New York Cosmos forward Raúl , Indy Eleven defender Kyle Hyland, and Carolina RailHawks midfielder Leo Osaki headline the NASL Team of the Week for Week 9 after turning in key performances over the weekend.
Hyland and Raúl both scored late goals to help their respective teams earn dramatic draws, while Osaki played an integral role in the RailHawks’ biggest win of the season – a 4-0 triumph in Jacksonville.
Here is the full NASL Team of the Week:
GK: John Smits (FC Edmonton) – The Eddies recorded their first shutout of the season, and they have Smits to thank. The Ontario native made three saves in the match, and each one was bigger than the last. In particular, the goalkeeper kept Carl Haworth and Nicki Paterson off the scoresheet with a pair of fine saves in the 0-0 draw at TD Place in Ottawa.
DEF: Rich Balchan (Tampa Bay Rowdies) – The Rowdies conceded just before a lengthy weather delay in Indianapolis over the weekend, but when play finally resumed, Balchan was there to pull the sides even late in the first half. The strike from the top of the 18-yard box took a deflection and found its way past Indy goalkeeper Kristian Nicht. The Indiana University product also put in a solid defensive shift, as the Rowdies nearly won the match had it not been for late heroics from Hyland.
DEF: Kyle Hyland (Indy Eleven) – The IUPUI product notched his first professional goal on his old stomping grounds at Carroll Stadium, and did so in spectacular fashion. In a rain-soaked affair against the Rowdies, Hyland found the back of the net in the 8th and final minute of second-half stoppage time, receiving the ball just over the halfway line and firing a stunning strike into the far corner to earn a 2-2 draw. The Ohio native’s efforts also earned him NASL Player of the Week honors.
DEF: Connor Tobin (Carolina RailHawks) – Having secured two consecutive road wins, the second-place RailHawks are flying high. Colin Clarke’s men didn’t concede a goal in either of those victories, and one of the big reasons why has been the play of Tobin. On Saturday, the Colorado native helped in the attacking third as well, finding the net with a header that opened the scoring in what turned out to be a 4-0 win over Jacksonville Armada FC.
DEF: Kevin Venegas (Minnesota United) – The Loons have been playing very well of late, and if not for some late-game heroics from Raúl, they would be even higher up in the standings. A strong defensive performance limited the Cosmos’ attack to very few scoring chances, and Venegas played a large role in that effort. The 1-1 draw did just enough to keep United alive in the Spring Season Championship race.
MID: Leo Osaki (Carolina RailHawks) – Carolina found the back of the net four times against Jacksonville, and playing the role of orchestrator for most of the match was Osaki. The Japan native scored on a superb free kick to make the score 3-0 and moments later he drew a penalty, which would eventually be converted by fellow midfielder Mark Anderson.
MID: Julian de Guzman (Ottawa Fury FC) – After losing twice to FC Edmonton in the Amway Canadian Championship earlier this year, Ottawa certainly didn’t want to lose a third. Canadian international Julian de Guzman played a big role in helping Fury FC earn a draw and, had it not been for strong goalkeeping from Smits, it could have been a win. Not only did he help neutralize one of the league’s best attacks, the midfielder helped create opportunities in the attacking half as well, putting on arguably his best performance to date in a Fury FC shirt.
MID: Neil Hlavaty (Carolina RailHawks) – The midfielder, who is known for his dead-ball delivery, showed precision with his goal against Armada FC. The Illinois native’s curling effort from the top of the 18-yard box left goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo with little chance to make a save. Hlavaty, along with his teammates, bossed the midfield in the blowout victory.
MID: Joseph Nane (San Antonio Scorpions) – The Scorpions midfielder showed off his athleticism while scoring his first NASL goal on Saturday night, extending his leg to loft the ball over Lionel Brown’s head to open the scoring. In a hard-fought 1-1 draw, the Cameroon native was strong in the midfield, limiting the visiting Strikers to just a few scoring opportunities.
FWD: Stefano Pinho (Fort Lauderdale Strikers) – The Strikers had been struggling to score and their heads could have easily dropped after conceding Nane’s opening goal, but they continued to battle and found their reward shortly before halftime. Pinho scored his first NASL goal, tapping home a pass from teammate James Marclin to earn the visitors a point in a rematch of the 2014 Championship Final at Toyota Field in San Antonio.
FWD: Raúl (New York Cosmos) – The Spanish forward showed the touch of class that made him a Real Madrid legend against Minnesota, chesting down a superb long ball from Andrés Flores and firing a shot past goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock for a 90th-minute equalizer at NSC Stadium.
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