. Manager Colin Miller called it the most promising offseason in club history, and proceeded to sign the Senegalese center back Papé Diakité and Jake Keegan, 2nd-top scorer in the League of Ireland last season. With the roster set, Edmonton toured Great Britain, showing well in several friendly across the pond. With a lackluster history and a star player missing, Edmonton will look to defy the odds in 2016.
Key Players: Albert Watson, DF; Daryl Fordyce, FW; Nik Ledgerwood, DF/MF
One to Watch: Allan Zebie, MF. An FC Edmonton youth product and Canada youth international, Zebie, only 22, has established himself as the Eddies' regular right back. This year, he could move to a whole new level.
Predicted Finish: 6th. Laing is gone, but most of the roster returns, aided by savvy signings.
Team Name: Fort Lauderdale Strikers
Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Manager: Caio Zanardi
Stadium: Lockhart Stadium
History: As one of the members of the original NASL, the Strikers have a history dating back to 1977. The team signed some of the world's finest players, including Gordon Banks, George Best, and Gerd Müller. After moving to Minnesota, a second Strikers team popped up in Fort Lauderdale in 1988, playing for six years in the American Soccer League (ASL) and the American Professional Soccer League (APSL). The current incarnation, founded in 2006 as Miami FC, rebranded into the Strikers before the first season of the new NASL. In 2014, after a loss in the NASL final, the club made international headlines when Brazilian legend Ronaldo joined their ownership group. In 2015, the low-budget club shocked the league by once again making the playoffs.
2015 In Review: Following the Spring Season, there weren't many optimists left in the Strikers camp. After dumping most of 2014's star players (Fafà Picault, their star player, went to Europe; Pecka moved to Real Salt Lake), the firing of head coach Günter Kronsteiner, and the flop of much-hyped signing Leo Moura, Fort Lauderdale limped to an 8th place finish in the Spring. The Fall was a different story. After re-signing Kronsteiner, a young Strikers team turned it all around. Fluminense loanees Marlon Freitas and Stefano Pinho shined, with Pinho topping the NASL scoring charts and winning the league MVP award. James Marcelin joined Pinho in the league's Best XI, and midfielder PC just missed out. The Strikers finished 4th in the Fall, and a win against Jacksonville on the last day propelled them to 4th in the overall standings as well, giving them a semifinals spot. The fairy tale ended in New York, with the Cosmos coming from behind to win 2-1 en route to the NASL Championship game.
2016 Preview: For the past two years, Fort Lauderdale has been the surprise team of the league. This year, the rest of the NASL will be as prepared as they can, but the Strikers still present a bit of a mystery. After squeezing into the playoffs in 2015, the team once again dismantled its roster, letting go of manager Günter Kronsteiner (again), watching the league's MVP and top scorer Stefano Pinho leave for Minnesota, and parting ways with Best XI midfielder James Marcelin, who signed with Carolina.
In response, Fort Lauderdale ramped up operations: They created a reserve team in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), announced a whole wave of staff appointments, expanded partnerships and advertisements, got a TV deal, hosted an international tournament, and toured China. They also made some big-name signings, inking World Cup winner Kléberson, Brazilian veterans Adrianinho & Bruno Cardoso, U.S. youth internationals and UEFA Champions League-experienced players. And they unveiled their new jerseys on a yacht. Yeah, what can I say? The Strikers have big ambitions, and they've moved on from being a low-budget side that scraped past other teams. So will new investment bring more success? We'll have to see.
Key Players: Kléberson, MF; PC MF; Adrianinho, MF
One to Watch: Matheus Carvalho, FW. Carvalho has a solid pedigree, having played a few minutes for Monaco in last year's UEFA Champions League. It's possible he could be a welcome surprise in South Florida.
Predicted Finish: 7th. So much change on this roster, and several star players past their primes.
Team Name: Indy Eleven
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Manager: Tim Hankinson
Stadium: Carroll Stadium
History: After years of calls for a professional soccer team in Indianapolis from the Brickyard Battalion (the Eleven's main supporter group), the dream was finally realized in 2013. That year, legendary American soccer executive Peter Wilt announced that he would become the president of Indy Eleven, a team that started play in 2014. Despite struggles on the field, Indy Eleven became the first American soccer team to sell out all its home games in its inaugural home season. Wilt left on good terms in 2016 to pursue a Chicago NASL project.
2015 In Review: After a disappointing first year on the field, things didn't get much better in 2015 for Indy Eleven, though they did once again lead the league in attendance. Star player Kléberson picked up a season-ending achilles injury, and the Eleven won only one in their first eight matches. That record, combined with an embarrassing U.S. Open Cup defeat at home to USL's Louisville City FC, led to the firing of head coach Juergen Sommer. His replacement, interim coach Tim Regan, won the final two games to elevate Indy to 5th in the Spring. However, any playoff aspirations fell away in the Fall, as a string of bad results climaxed with a 7-1 loss in Fort Lauderdale en route to a 9th place finish in the Fall Season and combined standings. Indy could find a silver lining with the strong performances of several youngsters, such as Dylan Mares and Duke Lacroix.
2016 Preview: With one of the largest fanbases in the league and some of the worst performances, Indy are under pressure to finally turn around its performance. To start, they stripped down most of the team to just a couple of players, and hired long-time manager Tim Hankinson to construct a rebuild. Hankinson piled on MLS experience, inking Jon Busch, Siniša Ubiparipović, Justin Braun, Lovel Palmer, and Gorka Larrea, among others. Preseason did not go well, with most friendlies ending in defeat or stalemate to lower-division and university teams, and several players picking up injuries. That said, this Eleven squad is better than any other that has taken the field, and have a good mix of senior players and up-and-comers that are ready to deliver.
Key Players: Dylan Mares, MF; Brad Ring, MF; Siniša Ubiparipović, MF
One to Watch: Duke Lacroix, FW. It's time to meet the 22-year-old forward every soccer fan in Indianapolis is talking about. Lacroix got a chance last year, and electrified on the wing. This season, he'll hope to earn a starting job.
Predicted Finish: 8th. If one of the new central striker signings turns good, they'll have a real chance in this league. If not? Expect the same as before.
Team Name: Jacksonville Armada FC
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Manager: Tony Meola
Stadium: Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville
History: Announced on July 25, 2013, Jacksonville's team was christened as Armada FC on February 18, 2014. The Armada was the only expansion side to join the league in 2015, lead by the ownership collective Sunshine Soccer Group and club president Steve Livingstone. The team chose to play at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville and quickly established themselves in the top tier of NASL attendances, although they didn't do as well on the field.
2015 In Review: Jacksonville got off to a fast start, with Jemal Johnson scoring seconds into their first game as the Armada went on to win three out of its first five. That was the best run of form the team would see all year. After finishing a respectable 6th in the Spring, the Armada fell into a slump, finishing last both in the Fall Season and combined table. The team fired its first manager, José Luis Villarreal, after attempting to give him a co-managerial role with Guillermo Hoyos. The club later fired Hoyos after giving him a contract through 2019 months earlier.
2016 Preview: The Armada began their offseason with a big statement of intention, hiring former USA goalkeeper Tony Meola as head coach. After an unsuccessful inaugural year, much of 2015's roster did not make it back. Instead, Jacksonville refined it by looking to the lower leagues. They signed NASL Best XI midfielder Richie Ryan, USL MVP Matt Fondy, and USL Defender of the Year Bryan Burke, in effect establishing a small collection of some of the best players below MLS last season. Just before the season began, the Armada suffered a blow as young standout Akeil Barrett transferred to the Swedish second division. Yet, after a preseason that included promising signings and friendlies, Jacksonville seem ready to move up the table.
Key Players: Alhassane Keita, FW; Mechak Jérôme, DF; Matt Fondy, FW
One to Watch: Charles Eloundou, FW. Once a highly-touted prospect, Eloundou, 21, saw his career stall with the Colorado Rapids (MLS). Now settled in Jacksonville, this year may be his opportunity to shine.
Predicted Finish: 9th. Good first steps, but still a lot to do after finishing bottom of the table last year.
Team Name: Miami FC
Location: Miami, Florida
Manager: Alessandro Nesta
Stadium: FIU Stadium
History: Unrelated to the original Miami FC (now the Fort Lauderdale Strikers), this team was founded in 2015 and kicked off in 2016. Miami attracted international attention with its ownership (entrepreneur Riccardo Silva and former Italy legend Paolo Maldini) as well as its first head coach (Maldini's Italy teammate Alessandro Nesta). The team began play at FIU Stadium.
2016 Preview: Expansion teams are often an enigma, and the organization of Miami FC is no different. Founded in the eye of a storm of MLS rumors (Miami Beckham United FC?), the brains behind Miami FC will likely want to get off to a running start in order to attract the sort of attention with soccer fans that can make them viable in the city and sustainable into the future. To that end, Miami brought in two star: Dario Cvitanich, who has scored goals and seen success with big clubs all over the world, and Wilson Palacios, the English Premier League veteran with nearly 100 Honduras caps under his belt. Mostly, though, the roster is filled out by players with NASL experience (Pablo Campos, Jaimé Chavez, etc.) and up-and-comers looking to make a name for themselves. In many ways, this is a similar approach that other past expansion teams have taken, with mixed results. The real question for 2016 might be just how well Miami FC establishes a fanbase in an unknown market.
Key Players: Wilson Palacios, MF; Darío Cvitanich, FW; Matuzalem, MF
One to Watch: Blake Smith, MF. Making his return to North American soccer after a year in hiatus, Smith is an unknown quantity. However, if he re-creates the kind of success he saw in Montreal and Indy, he could be a vital part of Miami's attack.
Predicted Finish: 11th. Similar construction as previous expansion teams may yield similar results.
Team Name: Minnesota United FC
Location: Blaine, Minnesota
Manager: Carl Craig
Stadium: National Sports Center
History: Professional soccer in Minnesota began with the Minnesota Kicks of the old NASL, but Minnesota has had a continuous presence of professional soccer since the founding of the Minnesota Thunder in 1990. When that team folded due to the financial shadiness of owner Dean Johnson, a new series of teams all slightly related to one another emerged. The NSC Minnesota Stars were launched in 2010, but the ownership of National Sports Center in Blaine, MN lasted only a season before the NASL took over the team. In 2011, the Stars won the Soccer Bowl for the first time in the new era of the NASL. In 2012, the team rebranded as Minnesota Stars FC and again went to the final, where they lost to Tampa Bay in penalties. The team was league-owned at the time and many fans and players thought that without a win in the final (thinking the league wouldn't dare let its champion fold), the team would no longer have a future. However, after the crushing loss, news began to leak out that the team had found an owner. In 2013, Dr. Bill McGuire (formerly of United Healthcare Group) purchased the Minnesota Stars and rebranded them as Minnesota United FC.
The team is supported by the Dark Clouds, a supporters group founded in the Thunder days. They are known for their bizarre brand of "Jackassery," which is ecstatic support that opposes macho, wannabe hooliganism. They have a gameday zine called the Jackassery Times-Heckler and worship the god DETHLOON. The club announced a move to Major League Soccer in 2017 or 2018, pending the construction of a downtown stadium.
2015 In Review: Buoyed off the field by an MLS expansion announcement, Minnesota continued to show stellar performances on it. Although star player Miguel Ibarra transferred to Mexican club Léon, replacements brought in (including Ibson and Khalif Alhassan) proved to be up to the challenge. A fourth place finish in the Spring was strong, if not ideal. In the Fall, an incredible run of eight wins in 10 matches led to a 2nd place finish. United were 3rd in the overall standings, and Christian Ramirez scored the second-most goals in the league, just missing a second consecutive Golden Boot. In their playoff semifinal in Ottawa, Ramirez's penalty gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead, but an equalizer and extra time winner from opposition forward Tom Heinemann led to an end to their season.
2016 Preview: This could be Minnesota's last year in the NASL, and they're offseason move show a determination to leave with a trophy in both hands. In preparation for the move to MLS, Manny Lagos (manager since 2010) became Sporting Director, and assistant Carl Craig moved up to become head coach. The team returns all four of its Best XI players from 2015: Justin Davis, Ibson, Christian Ramirez, and Kevin Venegas. It made further inroads by signing two other Best XI members: Lance Laing, who carried FC Edmonton and became a regular with Jamaica, and Stefano Pinho, who was named the league's best player and won the Golden Boot with Fort Lauderdale. Is there any stopping this team? Well, while United obviously has an unparalleled attack, there are questions on the defensive side, with the team having lost preseason games 0-4, 0-4, and 1-3 to MLS sides. If defense does not turn out to be a problem, though, this is a side that could really challenge for both the league title and a position deep in the U.S. Open Cup.
Key Players: Christian Ramirez, FW; Stefano Pinho, FW; Justin Davis, DF
One to Watch: Greg Jordan, MF. Minnesota are clearly looking for MLS-ready players this year, and Greg Jordan could be a sleeper pick to move up with them. Since falling out of favor in Philadelphia, he's had a dependable two seasons with the Loons, and will look to step up his game in 2016.
Predicted Finish: 3rd. May take some time for new players to settle, and who know how MLS move will divert their focus, but they'll be competitive no matter what.
Team Name: New York Cosmos
Location: Hempstead, New York
Manager: Giovanni Savarese
Stadium: Shuart Stadium
History: The New York Cosmos brand is one of the greatest in all of world soccer, and their teams in the original NASL were arguably better than any American sides that have come before or since. Centered around players like Giorgio Chinaglia, Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer, and of course, the legendary Pelé, New York won five Soccer Bowls and became a global phenomenon. Since the team folded, there have been many attempts to revive it. This one is the first to get a real team on the field. The modern iteration of the Cosmos kicked off in the Fall Season of 2013, won the championship the same year, and won it again in 2015 with Real Madrid legend Raúl.
2015 In Review: After announcing the signing of illustrious Spanish forward Raúl, the Cosmos cemented their place as the biggest spenders with the biggest names in the NASL. 2015 marked the final seasons for Raúl and fellow former Spanish international Marcos Senna, and New York looked to send them off with a storybook ending. In the Spring Season, everything went to plan, with the Cosmos winning the title by a point and securing a playoff spot early. A high point came in the team's U.S. Open Cup victory over New York City FC on penalties, though they would later be knocked out by the New York Red Bulls. The Cosmos stayed strong in the Fall with a 3rd place finish, benefitting through performances from NASL Young Player of the Year Leo Fernandes (on loan from Philadelphia Union) and team MVP Ayoze. The Cosmos won the combined season with 56 points, edging Ottawa on goal differential. In the semifinal, the Cosmos came from behind to beat Fort Lauderdale 2-1. Hosting the Championship, relatively new signing Gastón Cellerino scored a hat trick in a 3-2 victory as Raúl and Senna lifted their final trophy.
2016 Preview: With the retirement of Raúl and Marcos Senna, the departure of star winger Walter Restrepo and formerly on-loan Leo Fernandes (both to Philadelphia), and the exit of championship hero Gastón Cellerino, this could have been a transition year for New York. But the New York Cosmos don't rebuild. They reload. This offseason, the Cosmos put together one of the most stunning collections of signings this league has ever seen. To recap: The two biggest names are Niko Kranjčar and Juan Arango, both vastly experienced players who have played at the very top of world soccer; senior internationals include Jairo Arrieta (Costa Rica), David Ochieng (Kenya), Michael Lahoud (Sierra Leone), Yohandry Orozco (Venezuela), and Yasmani Duk; other signings include Gabriel Farfan (MLS/Liga MX experience) and two U.S. youth internationals. On paper, it is hard to argue any team is better than the Cosmos. How the pieces of the puzzle come together is the only question left.
Key Players: Danny Szetela, MF; Niko Kranjčar, MF; Juan Arango, MF
One to Watch: Yohandry Orozco, MF. So, get this, right? There's player in his prime, who plays regularly for his country, had experience with Wolfsburg, and he's coming to the NASL? You'd better believe it, and Orozco has all the skills to make a huge impact.
Predicted Finish: 1st. I've been wrong before with this team, but there's just too much talent to deny.
Team Name: Ottawa Fury FC
Location: Ottawa, Ontario
Manager: Paul Dalglish
Stadium: TD Place Stadium
History: A longtime candidate for expansion, Ottawa was welcomed into the league in 2011, with the Ottawa Fury name being decided in 2013. The Fury were a fromer PDL franchise, and brought a history of support with it. The club shares a new stadium (as well as ownership) with the Canadian Football League Ottawa RedBlacks. In 2015, the team surged to the Championship final, but lost to the New York Cosmos.
2015 In Review: Few would have predicted Ottawa Fury's run to the NASL Championship after the Fall Season. Despite making a splash by bringing in Canadian international Julian De Guzman, the results failed to come, and the Fury found themselves in 9th place. In the Fall, though, coach Marc Dos Santos' plan clicked. A back line marshaled by NASL Best XI goalkeeper Romuald Peiser and defender Rafael Alves recorded eight shutouts, and an offense led by the connection between midfielder Siniša Ubiparipović (eight assists total) and forward Tom Heinemann (12 goals total) resulted in one loss in 20 games, and a Fall Season title. Heinemann's two goals in the semifinal knocked out Minnesota United, but the Fury ultimately fell short of the Championship in New York, losing 3-2 to the New York Cosmos.
2016 Preview: After falling short in the Championship, the Ottawa Fury had the offseason from Hell. First, Manager of the Year Marc Dos Santos left to be an assistant and reserve team coach for Sporting Kansas City (MLS). Then, many of the key players in the run to the final chose to part ways: Tom Heinemann, who scored every playoff goal, went to Tampa Bay; Colin Falvey, Ryan Richter, and Mason Trafford, who all started on the back line in the Championship, moved on; Best XI midfielder Richie Ryan left for Jacksonvile, playmaker Siniša Ubiparipović went to Indy, and starting winger Andrew Wiedeman moved to Cinicinnati in USL. Reinforcements have come, mostly in the form of other lower league players, but almost all will have to prove themselves before being considered adequate replacements. If I have to pick one out, the signing to keep an eye on will be Marcel De Jong, the Canadian international brought in who should play as a left back. The Fury will also be bolstered by the return of goalkeeper Romuald Peiser, who won the league's Golden Glove in 2015 and was named /NASLSoccer's player of the year.
Key Players: Julian de Guzman, MF; Rafael Alves, DF; Romuald Peiser, GK
One to Watch: Mauro Eustáquio, MF. Last year, Eustáquio impressed in the midfield when filling in for injured players. With so many departures, the youngster now has a chance to play well and force his way onto the Canadian national team.
Predicted Finish: 10th. This team got completely picked apart in the offseason. They could turn out okay, but they'll have work to do to prove me wrong.
Team Name: Rayo OKC
Location: Yukon, Oklahoma
Manager: Alen Marcina
Stadium: Miller Stadium
History: A fierce battle between the NASL and USL PRO for a team in Oklahoma City ended with both leagues announcing expansions in the city. The USL put together Oklahoma Energy FC in 2013. Meanwhile, the owners of Oklahoma City FC, a Premier Development League (PDL) team, decided to run an NASL side, but an ownership group breakup in 2014 caused a delay to the project. Eventually, Spanish La Liga club Rayo Vallecano partnered with the organization to form what is now known as Rayo OKC. The team name was announced in November 2015, and began play at Miller Stadium in 2016.
**2016 Preview: As much of an enigma I've said Miami FC have been as an expansion team, it's safe to say Rayo OKC have been even more of a mystery. The organization was derided at first, dismissed due to the involvement from a struggling foreign team and its juxtaposition to the already-successful Energy. However, its initial roster has made fans sit up and take notice. Five World Cup veterans and nine national team players headline the squad, which includes illustrious Greek striker Georgios Samaras. Rayo has built its team using players with experience in European leagues (say, Yuma and Juanan) and players who have found success in MLS (Michel, Sebastian Velasquez) and the NASL (Billy Forbes, Erick Norales). Expansion teams typically take time to fare well, but if there's any that might have a chance at making a first impression by challenging for a title, this could be the one.
Key Players: Robbie Findley, FW; Derek Boateng, MF; Georgios Samaras, FW
One to Watch: Billy Forbes, FW. Over the past two years, Billy Forbes has become the breakout sensation of the league with the San Antonio Scorpions. With the Scorpions dissolving, Rayo OKC won their most prized asset in Forbes, who should certainly get a look-in from former San Antonio coach Alen Marcina.
Predicted Finish: 5th. So much talent, but need to build some chemistry and fan support.
Team Name: Tampa Bay Rowdies
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida
Manager: Stuart Campbell
Stadium: Al Lang Stadium
History: An original NASL team, the Rowdies won a championship in their first year (1975) and continued to impress until the league collapsed in 1985. The Rowdies kept playing in lower leagues until 1993. In 2008, the team was reborn again, with the vision of recreating its old glory days. However, because of legal problems, the team simply went by FC Tampa Bay until 2012, when the old moniker returned, along with a Soccer Bowl title won on penalties over Minnesota Stars FC. In 2014, the team was purchased by St. Petersburg businessman Bill Edwards, who promised to take the Rowdies to the next level.
2015 In Review: Following a frustrating 2014 season, manager Ricky Hill got the boot, and the Rowdies began building a new roster with the prolific coach Thomas Rongen. Under Rongen, the ball started to roll, and the Rowdies finished 2nd in the Spring Season, just one point behind the New York Cosmos. In July, Tampa Bay made waves by signing former U.S. international Freddy Adu. However, the Fall Season got off to a rough start. After securing only seven points in eight games, Rowdies owner Bill Edwards fired Rongen and general manager Farrukh Quraishi. Under new manager Stuart Campbell, Tampa Bay fell further, eventually finishing 8th in the Fall and 5th overall, missing out on the playoffs by just two points.
2016 Preview: In the third year of the Bill Edwards era, Tampa Bay is under big pressure to finally make the playoffs. The Rowdies haven't been the loudest team in the offseason, and have perhaps been overshadowed by some of their neighbors in Florida, but the transition from 2015 to 2016 has been smooth. Key players were re-signed, including defensive rock Tamika Mkandawire, Freddy Adu, and 2014 MVP Georgi Hristov. They bet big on bringing in Tom Heinemann, the striker who lit Ottawa's season on fire in the second half of 2015. And they brought in a good collection of supplementary players, such as Neil Collins (200+ games in the English Football League), Danny Mwanga (100+ MLS games) and Eric Avila (170+ MLS games). The Rowdies toured England in the preseason, scoring some impressive results (a draw with Stoke City; a win over Notts County). After an offseason that was, for once, not quite tumultuous, it may be Tampa's time to shine in 2016.
Key Players: Georgi Hristov, FW; Tom Heinemann, FW; Freddy Adu, MF
One to Watch: Darwin Espinal, FW. Only 21, Espinal is already having an impact on Honduran youth national teams. He's got several good forwards to compete with on this roster, but he could well become one of the best.
Predicted Finish: 2nd. This could be the year it all comes together for the Rowdies.
Predicted Spring Standings:
Place Club
#1 New York Cosmos
#2 Tampa Bay Rowdies
#3 Minnesota United FC
#4 Carolina RailHawks
#5 Rayo OKC
#6 FC Edmonton
#7 Fort Lauderdale Strikers
#8 Indy Eleven
#9 Jacksonville Armada FC
#10 Ottawa Fury FC
#11 Miami FC
Opening Weekend Schedule:
Saturday, April 2
Time (ET) Home Away U.S. TV
3:00 CAR MNU ESPN3
7:00 FTL MIA beIN
7:30 TBR IND OWS
8:00 OKC FCE ESPN3
Sunday, April 3
Time (ET) Home Away TV
6:00 NYC OTT OWS
To follow all the excitement and keep up with the latest news this season, make sure to visit and subscribe to /NASLSoccer - the home of the NASL on reddit. Feel free to add any comments or questions below.
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Test Match Thread (PLEASE GIVE FEEDBACK AND SUGGESTIONS): LA Galaxy vs C.S.D. Comunicaciones

Match Info

Competition: CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage - Match Day 4 Kick Off: 7:00 pm PDT PST Referee: Fernando Guerrero Location: Guatemala City, Guatemala Estadio Cementos Progreso: Capacity 17,022

Team Information

LA Galaxy

Starting XI Goalkeeper: 12 Brian Rowe Left Back: 2 Todd Dunivant Left Center Back: 27 Dave Romney Right Center Back: 21 Tommy Meyer YELLOW CARD Right Back: 36 Oscar Sorto Off at half-time for: 33 Dan Gargan Left Midfield: 15 Ignacio Maganto Left Center Midfield: 25 Rafael Garcia Right Center Midfield: 3 Mika Väyrynen Right Midfield: 40 Raul Mendiola Off in 57th minute for: 6 Baggio Husidic Left Center Forward: 16 Edson Buddle Right Center Forward: 5 Jose Villarreal Off in 74th minute for: 9 Alan Gordon GOAL: 83rd Minute. Assisted by 2 Todd Dunivant
Substitutes Substitute 1: 31 Andrew Wolverton Substitute 2: 33 Dan Gargan On at half time for Oscar Sorto Substitute 3: 6 Baggio Husidic On in 57th minute for Raul Mendiola Substitute 4: 34 Kenney Walker Substitute 5: 9 Alan Gordon On in 74th minute for Jose Villarreal Substitute 6: Unused Substitute 7: Unused
Injury/Suspension Info Brian Perk: Out for the season with dislocated and fractured ankle Bradford Jamieson IV: Concussion Baggio Husidic: Was out of the 18 man squad against Portland while rehabbing a knee injury. A.J. DeLaGarza: Was part of the 18 man squad against Portland, but did not play due to unknown injury.
Players to Watch Alan Gordon: Gordo. A first team player, should get in the goals at least once, as he usually does from the substitutes bench in MLS. Incredibly powerful in the air, known for his headers. I'm trying to get people to call him Supersub, but I have yet to meet with success. Dave Romney: Has made a few starts for the first team, promoted from Los Dos, a prospect for the future. No, he's not only featuring here because he wears my favorite number 27. It did help though. Todd Dunivant: Oh, Todd. We'll miss you. The stalwart face in our backline, the rock of our dynasty, he is retiring at the end of the season after a 13 year career with MLS cup highs and injury lows.
Form League Form W 3-2 vs Dallas D 1-1 at Seattle L 2-5 vs Portland
Cup Form W 5-1 vs Central FC W 5-0 vs Comunicaciones D 1-1 at Central FC

C.S.D. Comunicaciones

Starting XI Goalkeeper: 23 Mynor Padilla Left Back: 24 Kendel Herrarte Left Center Back: 13 Carlos Castrillo YELLOW CARD Central Center Back: 28 Joel Benitéz Right Center Back: 3 Wilson Lalin YELLOW CARD Right Back: 29 Carlos Figueroa Left Midfield: 21 Brandon de Leon Off in 65th minute for: 12 Jean Marquez Center Midfield: 15 José Del Águila Right Midfield: 10 Jose Contreras Left Center Forward: 9 Ronaldo Blackburn GOAL: 90+1 minute Right Center Forward: 18 Emiliano López Off in 62nd minute for: 11 Agustin Herrera
Substitutes Substitute 1: 1 Freddy Pérez Substitute 2: 4 Carlos Gallardo Substitute 3: 14 Rafael Morales Substitute 4: 12 Jean Marquez On in 65th minute for Brandon de Leon Substitute 5: 17 Bryan Ordoñez Substitute 6: 11 Agustin Herrera On in 61st minute for Emiliano Lopez Substitute 7: 19 Enrique Miranda
Injury/Suspension Info
Players to Watch Emiliano Lopéz: The clubs top goalscorer in the Guatemalan League. Scoring average of one goal every 146 minutes, so not incredibly prolific, but deserves mention. He was just signed this summer, so his slow start can probably be attributed to acclimatization. Jose Contreras: While technically not the clubs top scorer, with only 5 goals, he has achieved those goals at a rate of 1 goal every 103 minutes, even though he plays out of the midfield. He has not, however, appeared in any of Comunicaciones' CCL lineups, so there is every chance we will not be facing him. If he makes an appearance, then, he is one to watch out for.
Form W 4-1 at Deportivo Petapa W 2-1 vs Deportivo Malacateco L 2-0 at CD Suchitepequez (No, I could not pronounce that the first time either, don't worry)

Team and Match Facts

Significance A win will give us a good enough seed to avoid the Mexican powerhouses in the quarterfinals, hopefully sending us deeper than we went last year. A draw will pit us against Santos Laguna, which we very much don't want, but a loss will put us up against DC United. So anything but a draw is good, but a win is obviously the most preferable. Furthermore, we will be without head coach Bruce Arena and any first team players who will be traveling to Kansas for our decision day showdown at Sporting Park. Since only the top team of the group advances, Comunicaciones are playing for pride, and with the Guatemalan league now in full swing and with C.S.D. picking up a surprising loss in their last game, they may well play a weakened side.
Previous Meetings Aug 18, 2015 LA 5 - 0 COM
Our only previous meeting was the 5-0 thrashing at the StubHub Center, so we have no real indication of how hard it is for us to play away there. However, of the three matches played there against MLS teams, no MLS team has yet recorded a victory, with the Sounders losing 2-0 in 1997, DC United losing 4-0 in 2002, and the Sounders drawing 2-2 in 2011. Maybe we can record the first away win for an MLS team at the Estadio Cementos Progreso?
Player Stats and Facts Poor defending cost Comunicaciones all 5 of their goals, one from a horrific goalkeeping distribution error when the C.S.D. 'keeper rolled the ball straight to Alain Gordon. With Alan Gordon and Robbie Keane both snagging a brace, hopefully our forwards will be able to get in the goals today.
Match Stats and Facts Comunicaciones' defensive record at home in their league is better than it is away, but their goalscoring is surprisingly better on the road. Hopefully this point the way to a Galaxy win!
Trivia Comunicaciones' stadium is locally called the Estadio La Pedrera after the neighborhood it is located in, but its official name is after a local cement company.

Live Updates

Time Event
Pre Match Dismally low tunrout here. They did show the nine LA fans, so kudos to them. I wouldn't bet on there being over 200 people in attendance total.
0' Kickoff! It's Todd Dunivant wearing the armband for the Galaxy. Brings a tear to the eye
3' It's back and forward like ping pong out there. Hard to keep up!
4' Both 'keepers have had goal kicks already. I said it was like ping pong, didn't I?
7' The frenetic pace has slowed a little, but only a little, they're still bounding like puppies. A plethora of throw ins for both sides as well.
8' Chance for Comunicaciones. Lopez picks up a bouncing ball at the edge of the penalty area, but the chip is off target. Goal kick.
10' Galaxy trying to retain possession, but the passing looks a little bit off. Comunicaciones are immediatley swarming us whenever one of our blue shirts gets the ball
12' Free kick for the Galaxy, 40 yrds out. Too close to the 'keeper and results in nothing
13' Villarreal clattered form behind. Was on the ground for a second but is fine now
13' Comunicaciones with some solid pressure on our penalty area, but nothing seems to be buckling as of now
15' Pressure subsided for the moment. On another note, those Comunicaciones ultras are making a lot of noise. Good for them!
16' Edson just broke the corner pole. Oh Edson. . .
19' An excellent chance for Comunicaciones wasted. Del Aguila layed a ball across the six yard box, but Lopez failed to get on the end of it
21' Another great chance for them. Cross in towards Blackburn, who brings it down for the turn and fire, but Rowe just manages to get a hand to it and clutch it down. As far as chances go, we're very much for the worse
23' Oscar Sorto showing some frustration with a hand around the chest of de Leon. Let's not give away too many silly fouls boys!
24' A long ranger at Rowe, but a comfortable save
25' Some offensive play from the Galaxy, but it pretty quickly ends in a goal kick
27' Galaxy sitting very deep. Two banks of 4 right at the edge of the penalty area whenever the ball is anywhere near our defensive third. Doesn't matter too much I guess, but I'd like to see us going after this more
29' A Kendel Herrarte cross pegs Oscar Sorto in the face. Corner kick for Comunicaciones
29' WHAT A SAVE! Rowe tips what was surely a goal just over the bar!
30' Second corner results in a daisycutting header that Rowe easily collects. It's been all Comunicaciones so far. . .
35' First 1/64th of a chance so far for the Galaxy. A flick on by Mika in the box fails to find a blue shirt
36' Arcing cross finds Blackburn, who headers wide
36' Comunicaciones players flailing to the ground in the box at every touch. Referee so far having none of it
39' What just happened!? A poor clearance falls to Maganto, who flicks it on to Buddle, who then chips the keeper, but the ball is cleared off the goal-line! Unlucky not to have put that away!
41' Villarreal dragged down on the edge of the box. Free kick to LA in a dangerous position!
42' On target free kick shoved down by Padilla. Then, Comunicaciones break fast on the counter, with Blackburn watching his effort on goal from around the penalty spot roll past the outstretched Rowe, but also past the post. Great chances at both ends!
45' Total shots are 8-3 for Comunicaciones and shots on target are 4-1, again favoring Comunicaciones. They also have 57% possession. that being said, the fact that going into half time on level terms doesn't feel like we're getting away with murder is something kinda positive right?
45' HALF TIME: C.S.D. Comunicaciones 0-0 LA Galaxy
45' SUBSTITUTION On: Dan Gargan. Off: Oscar Sorto
45' And we're off for the second half of the final match of the CCL group stage, poised at 0-0
50' Been a dull opening 5 minutes. The frantic energy is gone now, and the game is starting to bog down a little in the center of the pitch
53' Comunicaciones not playing the the urgency they were earlier, but our passing and transitional play still leaves a lot to be desired
54' Dangerous play from Blackburn, but he's flagged offsides
55' Another great save from Rowe. A long ranger with venom from Herrarte is pushed over the bar for a corner. he's making a real case for a first team start!
57' SUBSTITUTION On: Baggio Husidic. Off: Raul Mendiola.
58' My god! Ball comes in, Rowe attempts to clear, but it falls to Blackburn who headers on goal, it's saved off the line, another attempt goes toward goal, Rowe just manages too pop out from behind Sorto to save it, and then another attempt goes pinging in before it finally bounces away. His case for a start is very, very strong
61' If you'll pardon my Liverpool FC reference, Rowe strikes me as a little bit like Simon Mignolet. He's an excellent shot stopper, and he really makes you wonder. He doesn't only make you wonder how he saves those balls, he makes you wonder how he could save those while looking completely lost at the same time. Unlike Mignolet, though, Rowe has age on his side, and could easily grow into our first choice keeper
62' De Leon is on the ground after a collision with Mika Väyrynen. He seems to be able to play on though.
62' SUBSTITUTION On: Agustin Herrera. Off: Emiliano López
65' SUBSTITUTION On: Jean Marquez. Off: Brandon de Leon
66' Players dropping like flies! It's getting physical as frustration sets in for both sides
66' YELLOW CARD Wilson Lalin
71' After a number of injury delays and general pinging around of the ball, Jean Marquez decides he fancies his chances from way out. A warning to low flying planes. . .
74' SUBSTITUTION On: Alan Gordon. Off: Jose Villarreal
76' Pretty much devolving into a shoving match, free kicks for both sides. Gordo's going to have a great time! On another note, the 9 Galaxy fans are still going strong. LA GALAXY!!
78' These stats are starting to look dire: 20 shots with 4 on target for Comunicaciones, and not one Galaxy shot in the second half, leaving us with 4 and one on target. On the other hand, we've clawed 1% possession back. You win some you lose some I guess
80' YELLOW CARD Tommy Meyer
80' My Mignolet comparison doesn't seem to unfounded. Just like his Belgian counterpart, Brian Rowe seems absolutely perplexed by the idea of claiming a cross.
81' YELLOW CARD Carlos Castrillo
83' LA GALAXY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!!!!!!! ALAN GORDOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON!! GET IN SON!!!! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!
83' Dunivant lays a rolling cross in to Alan Gordon, who cooly turns and slots home the finish. You can have as many shots as you want, but the only ones that matter are those that end up in the back of the net. 1-0 Galaxy
90' 1 minute of added time
90' It's Gargs and Gordo guys, the dream team, back together again
90+1' GOAL! Goal for Comunicaciones: scored by Ronaldo Blackburn. Goddamn we were so close. To be fair, we in no way deserved to win this match.
END OF GAME Match finishes Comunicaciones 1-1 LA Galaxy
END OF GAME Thanks for tuning in guys, this was a lot of fun. We will face Santos Laguna in our next CCL match, but first, Sporting KC at the weekend. Hope to see you all back here again! Thanks again for tuning in and being an awesome audience. Goodnight!

Final Thoughts

A lucky goal against the run of play, and a last minute equalizer to bring us back down to earth. Considering they were all over us for the majority of the match, I'd say it's more than a fair result.
Man Of the Match Brian Rowe
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TheMonsieur's SupercalifragilisticUpbiparipovic NASL Spring Season Preview

Whether you knew it or not, the North American Soccer League (NASL), America's second division, is kicking off in two days' time. There's been a whirlwind of activity in the preseason, with new teams coming in, broadcast deals being signed, and recognizable players joining up. As someone who follows the league pretty closely, I've taken up the task of putting together a brief capsule for each club competing.
With that said, a quick overview of the league and its structure: The NASL is the second tier of U.S./Canadian soccer, having formed in 2011 after breaking away from the USL First Division. It is in no way connected to MLS. Twelve teams will compete in 2016 across two seasons - Spring and Fall. The Spring Season, being previewed here, consists of 10 games and will only feature 11 teams (Puerto Rico FC enters in the Fall). The Fall Season starts in July and will consist of 22 games. At the conclusion of the Fall Season, four teams - the Spring and Fall Season winners, along with the two remaining teams with the best overall records - will enter the Championship playoffs for a chance to win the Soccer Bowl Trophy.
For a short recap on last season, you could watch my poor attempt at making a video. Oh, and be sure to check out /NASLSoccer! I'm over there a lot, and it's a good place to learn more. We'll even be revealing a redesign tomorrow night just in time for the season!
I'm not an expert analyst, but hopefully this can provide a good introduction for you to each team.
Got it? Alright, let’s get started.
Team Name: Carolina RailHawks
Location: Cary, North Carolina
Manager: Colin Clarke
Stadium: WakeMed Soccer Park
History: Founded in 2006, Carolina was one of the breakaway members from the USL First Division that formed the NASL. The team's name is mean to represent both the rail lines that run directly across from the field and the hawks that are indigenous to the area. The RailHawks play their home games at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC. In 2015, the RailHawks' owners, Traffic Sports, were indicted in a FIFA corruption scandal, leading to the sale of the club to local tech entrepreneur Stephen Malik.
2015 In Review: Carolina got off to a promising start in the spring, taking 14 points from 10 games and winning a 3rd place finish in the standings. Led by the creativity in the midfield of club legend Tiyi Shipalane and the goals up front from former Rangers striker Nacho Novo, the RailHawks picked up some good results at the beginning of the Fall Season as well. From that point, though, the wheels came off, particularly in road matches. Out of 10 away matches in the Fall, Carolina took just a single point. In the end, the result was 7th place in the Fall, and 6th in the combined table.
2016 Preview: The RailHawks marked their 10th anniversary in style off the field, inking a local TV deal, making stadium upgrades, and promising higher investment in the club. They doubled down on their commitment by re-signing club captain Connor Tobin as well as key players Tiyi Shipalane and Nazmi Albadawi. Then, they cleaned up by signing several high-level players, such as NASL Best XI midfielder James Marcelin, and former RailHawks Matt Watson and Akira Fitzgerald, who had most recently spent time in MLS. Carolina are the perfect example of a revamped and growing NASL: They've found a new owner who is excited and willing to spend, and they've invested all around the club and have reloaded their roster. Expect the RailHawks to challenge from right out of the gate in 2016.
Key Players: Ty Shipalane, MF; Connor Tobin, MF; Nazmi Albadawi, MF
One to Watch: Marvin Ceballos, MF. The Guatemalan international has been described as a "natural #10" by manager Colin Clarke and has the potential to be a breakout star for Carolina this year.
Predicted Finish: 4th. I think they fly under the radar as a well put-together team, and pressure from FIFA scandal gone. This prediction could blow up in my face.
Team Name: FC Edmonton
Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Manager: Colin Miller
Stadium: Clarke Stadium
History: Edmonton is a growing team, having only formed in 2010, just in time for the first NASL season. The Eddies are slight rivals with Minnesota United, participating in the Flyover Cup and raising money for charities together. Edmonton is currently the furthest west of all NASL teams, and has struggled with attendance figures as well as play on the field. Their best season finish was 5th place, and the closest they've been to a championship was the league's quarterfinals in its first year of existence.
2015 In Review: Despite progress made in 2014, things turned south for the league's northernmost club in the Spring Season of 2015. Two wins meant a 10th place finish out of 11. The Eddies' relief came in the form of a Canadian Championship cup run, in which they came inches away from defeating Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the semifinal, only to be knocked out by a goal in the last seconds of stoppage time. In the fall, results picked up for Edmonton. Lance Laing marked his record third appearance in the league's Best XI with eight goals and seven assists throughout the Spring and Fall Seasons, but the team suffered when he was on international duty with Jamaica. The team's playoff hopes fell away during the final five games of the season, during which they found only one point. FC Edmonton finished 5th in the Fall and 7th in the combined table.
2016 Preview: Edmonton would seem to be in a spot of trouble. Over the offseason, winger Lance Laing, who put the Eddies on his back at times, left to join Minnesota United. So, FC Edmonton made some changes. In the front office, they added Jay Ball as general manager; Ball played a significant role in the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada. On the field, they brought back Daryl Fordyce, the club's all-time leading scorer, and made a splash by signing Canadian international Nik Ledgerwood from Germany. Manager Colin Miller called it the most promising offseason in club history, and proceeded to sign the Senegalese center back Papé Diakité and Jake Keegan, 2nd-top scorer in the League of Ireland last season. With the roster set, Edmonton toured Great Britain, showing well in several friendly across the pond. With a lackluster history and last year's star gone, Edmonton will look to defy the odds in 2016.
Key Players: Albert Watson, DF; Daryl Fordyce, FW; Nik Ledgerwood, DF/MF
One to Watch: Allan Zebie, MF. An FC Edmonton youth product and Canada youth international, Zebie, only 22, has established himself as the Eddies' regular right back. This year, he could move to a whole new level.
Predicted Finish: 6th. Laing is gone, but most of the roster returns, aided by savvy signings.
Team Name: Fort Lauderdale Strikers
Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Manager: Caio Zanardi
Stadium: Lockhart Stadium
History: As one of the members of the original NASL, the Strikers have a history dating back to 1977. The team signed some of the world's finest players, including Gordon Banks, George Best, and Gerd Müller. After moving to Minnesota, a second Strikers team popped up in Fort Lauderdale in 1988, playing for six years in the American Soccer League (ASL) and the American Professional Soccer League (APSL). The current incarnation, founded in 2006 as Miami FC, rebranded into the Strikers before the first season of the new NASL. In 2014, after a loss in the NASL final, the club made international headlines when Brazilian legend Ronaldo joined their ownership group. In 2015, the low-budget club shocked the league by once again making the playoffs.
2015 In Review: Following the Spring Season, there weren't many optimists left in the Strikers camp. After dumping most of 2014's star players (Fafà Picault, their star player, went to Europe; Pecka moved to Real Salt Lake), the firing of head coach Günter Kronsteiner, and the flop of much-hyped signing Leo Moura, Fort Lauderdale limped to an 8th place finish in the Spring. The Fall was a different story. After re-signing Kronsteiner, a young Strikers team turned it all around. Fluminense loanees Marlon Freitas and Stefano Pinho shined, with Pinho topping the NASL scoring charts and winning the league MVP award. James Marcelin joined Pinho in the league's Best XI, and midfielder PC just missed out. The Strikers finished 4th in the Fall, and a win against Jacksonville on the last day propelled them to 4th in the overall standings as well, giving them a semifinals spot. The fairy tale ended in New York, with the Cosmos coming from behind to win 2-1 en route to the NASL Championship game.
2016 Preview: For the past two years, Fort Lauderdale has been the surprise team of the league. This year, the rest of the NASL will be as prepared as they can, but the Strikers still present a bit of a mystery. After squeezing into the playoffs in 2015, the team once again dismantled its roster, letting go of manager Günter Kronsteiner (again), watching the league's MVP and top scorer Stefano Pinho leave for Minnesota, and parting ways with Best XI midfielder James Marcelin, who signed with Carolina.
In response, Fort Lauderdale ramped up operations: They created a reserve team in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), announced a whole wave of staff appointments, expanded partnerships and advertisements, got a TV deal, hosted an international tournament, and toured China. They also made some big-name signings, inking World Cup winner Kléberson, Brazilian veterans Adrianinho & Bruno Cardoso, U.S. youth internationals and UEFA Champions League-experienced players. And they unveiled their new jerseys on a yacht. Yeah, what can I say? The Strikers have big ambitions, and they've moved on from being a low-budget side that scraped past other teams. So will new investment bring more success? We'll have to see.
Key Players: Kléberson, MF; PC MF; Adrianinho, MF
One to Watch: Matheus Carvalho, FW. Carvalho has a solid pedigree, having played a few minutes for Monaco in last year's UEFA Champions League. It's possible he could be a welcome surprise in South Florida.
Predicted Finish: 7th. So much change on this roster, and several star players past their primes.
Team Name: Indy Eleven
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Manager: Tim Hankinson
Stadium: Carroll Stadium
History: After years of calls for a professional soccer team in Indianapolis from the Brickyard Battalion (the Eleven's main supporter group), the dream was finally realized in 2013. That year, legendary American soccer executive Peter Wilt announced that he would become the president of Indy Eleven, a team that started play in 2014. Despite struggles on the field, Indy Eleven became the first American soccer team to sell out all its home games in its inaugural home season. Wilt left on good terms in 2016 to pursue a Chicago NASL project.
2015 In Review: After a disappointing first year on the field, things didn't get much better in 2015 for Indy Eleven, though they did once again lead the league in attendance. Star player Kléberson picked up a season-ending achilles injury, and the Eleven won only one in their first eight matches. That record, combined with an embarrassing U.S. Open Cup defeat at home to USL's Louisville City FC, led to the firing of head coach Juergen Sommer. His replacement, interim coach Tim Regan, won the final two games to elevate Indy to 5th in the Spring. However, any playoff aspirations fell away in the Fall, as a string of bad results climaxed with a 7-1 loss in Fort Lauderdale en route to a 9th place finish in the Fall Season and combined standings. Indy could find a silver lining with the strong performances of several youngsters, such as Dylan Mares and Duke Lacroix.
2016 Preview: With one of the largest fanbases in the league and some of the worst performances, Indy are under pressure to finally turn around its performance. To start, they stripped down most of the team to just a couple of players, and hired long-time manager Tim Hankinson to construct a rebuild. Hankinson piled on MLS experience, inking Jon Busch, Siniša Ubiparipović, Justin Braun, Lovel Palmer, and Gorka Larrea, among others. Preseason did not go well, with most friendlies ending in defeat or stalemate to lower-division and university teams, and several players picking up injuries. That said, this Eleven squad is better than any other that has taken the field, and have a good mix of senior players and up-and-comers that are ready to deliver.
Key Players: Dylan Mares, MF; Brad Ring, MF; Siniša Ubiparipović, MF
One to Watch: Duke Lacroix, FW. It's time to meet the 22-year-old forward every soccer fan in Indianapolis is talking about. Lacroix got a chance last year, and electrified on the wing. This season, he'll hope to earn a starting job.
Predicted Finish: 8th. If one of the new central striker signings turns good, they'll have a real chance in this league. If not? Expect the same as before.
Team Name: Jacksonville Armada FC
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Manager: Tony Meola
Stadium: Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville
History: Announced on July 25, 2013, Jacksonville's team was christened as Armada FC on February 18, 2014. The Armada was the only expansion side to join the league in 2015, lead by the ownership collective Sunshine Soccer Group and club president Steve Livingstone. The team chose to play at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville and quickly established themselves in the top tier of NASL attendances, although they didn't do as well on the field.
2015 In Review: Jacksonville got off to a fast start, with Jemal Johnson scoring seconds into their first game as the Armada went on to win three out of its first five. That was the best run of form the team would see all year. After finishing a respectable 6th in the Spring, the Armada fell into a slump, finishing last both in the Fall Season and combined table. The team fired its first manager, José Luis Villarreal, after attempting to give him a co-managerial role with Guillermo Hoyos. The club later fired Hoyos after giving him a contract through 2019 months earlier.
2016 Preview: The Armada began their offseason with a big statement of intention, hiring former USA goalkeeper Tony Meola as head coach. After an unsuccessful inaugural year, much of 2015's roster did not make it back. Instead, Jacksonville refined it by looking to the lower leagues. They signed NASL Best XI midfielder Richie Ryan, USL MVP Matt Fondy, and USL Defender of the Year Bryan Burke, in effect establishing a small collection of some of the best players below MLS last season. Just before the season began, the Armada suffered a blow as young standout Akeil Barrett transferred to the Swedish second division. Yet, after a preseason that included promising signings and friendlies, Jacksonville seem ready to move up the table.
Key Players: Alhassane Keita, FW; Mechak Jérôme, DF; Matt Fondy, FW
One to Watch: Charles Eloundou, FW. Once a highly-touted prospect, Eloundou, 21, saw his career stall with the Colorado Rapids (MLS). Now settled in Jacksonville, this year may be his opportunity to shine.
Predicted Finish: 9th. Good first steps, but still a lot to do after finishing bottom of the table last year.
Team Name: Miami FC
Location: Miami, Florida
Manager: Alessandro Nesta
Stadium: FIU Stadium
History: Unrelated to the original Miami FC (now the Fort Lauderdale Strikers), this team was founded in 2015 and kicked off in 2016. Miami attracted international attention with its ownership (entrepreneur Riccardo Silva and former Italy legend Paolo Maldini) as well as its first head coach (Maldini's Italy teammate Alessandro Nesta). The team began play at FIU Stadium.
2016 Preview: Expansion teams are often an enigma, and the organization of Miami FC is no different. Founded in the eye of a storm of MLS rumors (Miami Beckham United FC?), the brains behind Miami FC will likely want to get off to a running start in order to attract the sort of attention with soccer fans that can make them viable in the city and sustainable into the future. To that end, Miami brought in two star: Dario Cvitanich, who has scored goals and seen success with big clubs all over the world, and Wilson Palacios, the English Premier League veteran with nearly 100 Honduras caps under his belt. Mostly, though, the roster is filled out by players with NASL experience (Pablo Campos, Jaimé Chavez, etc.) and up-and-comers looking to make a name for themselves. In many ways, this is a similar approach that other past expansion teams have taken, with mixed results. The real question for 2016 might be just how well Miami FC establishes a fanbase in an unknown market.
Key Players: Wilson Palacios, MF; Darío Cvitanich, FW; Matuzalem, MF
One to Watch: Blake Smith, MF. Making his return to North American soccer after a year in hiatus, Smith is an unknown quantity. However, if he re-creates the kind of success he saw in Montreal and Indy, he could be a vital part of Miami's attack.
Predicted Finish: 11th. Similar construction as previous expansion teams may yield similar results.
Team Name: Minnesota United FC
Location: Blaine, Minnesota
Manager: Carl Craig
Stadium: National Sports Center
History: Professional soccer in Minnesota began with the Minnesota Kicks of the old NASL, but Minnesota has had a continuous presence of professional soccer since the founding of the Minnesota Thunder in 1990. When that team folded due to the financial shadiness of owner Dean Johnson, a new series of teams all slightly related to one another emerged. The NSC Minnesota Stars were launched in 2010, but the ownership of National Sports Center in Blaine, MN lasted only a season before the NASL took over the team. In 2011, the Stars won the Soccer Bowl for the first time in the new era of the NASL. In 2012, the team rebranded as Minnesota Stars FC and again went to the final, where they lost to Tampa Bay in penalties. The team was league-owned at the time and many fans and players thought that without a win in the final (thinking the league wouldn't dare let its champion fold), the team would no longer have a future. However, after the crushing loss, news began to leak out that the team had found an owner. In 2013, Dr. Bill McGuire (formerly of United Healthcare Group) purchased the Minnesota Stars and rebranded them as Minnesota United FC.
The team is supported by the Dark Clouds, a supporters group founded in the Thunder days. They are known for their bizarre brand of "Jackassery," which is ecstatic support that opposes macho, wannabe hooliganism. They have a gameday zine called the Jackassery Times-Heckler and worship the god DETHLOON. The club announced a move to Major League Soccer in 2017 or 2018, pending the construction of a downtown stadium.
2015 In Review: Buoyed off the field by an MLS expansion announcement, Minnesota continued to show stellar performances on it. Although star player Miguel Ibarra transferred to Mexican club Léon, replacements brought in (including Ibson and Khalif Alhassan) proved to be up to the challenge. A fourth place finish in the Spring was strong, if not ideal. In the Fall, an incredible run of eight wins in 10 matches led to a 2nd place finish. United were 3rd in the overall standings, and Christian Ramirez scored the second-most goals in the league, just missing a second consecutive Golden Boot. In their playoff semifinal in Ottawa, Ramirez's penalty gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead, but an equalizer and extra time winner from opposition forward Tom Heinemann led to an end to their season.
2016 Preview: This could be Minnesota's last year in the NASL, and they're offseason move show a determination to leave with a trophy in both hands. In preparation for the move to MLS, Manny Lagos (manager since 2010) became Sporting Director, and assistant Carl Craig moved up to become head coach. The team returns all four of its Best XI players from 2015: Justin Davis, Ibson, Christian Ramirez, and Kevin Venegas. It made further inroads by signing two other Best XI members: Lance Laing, who carried FC Edmonton and became a regular with Jamaica, and Stefano Pinho, who was named the league's best player and won the Golden Boot with Fort Lauderdale. Is there any stopping this team? Well, while United obviously has an unparalleled attack, there are questions on the defensive side, with the team having lost preseason games 0-4, 0-4, and 1-3 to MLS sides. If defense does not turn out to be a problem, though, this is a side that could really challenge for both the league title and a position deep in the U.S. Open Cup.
Key Players: Christian Ramirez, FW; Stefano Pinho, FW; Justin Davis, DF
One to Watch: Greg Jordan, MF. Minnesota are clearly looking for MLS-ready players this year, and Greg Jordan could be a sleeper pick to move up with them. Since falling out of favor in Philadelphia, he's had a dependable two seasons with the Loons, and will look to step up his game in 2016.
Predicted Finish: 3rd. May take some time for new players to settle, and who know how MLS move will divert their focus, but they'll be competitive no matter what.
Team Name: New York Cosmos
Location: Hempstead, New York
Manager: Giovanni Savarese
Stadium: Shuart Stadium
History: The New York Cosmos brand is one of the greatest in all of world soccer, and their teams in the original NASL were arguably better than any American sides that have come before or since. Centered around players like Giorgio Chinaglia, Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer, and of course, the legendary Pelé, New York won five Soccer Bowls and became a global phenomenon. Since the team folded, there have been many attempts to revive it. This one is the first to get a real team on the field. The modern iteration of the Cosmos kicked off in the Fall Season of 2013, won the championship the same year, and won it again in 2015 with Real Madrid legend Raúl.
2015 In Review: After announcing the signing of illustrious Spanish forward Raúl, the Cosmos cemented their place as the biggest spenders with the biggest names in the NASL. 2015 marked the final seasons for Raúl and fellow former Spanish international Marcos Senna, and New York looked to send them off with a storybook ending. In the Spring Season, everything went to plan, with the Cosmos winning the title by a point and securing a playoff spot early. A high point came in the team's U.S. Open Cup victory over New York City FC on penalties, though they would later be knocked out by the New York Red Bulls. The Cosmos stayed strong in the Fall with a 3rd place finish, benefitting through performances from NASL Young Player of the Year Leo Fernandes (on loan from Philadelphia Union) and team MVP Ayoze. The Cosmos won the combined season with 56 points, edging Ottawa on goal differential. In the semifinal, the Cosmos came from behind to beat Fort Lauderdale 2-1. Hosting the Championship, relatively new signing Gastón Cellerino scored a hat trick in a 3-2 victory as Raúl and Senna lifted their final trophy.
2016 Preview: With the retirement of Raúl and Marcos Senna, the departure of star winger Walter Restrepo and formerly on-loan Leo Fernandes (both to Philadelphia), and the exit of championship hero Gastón Cellerino, this could have been a transition year for New York. But the New York Cosmos don't rebuild. They reload. This offseason, the Cosmos put together one of the most stunning collections of signings this league has ever seen. To recap: The two biggest names are Niko Kranjčar and Juan Arango, both vastly experienced players who have played at the very top of world soccer; senior internationals include Jairo Arrieta (Costa Rica), David Ochieng (Kenya), Michael Lahoud (Sierra Leone), Yohandry Orozco (Venezuela), and Yasmani Duk; other signings include Gabriel Farfan (MLS/Liga MX experience) and two U.S. youth internationals. On paper, it is hard to argue any team is better than the Cosmos. How the pieces of the puzzle come together is the only question left.
Key Players: Danny Szetela, MF; Niko Kranjčar, MF; Juan Arango, MF
One to Watch: Yohandry Orozco, MF. So, get this, right? There's player in his prime, who plays regularly for his country, had experience with Wolfsburg, and he's coming to the NASL? You'd better believe it, and Orozco has all the skills to make a huge impact.
Predicted Finish: 1st. I've been wrong before with this team, but there's just too much talent to deny.
Team Name: Ottawa Fury FC
Location: Ottawa, Ontario
Manager: Paul Dalglish
Stadium: TD Place Stadium
History: A longtime candidate for expansion, Ottawa was welcomed into the league in 2011, with the Ottawa Fury name being decided in 2013. The Fury were a fromer PDL franchise, and brought a history of support with it. The club shares a new stadium (as well as ownership) with the Canadian Football League Ottawa RedBlacks. In 2015, the team surged to the Championship final, but lost to the New York Cosmos.
2015 In Review: Few would have predicted Ottawa Fury's run to the NASL Championship after the Fall Season. Despite making a splash by bringing in Canadian international Julian De Guzman, the results failed to come, and the Fury found themselves in 9th place. In the Fall, though, coach Marc Dos Santos' plan clicked. A back line marshaled by NASL Best XI goalkeeper Romuald Peiser and defender Rafael Alves recorded eight shutouts, and an offense led by the connection between midfielder Siniša Ubiparipović (eight assists total) and forward Tom Heinemann (12 goals total) resulted in one loss in 20 games, and a Fall Season title. Heinemann's two goals in the semifinal knocked out Minnesota United, but the Fury ultimately fell short of the Championship in New York, losing 3-2 to the New York Cosmos.
2016 Preview: After falling short in the Championship, the Ottawa Fury had the offseason from Hell. First, Manager of the Year Marc Dos Santos left to be an assistant and reserve team coach for Sporting Kansas City (MLS). Then, many of the key players in the run to the final chose to part ways: Tom Heinemann, who scored every playoff goal, went to Tampa Bay; Colin Falvey, Ryan Richter, and Mason Trafford, who all started on the back line in the Championship, moved on; Best XI midfielder Richie Ryan left for Jacksonvile, playmaker Siniša Ubiparipović went to Indy, and starting winger Andrew Wiedeman moved to Cinicinnati in USL. Reinforcements have come, mostly in the form of other lower league players, but almost all will have to prove themselves before being considered adequate replacements. If I have to pick one out, the signing to keep an eye on will be Marcel De Jong, the Canadian international brought in who should play as a left back. The Fury will also be bolstered by the return of goalkeeper Romuald Peiser, who won the league's Golden Glove in 2015 and was named /NASLSoccer's player of the year.
Key Players: Julian de Guzman, MF; Rafael Alves, DF; Romuald Peiser, GK
One to Watch: Mauro Eustáquio, MF. Last year, Eustáquio impressed in the midfield when filling in for injured players. With so many departures, the youngster now has a chance to play well and force his way onto the Canadian national team.
Predicted Finish: 10th. This team got completely picked apart in the offseason. They could turn out okay, but they'll have work to do to prove me wrong.
Team Name: Rayo OKC
Location: Yukon, Oklahoma
Manager: Alen Marcina
Stadium: Miller Stadium
History: A fierce battle between the NASL and USL PRO for a team in Oklahoma City ended with both leagues announcing expansions in the city. The USL put together Oklahoma Energy FC in 2013. Meanwhile, the owners of Oklahoma City FC, a Premier Development League (PDL) team, decided to run an NASL side, but an ownership group breakup in 2014 caused a delay to the project. Eventually, Spanish La Liga club Rayo Vallecano partnered with the organization to form what is now known as Rayo OKC. The team name was announced in November 2015, and began play at Miller Stadium in 2016.
**2016 Preview: As much of an enigma I've said Miami FC have been as an expansion team, it's safe to say Rayo OKC have been even more of a mystery. The organization was derided at first, dismissed due to the involvement from a struggling foreign team and its juxtaposition to the already-successful Energy. However, its initial roster has made fans sit up and take notice. Five World Cup veterans and nine national team players headline the squad, which includes illustrious Greek striker Georgios Samaras. Rayo has built its team using players with experience in European leagues (say, Yuma and Juanan) and players who have found success in MLS (Michel, Sebastian Velasquez) and the NASL (Billy Forbes, Erick Norales). Expansion teams typically take time to fare well, but if there's any that might have a chance at making a first impression by challenging for a title, this could be the one.
Key Players: Robbie Findley, FW; Derek Boateng, MF; Georgios Samaras, FW
One to Watch: Billy Forbes, FW. Over the past two years, Billy Forbes has become the breakout sensation of the league with the San Antonio Scorpions. With the Scorpions dissolving, Rayo OKC won their most prized asset in Forbes, who should certainly get a look-in from former San Antonio coach Alen Marcina.
Predicted Finish: 5th. So much talent, but need to build some chemistry and fan support.
Team Name: Tampa Bay Rowdies
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida
Manager: Stuart Campbell
Stadium: Al Lang Stadium
History: An original NASL team, the Rowdies won a championship in their first year (1975) and continued to impress until the league collapsed in 1985. The Rowdies kept playing in lower leagues until 1993. In 2008, the team was reborn again, with the vision of recreating its old glory days. However, because of legal problems, the team simply went by FC Tampa Bay until 2012, when the old moniker returned, along with a Soccer Bowl title won on penalties over Minnesota Stars FC. In 2014, the team was purchased by St. Petersburg businessman Bill Edwards, who promised to take the Rowdies to the next level.
2015 In Review: Following a frustrating 2014 season, manager Ricky Hill got the boot, and the Rowdies began building a new roster with the prolific coach Thomas Rongen. Under Rongen, the ball started to roll, and the Rowdies finished 2nd in the Spring Season, just one point behind the New York Cosmos. In July, Tampa Bay made waves by signing former U.S. international Freddy Adu. However, the Fall Season got off to a rough start. After securing only seven points in eight games, Rowdies owner Bill Edwards fired Rongen and general manager Farrukh Quraishi. Under new manager Stuart Campbell, Tampa Bay fell further, eventually finishing 8th in the Fall and 5th overall, missing out on the playoffs by just two points.
2016 Preview: In the third year of the Bill Edwards era, Tampa Bay is under big pressure to finally make the playoffs. The Rowdies haven't been the loudest team in the offseason, and have perhaps been overshadowed by some of their neighbors in Florida, but the transition from 2015 to 2016 has been smooth. Key players were re-signed, including defensive rock Tamika Mkandawire, Freddy Adu, and 2014 MVP Georgi Hristov. They bet big on bringing in Tom Heinemann, the striker who lit Ottawa's season on fire in the second half of 2015. And they brought in a good collection of supplementary players, such as Neil Collins (200+ games in the English Football League), Danny Mwanga (100+ MLS games) and Eric Avila (170+ MLS games). The Rowdies toured England in the preseason, scoring some impressive results (a draw with Stoke City; a win over Notts County). After an offseason that was, for once, not quite tumultuous, it may be Tampa's time to shine in 2016.
Key Players: Georgi Hristov, FW; Tom Heinemann, FW; Freddy Adu, MF
One to Watch: Darwin Espinal, FW. Only 21, Espinal is already having an impact on Honduran youth national teams. He's got several good forwards to compete with on this roster, but he could well become one of the best.
Predicted Finish: 2nd. This could be the year it all comes together for the Rowdies.
Predicted Spring Standings:
Place Club
#1 New York Cosmos
#2 Tampa Bay Rowdies
#3 Minnesota United FC
#4 Carolina RailHawks
#5 Rayo OKC
#6 FC Edmonton
#7 Fort Lauderdale Strikers
#8 Indy Eleven
#9 Jacksonville Armada FC
#10 Ottawa Fury FC
#11 Miami FC
Opening Weekend Schedule:
Saturday, April 2
Time (ET) Home Away TV
3:00 CAR MNU
7:00 FTL MIA
7:30 TBR IND
8:00 OKC FCE
Sunday, April 3
Time (ET) Home Away TV
6:00 NYC OTT
To follow all the excitement and keep up with the latest news this season, make sure to visit and subscribe to /NASLSoccer - the home of the NASL on reddit.
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