Opening Week: The Rematch of the 2015 Final

opening week 2016The New York Cosmos will host the Ottawa Fury in a rematch of last year’s NASL Championship Final. In a 2015 regular season where they met three times, the 1-1-1 record said a lot about the their relationship. So did the final.

A 1-0 Cosmos win in Brooklyn. A scoreless draw in Ottawa. A 4-1 Fury win at Shuart Stadium. Arguably the Cosmos’ biggest black eye of the season in an atypical performance by them.

And if the scorelines weren’t enough, it seemed like these two clubs had fireworks when they met on the field. Incidents like the ones between Danny Szetela and Oliver Minatel n 2014 and Romuald Peiser and Marcos Senna in 2015 would lead to on-field fireworks and imprint themselves in the long memories of supporters on both sides.

It seemed almost appropriate, then, that the Final would feature these two clubs, the champions of spring and fall and thrust a solid rivalry into the spotlight. And what a match it was.

An early 8th minute strike from Gason Cellerino, muscling his way into a goal. A 68th minute red card for Mason Trafford. Two minutes later, an equalizer from the visitors, now down a man, courtesy of Tom Heinemann. Two minutes after THAT, a go-ahead from Cellerino. Cellerino completing a hat trick in the 85th. Heinemann pulling Ottawa within a goal in the 90th. And then another title for the Cosmos.

With the stake of the match clear and some pre-existing heat, as well, the cards were at a season high between the two clubs who averaged about 5 yellows per game (all-time). Five yellows and a red in the final. Sweet victory for the Cosmos, bitter defeat for the Fury. So one could imagine that the match this Sunday would be just as heated.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Of the 22 players that started the Championship Final, only ten will still be on their respective team’s rosters. Six for the Cosmos, four for the Fury.

We’ve previously indicated our thoughts on what the Cosmos starting XI will look like. It gets trickier with the Fury.

A new head coach joined the team in the offseason in Paul Dalglish, with Marc Dos Santos leaving to join Sporting Kansas City and the Swope Park Rangers. His brother and assistant coach, Phil Dos Santos also left the team joining the Strikers. Of the starting XI in the final, Ryan Richter left to Bethlehem Steel, Colin Falvey and Sinisa Ubiparipovic to Indy Eleven, Mason Trafford to Miami, Richie Ryan to the Armada, Andrew Wiedeman to FC Cincinnati and Tom Heinemann to the Rowdies.

Dalglish replaced many players, some with good quality, others maybe not as convincing as players from 2015. With new systems underway, I feel that we will still see a few familiar faces.

Romuald Peiser will anchor their net. The Golden Glove winner of 2015 is still their best keeper. Julian de Guzman, the Canadian MNT player, will probably take the right side of their midfield and we will probably still see Paulo Junior on the left side of the attack and Carl Haworth on the right.

After that new faces like Marcel de Jong will probably take the right fullback position, Rich Balchan the left, Gerardo Bruno at the top and center, and based on some preseason reports, James Bailey at center mid with Jonny Steele to the left of him.

My questions come at who will anchor the center back positions. Rafael Alves is still here. Will Dalglish go with him? Or in another direction?

The Fury are also forced to contend with a few injuries that have knocked players out for most of the season. Kyle Venter and Pablo Dyego will both be out for 6-8 months.

Despite all this, Cosmos Head Coach and Sporting Director Giovanni Savarese remains focused on what the Fury could do.

“I think they’re an interesting team. I think they have very good players. They’re a different team with a different coach, but nevertheless, they’ve done very well in preseason,” the Cosmos head coach told TICC yesterday. “They look very good and we expect another battle. In the three years we’ve been playing in the NASL, every game has been very difficult, competitive, and we expect the same this match.”

As far as what the Cosmos will bring on Sunday…

It’s unclear if Yasmani Duk will be available on Sunday as he returns from World Cup qualifying matches with Bolivia.

“We’re waiting to see if he’s going to arrive, yes,” Gio Savarese told TICC yesterday. “We’re looking into it.” He did also indicate that Andres Flores, also recently away for qualifiers, would definitely be available on Sunday.

The battle for Roversio‘s old spot is a lively one.

“We have [Jimmy] Ockford, we have [David] Ochieng, we have Alexis [Velela], we have [Hunter] Freeman. They’re all fighting for a position. Any of those players, they’re doing well.”


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