To say things were looking kind of dire after the Cosmos’ week seven loss in Edmonton would not have been an unfair assessment. With the Cosmos in third, a RailHawks team ahead of them by a point and a strong Minnesota squad a point ahead with a game in hand, the club no long controlled its own destiny.
This has changed.
The Boys in Green are four points ahead of their nearest competition, the Indy Eleven. But with the bye week coming up for them, the requirement is clear. In 2015, a draw was all that was necessary in their final week of spring play to get the shiny hubcap. This time, anything less than a win leaves them in a precarious position.
This may not be an easy task. The Cosmos will face an opponent that has repeatedly stung them all spring: a road game. New York will travel to Ft. Lauderdale in search of three points that guarantees them home-field advantage in the first round of The Championship, the NASL playoffs.
“First of all playing in Florida is always difficult, the weather, they’re playing at home,” said Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese. “Every time they’re playing away from home it’s more difficult. They’ve been winning the last few matches so they’re exciting and when the play the Cosmos they’re going to be highly motivated. We expect it to be a very tough match against a crafty team, a difficult team, a team that has different resources. We just have to be able to perform, see how the game is going to play out, do the scouting we need to do, prepare the match as we do every single time and its up to the players to execute what we’re going to prepare. We’re excited to be in this position right now and the players are eager to be able to play this Saturday.”
“If we win this Saturday of course we’re able to win the spring season so we’re very content with the players having been able to put in the right effort in order to be in this condition right now, but for us it’s one more game, a game that we have to think about winning just a game and not because of anything else.”
The Strikers’ numbers are not all that impressive. The seventh-place team has 12 points in 8 matches, scoring nine goals and giving up an equal number. But, the table does not show the momentum and chemistry the side has put together in the last few rounds.
After going 0-2-2 in their first four matches, the Strikers are 3-1-0 in their last four, kicking off their turn in fortune with a 3-1 statement win at Carolina, scoring seven goals and allowing three during this run.
The most interesting part of their results? The Strikers have only lost at home once, but have yet to log a win at home, giving up three goals while scoring two. This match will be an interesting test for both sides as the home team looks to continue the successful turnaround of their season, while New York looks for their first road win against a non-expansion side.
The Strikers will have some quality pieces to throw at the visitors. Since the choice to start former Rowdie Diego Restrepo, the team’s goal’s against average has been cut in half. Gale Agbossoumonde and Dalton have put together a decent partnership at center back. PC remains a threat on the left side with Nana Attakora’s switch from center to right back giving the team an extra offensive dynamic as well.
Offensively, the team has begun digging out goals with Geison Moura and Jose Angulo on the wings and Ramon Nuñez in the 10 spot behind Maicon Santos.
The Cosmos will have two things going for them. Roversio is set to return from his long absence this spring as Head Coach Giovanni Savarese indicated after their recent US Open Cup match.
“He’s going to be available this weekend so finally he’s going to make the roster again,” said Savarese. “We feel he’s done what’s necessary in order to be in the best condition at the moment to be available. He’ll be traveling with us and that’s a positive sign to have Roversio back. We’re content after the work that he’s done to be able to be available.”
Another potential advantage for the Cosmos? The Strikers, for a variety of reasons, were forced to hold their Open Cup match at 11 AM on Wednesday, a game that ran 120 minutes plus four rounds of penalties, and employed many key first team players. It remains to be seen how three games in a week with a long, grueling one in the middle will affect them.
Cosmos win and the spring is theirs. A draw or a loss and their destiny is no longer in their control.