NASL: Carolina tops Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Indy end scoreless

NEW YORK --  A standing-room only crowd jammed Miller Stadium on Saturday night when Rayo OKC played its debut match, a scoreless draw against FC Edmonton, as the North American Soccer League (NASL) kicked off its 2016 Spring Season with a slate of four matches.

Greek international Georgio Samaras nearly worked some late magic after entering in the 79th minute when he forced Eddies goalkeeper Matt VanOekel to make a point-blank save, and then turn away a shot from the rebound by Richard Menjivar. Rayo OKC dominated possession and scoring opportunities for the game's final hour after Edmonton defender Albert Watson was sent off midway through the first half.

The NASL's other expansion club for the Spring Season, Miami FC, converted an early penalty kick, but conceded one in the match's dying minutes that allowed the Fort Lauderdale Strikers to earn a 1-1 draw. The match was the NASL's first on beIN SPORTS, which the league recently partnered with on a national broadcast deal.

Tampa Bay and Indy Eleven battled to a scoreless draw in St. Petersburg, Fla., and the Carolina RailHawks spotted visiting Minnesota an early goal before storming back to score twice in the first half in a 2-1 opening-day win.

The defending champion New York Cosmos host Ottawa Fury FC on Sunday night in a rematch of The Championship Final from last year, which was won by New York, 3-2.

Carolina RailHawks 2, Minnesota United FC 1

The first 15 minutes of Saturday afternoon's curtain-raising match in the 2016 NASL Spring Season was fast, furious, and high-scoring at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

Christian Ramirez picked up where he left off last season, when he tallied 12 goals, giving Minnesota (0-0-1, 0 points) the lead only three minutes into Saturday's match. His shot from 25 yards elevated then dipped over goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald.

Carolina (1-0-0, 3 points) drew even in the 12th minute when Aléx Pérez found a streaking Tiyi Shipalane with a pass. Shipalane deftly controlled and chipped goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock with the outside of his right foot. The RailHawks, who are celebrating the club's 10th anniversary, took the lead when Austin da Luz headed in a cross from Kareem Moses in the 26th minute. The home side would then hold on for the season-opening victory.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1, Miami FC 1

Dario Cvitanich scored the first goal in the history of Miami FC, a penalty kick only 12 minutes into the game, and it stood up until deep into second-half injury time when the Strikers' Maicon Santos matched him from the penalty spot. Each team walked away with a point in a South Florida Derby match at Lockhart Stadium on Saturday night.

Cvitanich, a striker from Argentina, converted a penalty kick in the game's 12th minute after Ariel Martínez was taken down in the penalty area. Miami (0W-1D-0L, 1 point) played the entire second half with 10 men after Jorge Luis Corrales drew a second yellow card late in the first half.

Miami seemed to be headed for a three-point debut before Fort Lauderdale's (0-1-0, 1) Geison Moura was taken down as he dribbled across the top of the penalty area and Santos converted from the spot in the 93rd minute.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 0, Indy Eleven 0

Tim Hankinson, Indy Eleven's new coach, took his remade team to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday night and left with a hard-earned point after a scoreless draw against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

The Rowdies (0-1-0, 1 point) nearly broke through in the 56th minute when the team's new striker Tom Heinemann, signed from Ottawa Fury FC, powered a shot from point-blank range on goal that was kicked clear by Indy (0-1-0, 1 point) goalkeeper Jon Busch.

Indy pressed late for a goal, but Tampa Bay goalkeeper Matt Pickens repelled a flurry of shots to preserve the draw.

Rayo OKC 0, FC Edmonton 0

Rayo OKC drew a sellout crowd of 6,416, including some 200 standing room, to Miller Stadium in Yukon, Okla., in the club's first match in the NASL - a 0-0 draw against FC Edmonton.

Rayo OKC (0W-1D-0L, 1 point) dominated the match and possession from the 30th minute, when Eddies defender Albert Watson was shown a straight red card. Greek international Georgios Samaras entered the match in the 79th minute and nearly scored the first goal in club history. But his break into the penalty area for a clear shot on goal was turned aside by Edmonton (0-1-0, 1) goalkeeper Matt VanOekel, who also saved the quick rebound shot by Rayo OKC's El Salvador international Richard Menjivar.

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