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New York Cosmos player spotlight: Ayoze

The Cosmos fullback will be a key to breaking down Atlanta on Sunday

Andy Marlin

At the start of last season, Gio Savarese was using Ayoze in the midfield to provide a bit of creative ability behind the single striker. By the end of the year, the Spaniard was starting at left back, and looking like the NASL's best at that position. Maintaining that form in 2014 will be one of the keys to the Cosmos repeating as champions. With New York typically controlling possession and building slowly from the back, Ayoze's ability to contribute on both ends will be crucial to breaking down those opponents who don't pressure New York high up the pitch.

Atlanta will probably be deploying a striker this evening who prefers to work the channels, and one of the keys to neutralizing Deon McCaulay will be to prevent his supporting cast from providing service. Eric Wynalda is likely to have his side looking to exploit wide areas when New York's fullbacks join the attack, before trying to release McCaulay behind the center backs to set him free on goal.

New York seems likely to dominate possession this evening, and if they start with just a single striker up top (as they did for most of last season), allowing Diomar Diaz to drift in from the left will be key to breaking down the Atlanta defense. Ayoze will need to fill that void created on the left side of the attack, especially now that we're likely to be starting a center forward that's a real threat in the air. At the same time, the Spaniard needs to be aware of any space hes leaving behind, especially if both of Marcos Senna and Danny Szetela happen to be pushing forward as well.

If the Cosmos can get an early goal this evening, Ayoze won't have the same sort of pressure to add to the attack. The longer it takes for New York to score though, the more the left back is going to have to push forward, potentially leaving space for the Silverbacks to exploit. Ayoze's ability to identify the correct opportunities to get forward while minimizing the opportunities to counter attack will be key to an opening night victory.