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Cosmos head to third straight final with win over Miami

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Cosmos advance to Championship finals thanks to Jimmy Mauer’s shootout heroics

@NASL

New York will once again defend their NASL title after a penalty shootout victory against The Miami FC.

The Cosmos and Miami played a very calculated and tactical match over 120 minutes without being able to determine a winner. The first half was all about Miami FC, who created the majority of chances. Jimmy Maurer made a key save to deny Dylan Mares right before halftime. Miami’s front three of Pinho, Rennella, and Chavez were cooking, but the home team could not break the deadlock. New York struggled to get numbers forward and also had issues dealing with former Cosmo Hunter Freeman’s overlapping runs. The first half wasn’t the prettiest for New York, but they kept themselves in the tie.

In the second half, New York was able to get themselves into the game more. outside the box efforts from Emmanuel Ledesma and Andres Flores. However, thanks in part to another key save from Jimmy Maurer, we were tied at the end of regulation and NASL fans were treated to some more football.

In extra time, New York came closest from Eugene Starikov, whose left-footed screamer hit the post and ricocheted out. Almost as if to foreshadow future events, Maurer made another save on Blake Smith’s side-footed shot in Miami’s best chance of extra time.

After 120 minutes of scoreless soccer, we finally entered penalties. Cosmos fans should have had no doubt that Jimmy Maurer would come up big. Shutting down NYCFC and The Indy Eleven in previous seasons, Maurer was perfect against Miami. The Cosmos’ shot-stopper guessed correctly on every single penalty while managing to get a paw on two of Miami’s kicks. This shootout was practically a finishing clinic, as when either team converted the kick was snugged perfectly into a corner. The Cosmos managed to not miss a single kick until Juan Guerra decided to attempt a panenka on Daniel Vega, who wasn’t having any of it. Guerra’s attempt at guile can be laughed at in hindsight, as a second Jimmy Maurer save and a final kick by Starikov caused the Cosmos to advance.

Gio Savarese should really be praised for his use of substitutes in this match. Taking off MVP candidate Emmanuel Ledesma while the offense was struggling was something that could really have nipped the Cosmos in the bud, but Gio’s decision to take out the yellow carded forward was the right one. The fresh legs of Lucky Mkosana, Danny Szetela, and Pablo Vranjican, each of whom converted a penalty by the way, really brought new life to the Cosmos in the second half. Lucky Mkosana, in particular, played with determination and energy, pressing Miami’s defensive line and setting up Starikov big chance on goal. Gio’s use of subs, as well as his tactics which allowed for a clean sheet against a historically good Miami FC side really made the difference for New York. Savarese must also be given credit for how prepared his side was for the penalties. Especially with Jimmy Maurer in net, Gio’s Cosmos don’t lose shootouts.

Man of the match

My man of the match for the semifinal is without a doubt Jimmy Maurer, who was unstoppable both in the 120 minutes and the shootout. Jimmy really put on a clinic with his saves, as well as his confidence off his line. Eric Calvillo was impressive as well, proving to be one of the most confident and composed young players the United States has to offer.

On to the final

As the only New York Soccer team left in playoff contention, The Cosmos will face the San Francisco Deltas in the 2017 NASL Championship. The Deltas, quite literally playing each game as if it’s their last, advanced thanks to Tyler Gibson’s absolute rocket into the top right corner. The Cosmos will travel to Kezar and fight until the bitter end with the Deltas at 8 pm on Sunday.