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  • 2011 NASL preview


    On the eve of the first season (and possibly last) of the second version of the NASL it’s time to turn our attention to the wacky world of D2 soccer.

    Below the jump, our predictions for 2011. I’ll spoil one: the league will make it to the end with all eight teams still alive. Just. And then it will all start agin.

    Before we get going a moment of thanks to Brian Quarstad of IMSoccerNews. I spoke to Brian yesterday to finalize my thought on the league and his insight was invaluable. The picks are mine, but there is little doubt that they were influenced by him – you would be hard pressed to find anyone in North America not influenced by Brian when it comes to D2 soccer.

    In reverse order, the picks:


    No. 8 – Atlanta Silverbacks

    The Silverbacks are doing the league a favour by coming back – they weren’t ready and they won’t spend the type of money needed to compete. This is a mostly local team that is not designed for the long haul. If a few more investors can be lured to NASL next year it’s possible the Silverbacks may go away again. They are young, they have barely played together and they lack stand-out performers.

    That spells a long season in Atlanta

    No 7 – FC Edmonton

    Another young team that has focused mostly on local talent. That’s a fine thing to do – for a D3 team, but in D2 it’s a one way ticket to a terrible season. There are a couple good prospects there and the club deserves some credit for spending on the coaching side of things, but Edmonton and Atlanta are a clear step behind the rest of the league.

    I’m giving Edmonton the nod above Atlanta because it played an exhibition season last year.

    No 6 -- NSC Minnesota Stars

    Although I’ve been told by a couple people that they could surprise. There is a lot of offensive talent here, but the back-line looks vulnerable. Those in the know suggest that Minnesota could be a fun team to watch this year with lots of high scoring games.

    The question is will they win many of those games?

    Based on 2010 you would think that it will be struggle more than it’s not. Still, an improved team that is looking up – something that might be good news for Ottawa fans *cough*.

    No 5 – Carolina Railhawks

    The best team in the league in 2010 (but not the champion), Carolina has been hard hit by defections in 2011. Still, lead by a sold, veteran back-line and one of the best coaching staffs in the league you shouldn’t count them out completly.

    Look for the Railhawks to take a step back early, but to be a solid challenge down the stretch. As they learned last season, it’s more important how you finish your season than how you start it. A darkhorse championship contender? It seems odd, but maybe.

    No 4 -- Fort Lauderdale Strikers

    The former FC Miami have finally found some stability and direction and have added some key parts accordingly. Although they came up short on the playoffs in 2010, the core of the club looked good down the stretch and they’ve added just enough to make the Strikers look like a top of the table team – just.

    No 3 – FC Tampa Bay

    The Cosmos are still nothing but a concept but FC Tampa Bay -- the Rowdies -- arguably the second most famous original NASL name is looking solid as it re-built itself for a second season.

    There is talent here, especially on the front end. The Rowdies will score goals.

    The question, as it was last year, is whether they can prevent them. The back-line has been completely re-built. How this team starts will be key. However, if they keep in the racew there looks to be enough here to make Tampa one of the pre-seson favourites.

    No. 2 - Puerto Rico Islanders

    The Islanders just know how to win and know how to win big games. Although it’s a short history, it’s a winning history and there is nothing to suggest that they will take that big of a step back in 2011.

    Well, there is one thing – the loss of keeper Bill Gaudette to rival Montreal. Gaudette was a glue player that was key to the Islanders success the last few years.

    Puerto Rico will be there at the end, but they might not quite have enough intangible this season to finish the job and repeat as champion.

    No 1 – Montreal Impact

    It’s not actually that close. Montreal is the slam-dunk consensus to win the D2 title in 2011. No one on this team is there unless Montreal management thinks they can make the jump to MLS in 2012.

    The Impact are playing with more money than every other side in the league and more ambition than all but the Islanders. You can bet that Vancouver is going to have its hands full in the Voyageurs Cup tie.

    The NCC title might be a ask too much, but anything less than a double out of the Impact in 2011 will represent a failure.

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