The New York Cosmos hadn't played a competitive match in the last five months, but they picked up right where they left off with an opening night victory on Sunday evening at Hofstra. The impressive victory by the defending champions was enough to vault them to the top of the NASL spring table based on goal difference, and with any luck, the boys in green and white will remain there for the next eleven weeks.
Gio Savarese made a few surprises with his starting choices, but boy, did the team look good right from the start. New York dominated possession and created loads of chances, but some fantastic saves by Romuald Peiser and the offside flag combined to keep the Cosmos off of the scoreboard for the first 30 minutes. In the 36th minute, Peiser finally made a mistake, racing out to challenge Jairo Arrieta for a ball he couldn't win, and leaving Arrieta with a simple pass to the wide open Juan Arango. The debutante simply passed the ball into the gaping net to open his Cosmos account, in front of The Five Points. Two minutes later, Arango made it a 2-0 lead, volleying home a rebound after Peiser deflected a cross right into his path.
The Venezuelan nearly made it a hat trick before the half-time break, but last season's Gold Gloves winner managed to deny his excellent volley. Arango was denied again shortly after the second half restarted, when Jairo Arrieta set him one-on-one with the keeper, who made an excellent intervention to keep the 35-year old from controlling his first touch.
As the second half wore on, New York began to look content to simply close up shop and defend the lead. Ruben Bover, who picked up a yellow in the early minutes of the second half, came off for Adam Moffat. The Cosmos continued to look to hit on the counter, however, and after Romuald Peiser was caught off of his line again attempting to cut out one of these forays, Adam Moffat made it 3-0 from about 50 yards away.
With the three goal lead and the match more or less over, Savarese made another change, replacing Juan Arango with Niko Kranjcar. Shortly after that change was made, Gio used his final substitution, bringing Lucky Mkosana on in place of Arrieta. That group safely saw out the match, preserving Jimmy Maurer's first clean sheet of the season, and winning their opening match for the fourth straight season.
Here are a few initial thoughts following the 3-0 victory:
- After seeing them in action for the first time, I like the new Under Armour home uniforms. The striping on the shorts is a nice touch, as are the the additional hoops on the sleeves.
- If the first game of his Ottawa tenure is any indication, Paul Dalglish is obviously a very, very different sort of manager than Marc dos Santos. The Fury weren't nearly as conservative this season as they were in 2015, and it made for a far more entertaining soccer than we usually saw from them last year. They may not finish nearly as well as they did last season, but they'll probably be more fun to watch.
- I like the idea behind closing the east stand and moving the benches and camera for undersold matches, but using a westward facing camera for a match played while the sun was setting made for some difficult watching, at times.
- Bover was fantastic today. He has come an awfully long way since starting last season with Cosmos B, though I still worry if he's asked to do too much defensively.
- Early on, I was a bit concerned with the back four, as there were some moments that they didn't appear to be on the same page. Fortunately, they looked far more comfortable together as the match wore on.
- Peiser is a very good shot stopper, but on Sunday, it looked like the defensive turnover this winter had him trying to do too much. His aggressiveness played a part in all three Cosmos goals, and it's hard to imagine that he'll manage a repeat of last season's performance if he doesn't put a little more trust in his defenders.
- The depth this season is going to make the Cosmos downright scary for opposing coaches. As mentioned in the broadcast, the squad is exceptionally deep, especially in attack, and will give Savarese all sorts of options in any scenario.