It's funny how different the same game can look from week to week. Week one of the Cosmos' season was an end to end affair which produce 41 total shots between the two sides. Their second contest was the polar opposite, with the Cosmos testing the goalkeeper just five times, while Jimmy Maurer was forced into making just a single save.
Colin Miller typically sets his sides up with defense in mind first, and Saturday night at Clarke Stadium was no exception. The Eddies lined up with their standard four-man back line, and packed the midfield ahead of them with as many bodies as possible. This left Frank Jonke extremely isolated up top, and while he did a relatively nice job holding the ball up early on, there was rarely anyone far enough forward to make anything of it.
Gio Savarese went with two strikers in anticipation of this defense, with the Cosmos often looking to bypass the congested midfield when looking to start an attack. This led to a very stop and start affair which featured lots of fouls, corners, and throw-ins while offering very little end product.
Unsurprisingly, the turning point of this game came from a set piece, with the Cosmos' opening goal coming from a stoppage in play. Ayoze's 37th minute throw found the feet of Mads Stokkelien, who turned and fired a cross in front of goal. Sebastian Guenzatti was there to flick the ball home, slipping it between the keeper's legs to send New York into the half with the lead.
Most probably expected the game to open up once the Cosmos took the lead, but Miller decided to keep things largely the same coming out of the break. He finally decided to make some changes at the hour mark, taking off some of the midfield glut in favor of more attackers.
Savarese responded four minutes later by taking off Stefan Dimitrov for Joseph Nane, allowing the Cosmos to absorb some of the Edmonton pressure, while looking to build out of the back now that there was space to do so. Jemal Johnson And Hunter Gorskie also made their way into the mix before the end of the contest, and for Gorskie, it was his first appearance since season-ending knee surgery last September. While the Eddies looked considerably better during the games final 30 minutes, they still didn't do nearly enough to get a result that would send the home fans happy. The game ended 1-0 with the Cosmos remaining top of the pile.
Frankly, I've never understood why Miller insists on setting his sides up in this style. This sort of tactic will often work in knockout competitions, allowing a less talented side to steal results against superior opposition. It also tends to work reasonably well if the goal is simply to avoid finishing on the bottom, as managers like Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis have done to avoid relegation for years.
There is no promotion or relegation in the NASL though, and this style ensures that the Eddies won't secure enough points to finish anywhere near the top four places. With a nine-game spring season offering the possibility of a surprise club earning a spot in the postseason, setting up in this manner from opening day just baffles me. Regardless, we're through our spring trip to Clarke Stadium with maximum points. With the turf scheduled to be replaced during the break between the spring and fall seasons, it marks the last time that the Cosmos will have to play on that awful, awful surface. I don't think you'll hear a single complaint about that.