The Cosmos beat Rayo OKC 1-0 on Saturday night, ending the visitors’ three-game unbeaten streak on the road and staying perfect at home with a 5-0-0 record before their initial US Open Cup match on Wednesday and final league match of the Spring away at Fort Lauderdale. Each team controlled a key stat for the evening. The Cosmos had 100% of goals. Rayo had 100% of the red cards.
Ruben Bover was also added into the starting XI in place of Niko Kranjčar, out recovering from an injury. The rest of the attacking midfield stayed the same with Yohandry Orozco to his left and Juan Arango and Sebastian Guenzatti to his right.
Danny Szetela took up his position as the sole holding mid.
Ayoze, Carlos Mendes, Jimmy Ockford and Hunter Freeman formed the back line with Jimmy Maurer in the net.
Impacted by injuries, Duk’s national team call-up and Mike Lahoud’s loan recall and sale by the Union, the Cosmos did not have a full 18 with only five substitutes available: Brian Holt, David Ochieng, David Diosa, Andres Flores, and Lucky Mkosana.
Rayo entered the match with their customary 4-3-3, although it was close to a 4-2-1 by the end of the evening.
After being pushed up top the week before, Richard Menjivar was moved back into the midfield. Ian Svantesson took his place with Georgios Samaras on the right and starting for Greek Heritage Night.
The game started with back and forth, but the first best chance for the Cosmos came in the 13th minute when Orozco got a look on net and fired a ball that Fernandes had to parry away. In the 26th, an Arrieta shot following a free kick forced Boateng to get acrobatic, making a bicycle kick to clear it from danger.
The first game-changing moment of the match came in the 36th minute. A poorly played back pass from Mendes to Maurer was nearly intercepted by Rayo captain Michel. Maurer managed to clear the ball, but was clipped just afterwards by the Brazilian who saw red moments later. With the loss of their captain the visitors also lost the league leader in goals and their most dangerous component in set pieces.
The chippiness of the match, slowly increasing, saw the Cosmos earn their fist card in the 41st minute when Danny Szetela earned one for an elbow on Derek Boateng.
The Ghanian appeared to be losing control by the end of the half with a series of hard tackles towards the end of the half. This hits its peak as they entered stoppage time as Guenzatti snatched a throw-in ball from the hands of Coach Marcina and approached the referee, prompting Boateng to race over and shove him down. Teammate Futty Danso had to pull him away, but both Guenzatti and Boateng would end up in the book.
A sub for the visitors would come near the start of the second half as Tyler Gibson entered to replace Svantesson.
The Cosmos got on the board in the 54th minute when Arango sent a ball wide right to Freeman who sent a cross into the box. Guenzatti nodded it on towards the net, where it arrived at the foot of Szetela, who cleated it the opposite way past Fernandes, leaving both the keeper and Kosuke Kimura, marking him, on the floor.
The Cosmos’ first sub came on in the 68th as Andres Flores joined in place of Orozco. Boateng also left the game in the 77th minute for Yuma. The next sub was for New York as Lucky Mkosana entered for Arrieta in the 83rd.
The Cosmos put more pressure on as Guenzatti’s two shots on goal in the 85th were stopped by Fernandes. Mkosana’s deflection onto the net moments later was also grabbed by the Portuguese keeper.
A late yellow card for Ockford was shown in the 86th minute as Forbes ran into him and was left on the floor. Forbes would leave the two minutes later with a straight red after spinning and delivering an elbow into the face of Freeman and then reaching down and attempting to force the player up off the ground.
The circus was not over. Flores set up a quick counter as Ayoze, Mkosana, and Bover made a run on Kimura and the net. Ayoze slowed down, giving the defense time to catch up and slid a ball right towards Bover who was tripped from behind by Samaras for his second yellow, and Rayo’s third red of the night.
OKC nearly managed to play spoiler, with Menjivar scoring a goal in the third minute of stoppage, but Danso, who headed it to him, was initially in an offsides position.
New York made their last substitution, bringing on David Diosa for Bover, but the whistle was blown shortly after.
New York now has a chance to clinch the Spring title and a home playoff spot next week on the road in Ft. Lauderdale with a win.
- The Cosmos are perfect at home this spring, 5-0-0 with one goal against.
- This is Danny Szetela’s first goal of 2016 in only his second start.
- This is Jimmy Maurer’s fifth shutout of the year, his fourth at home.
- Dominance was clear. Despite two of the reds not coming until near end of match, the Cosmos were just shy of 75% possession and made 87% of their 518 pass attempts compared to Rayo’s 170 attempted passes.
- The game breaks a three-game Cosmos losing streak when tied at halftime.
- The game leaves Rayo in a terrible spot for next week with Samaras, Forbes, and Michel all out on red cards. Boateng will also be unavailable, suspended for yellow card accumulation
What. A. Match. Credit to the boys in green for keeping their composure in a match that went all over the place. Quite the interesting game to be pitch-side for! A few thoughts:
- While I had my money hedged on Derek Boateng getting a red, it was clear Billy Forbes was asking for the same for a good period of this match. Between poor body language and his constant dissent on referee calls, the former San Antonio man was a ticking time bomb for a poor decision on the pitch.
- I was floored by Samaras’ involvement in last night’s match. Not only did the tallest player on the pitch take corner and set piece duties in the absence of Michel, but he spent most of his night bunkered down deep in his own half defending. Many people have criticized his play so far this season, but there’s something to be said about the level of involvement the Greek attacker had.
- Additionally on Samaras, watching the former Greek national team hero listen to the national anthem of his homeland was an interesting experience. First taken aback by the gesture (like many in the stadium), the former Celtic man respectfully mouthed along to hymn, shifting his weight back and forth in an uneasy cadence. Longing and a bit of disconnect were strewn across his face.
- Finally, it’s worth noting Rayo OKC’s team dynamic (or lack thereof). Pregame, head coach Alan Marcena is seen strolling through player warmup lines devoid of any contact with his men. Also, it appeared that Samaras was the only semi-composed player on the pitch last night, consistently pulling players away from referees. I’m of the mindset that this was not a team that succumbed to a call or two they didn’t enjoy, but expressed a few symptoms of bad coaching and lack of overall chemistry.
I was not pitch-side for most of this, so Steve’s thoughts are invaluable. To expand on his last point, warm-ups were incredibly different between the two head coaches. On the Cosmos’ side of the field, Gio in warm-up clothing and in the middle of his drills. On the other side, Marcina suited up and walking through the drills taking place. More than the clothing, it simply felt like Marcina was disconnected. I know different coaches will bring different styles, but from the sideline, something felt off about this.