For the Rowdies, looking to push for a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2012, they look to prove that they can win consistently on the road. They’ve won only twice on the road this season (one better than last year), but one of those wins came up in Minnesota. They’ll look to overcome their history in New York in the Modern Era on Saturday evening.
For the Cosmos, who have been dismal on the road and dropped their first points at home last week with a draw against Rayo, they seek to regain their winning ways at home and stay in the hunt for the fall title behind Indy and Edmonton.
With a win at home and a draw in St. Petersburg, the Cosmos have held an edge on the season series so far. After a 2-1 win in the spring, they traveled to Al Lang Stadium, blowing a two goal lead in stoppage time as Joe Cole converted a penalty kick to deny them of their third road win. Neither side left happy that evening as both the Rowdies organization and Cosmos Head Coach Giovanni Savarese expressed displeasure at the quality of the refereeing that evening.
Since that night, the Rowdies have gone 1-0-2, dropping their two games on the road in OKC and Ottawa, both through shutout, but they held on to beat the Strikers last week 2-1. They’ll look to capitalize on that momentum.
While the natural inclination when looking at the Rowdies is to focus on the midfield, and specifically Joe Cole, one cannot ignore the strong defense that anchors them. Tamika Mkandawire has been very dependable for the team and the return from injury of Neil Collins only makes the center back pairing more formidable. Darnell King on the right and Walter Ramirez on the left are also something to be wary of, but the recent acquisition of PC from the Strikers might eventually displace Ramirez and make for one of the most dangerous full back pairings in the league. The back line has Matt Pickens behind them who has allowed only 20 goals in 17 matches, posting 5 shutouts this season.
There are plenty of options in the midfield for the Rowdies this season. Aside from the illustrious Cole, pieces like Martin Vingaard, Eric Avila, and Michael Nanchoff have factored heavily. Keith Savage’s return has certainly given them a boost, as well. The competition in the midfield is fierce enough to push others to the sidelines, including experienced NASL players like Junior Burgos and the often-discussed Freddy Adu.
Up top, it gets a little more inconsistent. While Georgi Hristov has looked hot at stretches, Carlos Preciado is still finding his footing with the club and Tom Heinemann has been cold for much of the season.
On the Cosmos’ end, they will be without Yohandry Orozco for a few more games, as well as defender Alexis Velela. Center back Roversio will be available for the club. While it’s doubtful he would start after such a long absence, it’s possible we may see him as a late sub.
The biggest questions this week? Who does Head Coach Giovanni Savarese put in net? Will Jimmy Maurer return after allowing only one goal against Rayo? Or will the coach give the nod to Brian Holt?
And despite their fortunes at home, does last week’s result force Savarese into a more defensive formation or will he push for the win in a setting where the Cosmos have never lost to the Rowdies (4-1-0)?
Lots of questions for the boys in green this weekend. We’ll see what are the answers are.