The remaining questions can be put to bed for a day. The New York Cosmos will play their first competitive match since the club nearly expired for the second time in its history. And despite an impressive lineup, they will face a determined Puerto Rico FC that has something to prove.
Joining in the Fall Season of last year, the expansion side made an impact, going 5-9-8 and finishing the Fall in 9th place, ahead of three other clubs. Their offseason saw them qualify for and get eliminated from the Caribbean Club Championship. With a renewed focus on the league, the Cosmos should expect a tough road game ahead of them.
Facing each other twice last season, the Cosmos took both meetings with a 3-0 shutout at home followed by a 2-1 stoppage time winner on the road.
Since then, Puerto Rico has kept most of the back line that gave New York trouble on the return leg intact with Cristiano Dias, Ramon Soria and Rudy Dawson remaining for the 2017 season. Trevor Spangenberg, who took over the goalkeeper spot from David Meves later that season, is in the net.
The midfield has arguably seen a number of upgrades with experienced NASLers Walter Ramirez and Yuma joining from the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Rayo OKC, respectively. Up top, Hector “Pito” Ramos, who tied for fourth in goals scored last fall, will almost certainly remain the point man.
The Cosmos struggled in the return leg last season, but some more physical options added to this year’s side may help them deal with the issues they had playing against a tough Puerto Rican back line.
While this will be the club’s first chance to show off their midfield and see how it stacks up in the NASL, the back line will need to take extra precaution with Ramos who can poach goals as easily as he creates chances.
The club will also be affected by a number of call-ups, including David Ochieng (Kenya), Andres Flores, Irvin Herrera and Richard Menjivar (El Salvador).
Predicted XI – Puerto Rico FC
Spangenberg, Culbertson, Dias, Soria, Dawson, Rudy, Ramirez, Yuma, Quintilla, Rivera, Ramos
Predicted XI – New York Cosmos
Maurer, Ayoze, Mendes, Barnes, Richter, Marquez, Szetela, Alhassan, Starikov, Restrepo, Amauri