Minnesota and San Antonio favored in semifinals

[NASL PLAYOFF PREVIEW] Spring champion Minnesota United FC and fall champion San Antonio Scorpions host the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers and New York Cosmos, respectively, in Saturday's NASL semifinals. The split-season champions will be favored as they swept their opponents in their three-game series in the regular season.

NASL SCHEDULE, Semifinals:
#1 Minnesota United FC vs. #4 Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 6 p.m. CT (7 p.m. ET)          
Broadcasts: ESPN3, NASLLive.com, KSTC45-TV
#2 San Antonio Scorpions vs. #3 New York Cosmos, 7:30 p.m. CT (8:30 p.m. ET)
Broadcasts: ESPN3, NASLLive.com, ONE World Sport, KSAT12.2-MeTV

Minnesota stars Christian Ramirez and Miguel Ibarra each scored a goal in all three games against the Strikers. Ramirez finished as the NASL's leading scorer (20 goals) ahead of Strikers forward Fafa Picault (12 goals).

"I think Ft. Lauderdale has had a great season. They've had a great run and pushed really hard and I think they deserve to be here," said United head coach Manny Lagos. "We know it's going to be a great challenge for us to deal with the intensity that they've been playing with, but we're also excited because we've worked really hard this year and we've earned the top seed."

Ft. Lauderdale is the hotter team, though. The Strikers are unbeaten in their last seven games, while the Loons won only one of their last five games.

"I am very proud of our team for the way they finished the season, however, no one in our club is satisfied with just qualifying for the Championship," said Strikers head coach Gunter Kronsteiner. "We know that we will be facing an outstanding team on Saturday night. We are playing with a lot of confidence right now, and I know that we will be prepared to play our best on Saturday night in order to accomplish our next goal."

The Scorpions will host the Cosmos for the second time in seven days. They won the fall title last Saturday with a 1-0 win in the  fall finale at Toyota Field.
"Coming off an exciting conclusion to the regular season and winning the Fall Season Championship, the guys are now fully focused on the next task at hand," said Scorpions head coach Alen Marcina. "They're committed to playing with dedication and tenacity against an extremely talented and determined New York side. We're pleased to be playing in The Championship Semifinals in front of our home crowd. The team will be ready to embrace the moment and match the intensity, energy, and passion of our fans."
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