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Preview: Puerto Rico Matchup Goes Beyond Three Points

The Cosmos host Puerto Rico FC in first game since Maria

Soccer: Puerto Rico FC at New York Cosmos Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for fans, players and staff of the NASL, not least Puerto Rico FC. So undoubtedly both the Cosmos and their Caribbean counterparts will welcome the distraction of getting back out on the field and playing football tomorrow night at MCU. This is a game that was originally scheduled as a home outing at Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel for PRFC, but given the continuing recovery from hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Cosmos and PRFC agreed to trade home games, with the final game of the season on October 28th likewise moving from MCU to Puerto Rico.

Incidentally, the Cosmos have also generously opened up their training facilities to PRFC over the last couple of weeks and are donating fifty percent of all proceeds from their final two home games to the Carmelo Anthony Puerto Rico Relief Fund

In yesterday’s press conference, Gio Savarese made it very clear that the recovery effort in Puerto Rico was more important than the points at stake. But in any other circumstances, these would constitute crucial points for the Cosmos. Despite going winless since July (a 3-1 victory over Miami FC at MCU on the opening day of the fall season) the Cosmos still remain in contention for a playoff spot, trailing fourth place Jacksonville by one point in the combined standings.

If the Cosmos do make the playoffs, it would be a fitting send off to Carlos Mendes, who this afternoon announced his intention to retire at the end of the current season. The captain, the Cosmos first signing ahead of their 2013 reboot, has played in every playoff game on his way to lifting three NASL championships.

Who to watch out for:

Puerto Rico have been missing their top scorer Conner Doyle for the last month and indeed the team has sorely struggled to score in the fall season. The Caribbean side have netted only five times in eight games, three of those coming from Doyle. Besides the Irish-American striker, winger Guiseppe Gentile represents the most dangerous attacking threat, especially as the Cosmos have struggled to contain pacey opposition. In the previous two games, Andres Flores has been deployed in a deep holding role, presumably in an attempt to add some speed to an otherwise sluggish central defence, so expect Flores to get the start again.

Gio seems to have recently settled on a midfield trio of Flores, Marquez and Guerra, in a fluid 4-3-3 cum 3-5-2 formation. Besides goalkeeper (will Maurer return after a four game absence?) The question marks mostly lie in who will be deployed up front. Vranjican and Starikov have been preferred in the attacking trio of late, with Cosmos B graduate Bljedi Bardic starting and Ledesma making a return as a substitute last week. This may be a wildcard given his absence from the squad of late, but could this fan favourite be in for a birthday treat?...

The Verdict

This will seem eerily similar to my last pre-match prediction (ahead of that frustrating night against the Deltas a couple of weeks ago). But with Puerto Rico struggling this fall season, especially in front of goal and with a poor record against the Cosmos, this is New York’s game to lose. The only problem is, the Cosmos have gotten good at snatching only a point when three have been well in their grasp.

Prediction Cosmos 2-1 Puerto Rico

Kick-off is tomorrow, 5pm, Sunday 1st October at MCU Park, with the game showing live on beIN Sports 3. Tickets are on sale from the club and the promo code PUERTORICO will ensure 50% of the profits will benefit the Hurricane Relief Fund.