Cosmos travel to Edmonton seeking three in a row

13103270_10154321530856091_1490737145704076294_nComing off a dominant performance in Miami, thrashing the home side in a 3-0 shutout, and with a shutout of the Carolina RailHawks the week before, the New York Cosmos look to keep up their momentum as they head out on the road again.

They’ll find a traditionally difficult obstacle to overcome if they want to earn their first winning streak of the season.

Edmonton has been one of the most difficult places for the Cosmos to find a result. The series history with FCE holds at 3-3-2, just in favor of the Cosmos, with only four goals scored in four matches there, one coming on a penalty, and only one win.

The Eddies have slowly evolved from the team known for their stout defending in the last few years to a team that could provide some surprising offensive prowess. This year, they’re a team that hasn’t really offered either consistently, but they seem to be hitting their stride. now.

After six matches played in 2016, Edmonton holds a fifth-place spot (2-2-2) with eight points. They have scored four goals. They have also conceded four goals. With 2-0 scorelines both in favor and against, Clarke Stadium has not been a fortress and goals can be found there. But perhaps more importantly, the club has turned their spring sprint around. After being shutout in the first three matches (going 0-1-2, and conceding three goals), they’ve gone 2-1-0 with four goals scored and one permitted, with two of those games on the road.

It’s no surprise for a team that, despite the loss of Lance Laing to Minnesota, has kept a strong core together. They’ve adopted the 4-1-4-1 as their formation and here’s some of what viewers may see in this match.

Matt Van Oekel (Photo: Ed Kaiser/Edmonton Journal)

Matt Van Oekel (Photo: Ed Kaiser/Edmonton Journal)

Starting with the back, Matt Van Oekel has consistently been a strong keeper, taking the starting job last year from 2014 Golden Gloves winner John Smits. He is smart with his positioning and while his ball distribution and vision helped him take the job, he did make a huge mistake in the last match against Indy, gifting a ball away, although he was able to recover and make the save on his error. Beating him will not be easy.

The backline also has some great options. The starting back four of Eddie Edward on the right, Johann Smith on the left, with Albert Watson and Papé Diakite have held strong, conceding just two goals in the last four games. Barring injury, there is no reason to think the Cosmos won’t see them. The back line will be up against a Cosmos offense who seemed to find their stride last week.

Pape Diakite

Papé Diakite (Photo: FC Edmonton)

Christian Raudales has been the main choice as a DM. After a harsh injury in Jacksonville, Canadian MNT player Nik Ledgerwood filled in last week. No word on the condition of Raudales yet, but if he’s still healing up, we could see Ledgerwood back at it.

On the attacking end of the midfield, several faces have made repeated appearances, particularly Dustin Corea, Jason Plumhoff, and Sainey Nyassi. Corea is always a risk to leave alone, and after a slow start to the season, Nyassi has been seeing more time. This specifically paid off last week when Nyassi assisted on the equalizer in Indy last week.  Looking at the bench, Canadian youth national team player Shamit Shome has also looked smart in his appearances and the Cosmos would do well not to underestimate him.

There’s also been a swap in positioning between the attacking mids and striker role. Two weeks ago, forward Daryl Fordyce, who had scored no goals in four starts, spent kickoff on the bench, giving the start to Jake Keegan. The injury to Raudales brought him on in an attacking mid role and this change held last week as he started behind Keegan, who scored the equalizer and brought his goal total up to two. Tomi Ameobi, who played extensively last season, has seen more time on the bench or off the 18, especially after taking a terrible penalty at the end of the Rowdies match that would have salvaged a point for them.

The Cosmos need to capitalize on their opportunities and I am hopeful they will continue to push the width of the 4-1-4-1 that has granted them the most success. I expect to see the midfield contested, but the real challenge comes when trying to penetrate that back four that has upped their game in their last few performances. On the attacking end, I am confident that the Cosmos can effectively stifle a less dynamic attack than they saw against Carolina, especially with Jimmy Maurer in top form, but they will need to be mindful of their own full back runs that often leave openings that make them vulnerable to the counter.

At this point, the only Cosmos still a question for the weekend is Gabriel Farfán.

“We are still looking to see if he’s going to be available for this weekend,” Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese told TICC. “If the doctors clear him, he’ll be able to be available. But everybody else is fit to play.”

I’m hoping to see a 2-1 Cosmos win, but honestly, it won’t be an easy one for the Cosmos at Clarke.

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