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Wide-open race for Year 2 title
by Paul Kennedy, April 5th, 2012 8:06PM

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[NASL PREVIEW] The North American Soccer League returns seven of eight teams for Year 2, losing only the Montreal Impact to MLS. The San Antonio Scorpions have done a lot of groundwork for what should be an exciting expansion season. Who will win the 2012 title is anyone's guess as the 2011 playoff champion Minnesota Stars and regular-season champion Carolina RailHawks both suffered major losses in the offseason. For a look at the eight clubs ...

ATLANTA SILVERBACKS
Coach: Alex Pineda Chacon was the 2001 MLS MVP with the Miami Fusion. He has been coaching with the Silverbacks program since 2007 and was named head coach for the 2012 season.
Key Returnees: Youngsters Matt Horth, who led Atlanta with eight goals in 2011, Ciaran O'Brien, a former MLS first-round pick who had four goals and five assists, and Lucas Paulini, an Argentine out of VCU, have promising futures.
Key Losses: Defender Tyler Ruthven, son of former Major Leaguer Dick Ruthven, signed with MLS's New York Red Bulls, while goalie Jimmy Maurer is now playing in Chile.
Key Newcomers: The Silverbacks were one of the most aggressive teams in the offseason, adding Danilo Turcios, who represented Honduras at the 2010 World Cup, and Chilean veteran Reinaldo Navia.

CAROLINA RAILHAWKS
Coach: Colin Clarke replaces Martin Rennie, who took over as the head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps. The former Northern Ireland World Cup player spent the last five seasons coaching the Puerto Rico Islanders, turning them into one of the best clubs in the Caribbean.
Key Returnees: Kupano Low, a 2011 Best XI selection, is the only returning starter from the the second leg of the semifinals against Minnesota. Midfielder Chris Nurse (3 assists) and forward Nick Zimmerman (6 goals) are also back.
Key Losses: Rennie took with him to Vancouver 2011 NASL MVP Etienne Barbara, midfielders Floyd Franks and Matt Watson and goalkeeper Brad Knighton. Midfielder Jonny Steele is now with Real Salt Lake, and Brazilian Pablo Campos moved to expansion San Antonio.
Key Newcomers: Former U.S. U-20 and U-17 Gale Agbossoumonde should help out Low on the backline. The attack will be rebuilt around former Hermann Trophy winner Jason Garey, who spent six seasons in MLS with Columbus and Houston, Brian Shriver, who played for the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, and Brian Ackley, who played in New Zealand and the Czech Republic before returning to play in the PDL and USL PRO in 2011.

FC EDMONTON
Coach: Dutchman Harry Sinkgraven was brought in for FC Edmonton's NASL launch in 2011 and it finished with a respectable 10-12-6 record, good
enough for fifth place and a berth into the quarterfinals.
Key Returnees: Shaun Saiko (nine goals) earned NASL Best XI honors in midfield after arriving from Middlesbrough. Kyle Porter, who was second in scoring with seven goals, is also back.
Key Losses: Following the 5-0 loss to Ft. Lauderdale in the playoffs, goalie Rein Baart and defenders John Jonke and Alex Surprenant were among 11 players let go.
Key Newcomers: Goalie Michal Misiewicz, who was spectacular in Canada's 2-0 win over the USA in Olympic qualifying, has joined the Eddies. Frenchman Serisay Barthelemy, discovered at the NASL Combine, and Chilean Yashir Pinto, on loan from Colo Colo, bolster the FCE attack, though the club was awaiting approval from U.S. immigration for Pinto to play road games.

FT. LAUDERDALE STRIKERS
Coach: Daryl Shore did an excellent job in leading the Strikers to the 2011 championship series against Minnesota.
Key Returnees: Abe Thompson, whose hat trick powered Ft. Lauderdale to a 5-0 win over FC Edmonton in the 2011 quarterfinals, returns and takes on duties as an assistant coach. Jamaican Lance Laing and Finn Toni Stahl both earned 2011 Best XI honors as part of the all-NASL defense.
Key Losses: Bryan Arguez was picked up by the Montreal Impact, while Scott Gordon signed with the San Jose Earthquakes.
Key Newcomers: Costa Rican veteran Andy Herron is coming off an excellent preseason and should help the Strikers' attack. One of the most intriguing signings is 18-year-old forward Halili Nagime, who was born in Massachusetts but grew up in Brazil and spent last season with Auckland City in New Zealand. Conor Shanosky will spent the 2012 season on loan from D.C. United. Former U.S. U-20 and U-17 Emilio Orozco arrives from the Tigres' youth system in Mexico.

MINNESOTA STARS
Coach: Manny Lagos, whose family is synonymous with soccer in Minnesota, returned home after 10 seasons in MLS to work with the USL's Thunder and has coached the Stars since 2010.
Key Returnees: The entire backline returns: Cristiano Dias, Justin Davis, Brian Kallman and Kyle Altman though Altman has been bothered  by hamstring problems in the offseason. Argentine midfielder Lucas Rodriguez came up big for the Stars during their 2011 playoff run.
Key Losses: Goalie Joe Warren is gone, as are midfielders Jeff Cosgriff and Andrei Gotsmanov and forwards Brian Cvilikas and Luke Mulholland, leaving Lagos will a lot of work to do to rebuild the attack.
Key Newcomers: Fuad Ibrahim, who was born in Ethiopia and raised in Minnesota, is only 20 but comes to the Stars after four seasons in MLS with Dallas and Toronto. Martin Nunez spent the 2011 season with Ft. Lauderdale, where he scored four goals.

PUERTO RICO ISLANDERS
Coach:
Adrian Whitbread, Clark's right-hand man, takes over as the Islanders head coach. They often shared responsibilities when they were coaching the Islanders and the Puerto Rico national team, so Whitbread knows the ropes.
Key Returnees: Jamaican Nicholas Addlery, Dominican Jonathan Fana and Englishman David Foley, a 2011 Best XI pick, head what will be the NASL's most established attacks. They combined for 27 goals in 2011. Puerto Rico internationals Alexis Rivera, Richard Martinez and Noah Delgado all return.
Key Losses: Goalie Ray Burse has joined Clarke in the move to Carolina. Defender Logan Emory signed with MLS's Toronto FC.
Key Newcomers: Canadian Edson Edward was picked up after being waived by MLS's FC Dallas.

SAN ANTONIO SCORPIONS
Coach: Tim Hankinson has extensive experience in the college game (notably Alabama A&M in the early 1980s), MLS (Tampa Bay Mutiny and Colorado Rapids) and abroad (clubs in Iceland and India and Guatemala U-17 national team).
Key Newcomers: The Scorpions have loaded up on players who spent time with the MLS Vancouver Whitecaps: Kevin Harmse, Blake Wagner and Wes Knight. Campos was second in the NASL in scoring with 12 goals for Carolina. The big question mark will be how much will former Mexican international Javier Saavedra, signed as a player/coach, help out in midfield at the age of 38. Youngster Josue Soto was signed on loan from the Houston Dynamo.

TAMPA BAY ROWDIES
Coach: Ricky Hill has bounced back and forth between England and the United States since first playing for the Rowdies in the old APSL.
Key Returnees: Mike Ambersley (11 goals, 7 assists) and Aaron King (9 goals, 5 assists) led the Rowdies in scoring.
Key Losses: The Rowdies' big holes are in midfield, where Haitian-born Pascal Millien moved to Ireland's Sligo Rovers and Mozzi Gyori did not have his contract renewed.
Key Newcomers: Mulholland won USL PRO Rookie of the Year honors with Wilmington, then helped Minnesota win the NASL title. Miami product Fabrice Picault, 21, spent four seasons of his pro career playing for Cagliari's Primavera team in Italy



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