All season the New York Cosmos have struggled to turn first half dominance into goals. Finally, facing the San Fransisco Deltas at MCU Park Wednesday night, everything went to plan for the Originals, only for a late collapse to render the positives almost moot.
In an near role reversal of Sunday’s cardiac comeback, New York scored early, created plentiful chances and managed to hold their defensive nerve at set pieces. Juan Guerra was industrious in midfield, winning challenges, creating opportunities, opening the scoring and ultimately being rewarded with the Emirates Man of the Match
But after being substituted for Kobi Moyal on 72 mnitues, Guerra must have looked on in abject frustration as the ten-man Deltas surged back in a fashion befitting of their hosts.
The opening goal came for the Originals after a flurry of action in their offensive third and demonstrated the variety of offensive riches on display. Starting with a deep Javi Marquez ball from the Cosmos half, Juan Arango back-heeled to an on-rushing Eugene Starikov. The Ukrainian’s powerful shot was parried by Peiser, rebounding into the path of a surging Juan Guerra who had time to place a right footed shot off the left upright to give the Originals the lead on nineteen minutes.
At this stage the Deltas were on the ropes, and the Cosmos should have extended their lead, with Guerra again, and Arango going close. But it is Eugene Starikov who will be most disappointed to not have gotten on the score sheet. Running onto a cut back after a great solo effort from Pablo Vranjican, Starikov had to only stroke the ball in from four yards out, but his shot somehow sailed over the bar.
The Detlas nearly got level against the run of play on forty minutes, and as predicted the chance came from a set piece. Brazilian veteran Dagoberto floated a cross in at the second attempt to find centre back Patrick Hopkins completely unmarked. However his header came off the inside of the post and was ultimately ushered to safety by Dejan Jakovic.
One dark spot for what was otherwise a positive first half for the Cosmos came on thirty-seven minutes when Juan Arango landed awkwardly on his elbow and had to be carried from the field, clearly in a lot of pain. The Venezuelan had been influential in the first half and was starting to again show some of the form that catapulted the Cosmos to the championship last year.
“We’ll see, it didn’t look very good” said Gio Savarese when asked about Arango’s condition after the game. “It’s unfortunate because, as you saw today, he was getting in a situation that could help us. Hopefully [the injury] it’s not something for the long term”
The second half began much like the first has ended. The Deltas again threatened on a Dagoberto set piece, this time Ouimette was unmarked but couldn’t convert with his head. Again Starikov found himself in an excellent position, clean through on goal, but was denied this time by the Frenchman Peiser in goal. However the Cosmos did extend their lead with what appeared to be the game winning goal. Ouimette was again the villian, bringing Juan Guerra down inside the box. Pablo Vranjican stepped up and emphatically fired the ball into the roof of the net from twelve yards to give the Cosmos a 2-0 lead.
It seemed the game was completely wrapped up just three minutes later when Deltas midfielder Michael Stevens was shown a straight red card for an apparent kick at Ayoze. It began a period of frustration for San Fransisco as they appeared to be fighting amongst themselves, and it certainly began to lull the Cosmos into a false sense of security.
“I believe we got a little complacent.” Gio admitted after the game, “The thing that was missing was to be able to put the game down. We gave them life..they believed that they could get back into the game.”
And get back into the game they did. On 80 minutes the Deltas got their lifeline as a penalty was awarded for apparent shirt pulling in the box (“I heard it was a PK” Gio concurred...). Brian Holt did well to get a hand on the resultant kick, but substitute Devon Sandoval’s effort had enough power to find the bottom right corner. Just five minutes later the Deltas’ late surge was complete as a loose ball from Kobi Moyal fell to another sub, Kyle Bekker, who teed up Sandoval again. His instinctive shot found the upper ninety with aplomb, and after eighty minutes of dominance the Cosmos were undone by five minutes of complacency.
The Cosmos nearly fired back immediately when Bljedi Bardic, (otherwise anonymous since replacing Arango) hit the bar, and New York did have some chances to steal back the points over six minutes of stoppage time, with Starikov twice going close. But ten-man San Fransisco held on to force the Cosmos to settle for their sixth draw in eight games of the Fall Season.
After the game, Man of the Match Juan Guerra was defiant when asked how the result might affect the team:
“We have a great team, we have great fans, we have the best staff in the league, we have all we need to be successful. I’m just going to stay positive and keep working hard”
Moments that Mattered:
19’ Juan Guerra’s goal seemed to set the tone for the game and finally rewarded the Cosmos for a dominant first half.
63’ Stephens’ red card may have appeared to put the game beyond the Deltas, but ultimately led to complacency in the Cosmos ranks and merely buoyed and refocussed the San Fransisco staff.
72’ Guerra, who had been instrumental in the team’s success on the day left the field for Kobi Moyal, who was at fault for the equalizer.
85’ Sandoval’s strike came after a period of poor concentration and sloppy defending from the Cosmos
The Playoff Picture:
The Comsos still remain in contention, but as Gio mentioned after the game, New York is now “playing catch-up”, with Saturday’s home game against North Carolina the last real opportunity to take points from a team directly above them. Though the Cosmos lie seventh for the fall, they are only three points away from second, and are now level on 33 points with North Carolina and Jacksonville for third place in the combined standings. Which makes this weekend’s game all the more crucial - a reality clearly not lost on Juan Guerra, who ended the press conference Wednesday night with a rousing call to arms for the team:
“We’re the New York Cosmos, we know the way we have to play and we have to play that way every single game. Saturday we’ll come through again and we’ll be one hundred percent”