On Wednesday morning, the NASL announced the 2015 Spring Season schedule. The release confirmed that the league would once again play a split-season format. Eleven teams, including expansion side Jacksonville Armada FC will contest the spring, while twelve teams, including a yet-to-be-announced LA team, will play in the fall.
After a 2014 spring schedule that was extremely poor for Minnesota, featuring only four home games when other teams got five, this year’s slate of games is much, much more favorable. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a better way to start the season on paper for the Loons.
Lets take a look:
April 4th – BYE
Because there are an odd number of teams in the league, each team will have to take one week off as a bye. While taking a week off in the middle of a season to recover can be beneficial, in the short spring season it only looks to us like a disadvantage. Better to play your games uninterrupted, because momentum will be key in the spring sprint.
Instead, getting a first week bye means, United can benefit from an extra week of training and the unique opportunity to scout their opponents before playing them.
April 11th – @ Tampa Bay Rowdies
That extra week of preparation will come in handy because the Loons’ first opponent will be the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Under new head coach Thomas Rongen, the green and gold are rebooting most of their team after a dumpster fire of a 2014 season. Nobody has any good idea quite how this team will play, and being able to see how the Rowdies approach San Antonio in week one should prove invaluable to the Minnesota coaching staff and players.
This ought to be a fun atmosphere as well. The Rowdies have been completely renovating Al Lang Stadium this offseason, and their 2015 home opener will be a great occasion for the team.
April 18th – @ Ottawa Fury FC
Just like last spring, Minnesota will spend the first part of the year on the road, as the league gives the maximum amount of time for the field at the National Sports Center to recover. In the meantime, the Loons will again travel to Ottawa, playing spoiler for yet another home opener.
Like the Rowdies, the Fury are making big roster changes after a lackluster 2014, although head coach Marc Dos Santos is still in charge. The Fury played Minnesota very tough in all three games last season, and a trip to Ottawa is one of the longest trips in the league. This will be a difficult match, but again Minnesota gains from experience and a head start in preparation.
April 25th – HOME vs San Antonio Scorpions
After three weeks of NASL play, Minnesota will finally come home at the end of April to play what will surely be a highly anticipated home opener.
Even more so because of the opponent. The Scorpions (who like to think of themselves as our rivals) came on strong towards the end of the last season and stole all the glory in the final month; taking the Fall championship and hosting (and winning) the Soccer Bowl against the ludicrously lucky Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Minnesota embarrassed San Antonio twice at their place last season (and the Scorpions embarrassed themselves…) but lost the one match in Blaine. This match is a must-win for pride and the standings.
May 3rd – @ FC Edmonton
If there is one downside to Minnesota’s 2015 spring schedule, it’s that the team must make two long trips up to Canada. While Edmonton and Ottawa are surely lovely cities, it is not as easy to fly to them as it is… say… New York. Perhaps for that reason, playing away in Canada, especially Edmonton, is one of the tougher things to do in the league. In 2014, the Loons suffered one of their four losses in Edmonton. Given how the Montons finished this past season, this could be the most dangerous match of the year for United.
May 9th – HOME vs Atlanta Silverbacks
The Silverbacks may not be dead in 2015, but they certainly won’t be very good. Bring your friends who are skeptical of soccer to this match, because it should be the closest thing to a sure thing in the NASL. With hardly any players and question marks all over the field, Atlanta will be a wounded deer and Minnesota should (keep in mind, we’re months out) be able to win this game decisively.
May 16th – @ Indy Eleven
One of the best things about the schedule is that it also offers Minnesota fans our one good chance at traveling in a large group to a road game. Basically every other road trip to see United play would need to be taken by plane, but Indianapolis is about nine hours away, which is doable.
Last season, a handful of Dark Clouds made the trip, and were rewarded with the most embarrassing loss of the year. This year, hopefully a bus could be arranged and an even larger group can head to Indy to watch a better performance.
May 23rd – HOME vs Jacksonville Armada FC
This is the most surprising match-up in the spring season. We expected the league to tweak the schedule to bring Minnesota (the class of the league, with a USMNT player on the roster) to Jacksonville. Instead, the expansion Armada are coming up to Minnesota.
It will certainly be fun, of course, to welcome a new team to town. Dark Clouds will also be able to heckle longtime Minnesota player Lucas Rodriguez, who has signed with the Armada. Given the difficulties inherent with expansion teams, this is another match that (at least now) Minnesota should be confident in winning.
May 30th – HOME vs New York Cosmos
After the San Antonio match in the home opener, this confrontation with the Cosmos will certainly be the next most anticipated. Despite going up a man and a goal in the 6th minute, despite a late penalty kick, despite the Cosmos being terrible last fall, the Loons have still not beaten this team. It’s extremely annoying and it needs to change. Fortunately, Minnesota will welcome New York to the Nessie this year, which will save the team the trouble of having to play on Hofstra University’s terrible lacrosse turf.
Unfortunately, Raúl will probably be injured by this point in the season and unable to travel.
June 6th – @ Carolina RailHawks
Despite Carolina being downright awful at home for much of last year, WakeMed Soccer Park still feels like a fortress. Perhaps it’s because the Loons needed the late intervention of secret agent Turbo Tobin to eeke out a draw there last year.
Either way, even if the RailHawks are 0-0-9 when the Loons travel to Cary in the spring, it will still look like a trap game. The playoff implications of this week ten match-up will also loom large. This struggle vs one of the league’s foremost practitioners of anti-football could be a nailbiter.
June13th – HOME vs Fort Lauderdale Strikers
Last but not least, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers will come to town. Flush with money from a new, Ronaldo-enhanced ownership, but devoid of any of the players that made them good last year, it’ll be interesting to see how the Strikers turn out. Regardless, it is Minnesota’s sworn duty to beat this sorry ref-complaining team into the ground.
Fotis Bazakos better not be the official.
That’s the spring schedule! What are you looking forward to most?