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The Championship Semi-Final Preview: Cosmos vs Rayo OKC

The Cosmos play Rayo for spot in The Championship

Soccer: Miami FC at New York Cosmos Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight the Cosmos start their road to the Championship against Rayo OKC. New York may be the home seed, the one seed and the favorite in this game, but they must be careful of Rayo. The Cosmos have failed to beat the newly established club in the Fall, they drew at Shuart and lost in Oklahoma. A win in the Championship semi-final would see New York play the winner of the Indy Eleven vs FC Edmonton in the final.

One of the major talking points leading up to this week’s match was the implications of the Cosmos’ home field advantage throughout the playoffs. It was announced midweek that if the Cosmos were to win the semi-final the final would be played at Belson Stadium. The St. John’s based soccer specific stadium only holds around 2,000 people, much to the chagrin of both Cosmos and NASL fans. In my eyes, announcing the location of the final at this time was an unnecessary distraction for the Cosmos. This is something that should have been saved for after the game because the controversy around it distracts the team and its supporters from the Semi-Final. I understand that traveling fans from Indy or Edmonton would need this information as soon as possible, but there’s a chance that New York might not get to the final. Cosmos supporters may be upset about this (as well as other thing such as the lack of substantive updates about the stadium search) but now is the time to get behind the team.

Players to watch

Georgios Samaras is one of Rayo’s biggest goal threat. Although The Greek striker has been used predominantly as a sub, he is a game changer that could make the difference in a tight game. Whoever the Cosmos chose to start in defense, they must cover him tightly. I’d consider playing a deep-lying midfielder like Danny Szetela to try to mark him out of the game.

In the playoffs, a team expects big performances from its best players, and that’s exactly what Juan Arango needs to do. He had an outstanding season, and for the Cosmos to go the distance he will have to general the attack.

Prediction

I think it will be close but the Cosmos will pull it out. 1-0 Cosmos.

Kickoff is at 7:00. Catch the game in person at Shuart Stadium. If you’re not around, the game can be streamed on ESPN3 and OneWorldSports.