The New York Cosmos shut out Puerto Rico FC in the first ever meeting between the two sides by a scoreline of 3-0. In the process, the Cosmos won their tenth-straight home game, setting an NASL record in the Modern Era.
The Cosmos entered the match with a 4-1-4-1. Jimmy Mulligan received another start at RB as Hunter Freeman was once again pushed into a center mid role. However, this time, he occupied the spot of Carlos Mendes as the captain was given the night off. He paired up with David Ochieng. Adam Moffat also got the nod and Lucky Mkosana took a spot at the right wing while Yasmani Duk started up top.
Puerto Rico FC opted for a 4-4-2 with former Strikers goalkeeper David Meves in the net, former Silverbacks Pedro Mendes as a forward, Puerto Rican offensive threat Hector Ramos paired up with him, and former Cosmos Paulo Mendes occupying a spot on the left side of midfield.
Puerto Rico surged early putting pressure on the Cosmos defense from the opening minutes. New York struggled to generate serious chances as a result, but ultimately would take the lead with a little help.
In the 16th minute, Ruben Bover slipped a pass to Mkosana making a run on the left side touchline. Mkosana easily escaped from Ramon Martin del Campo before sending a curving cross into the 18, intended for Duk to finish. Center back Cristiano Dias had the lead on Duk, sliding into the ball and putting it into his own net.
Often facing a mismatch on both ends of the field, physical challenges from Puerto Rico in the midfield led to mistakes by the Cosmos, although they began to find their footing towards the end of the first. They continued the pace into the the second half with a number of close chances in the second half, including a David Diosa goal in the 51st that was waved offsides.
The Cosmos continued to find chances across the second half, but didn’t find goals until a period that has been of much concern to them recently: the final minutes.
In the 84th minute, Mkosana dribbled his way in and out on Kyle Culbertson outside the right side of the box before delivering a cross for Juan Arango to run into with a header, doubling the lead and increasing his personal tally to seven.
Ramos nearly spoiled the party in the 86th as he shook off Diosa and blasted a shot past Freeman that beat Maurer, but rebounded off the upright as the Cosmos recovered and closed ranks.
But, then the Cosmos finally managed to do something that’s eluded them too many times this season. They put the match away.
In the second minute of stoppage, Arango spotted Lucky, who had move into the striker role, making a slashing run behind the defense. He evaded a legs-first tackle by Meves outside of the box and walked the ball almost to the goal line before the final tap-in for his fourth of 2016.
“We had talked with the group and said we need to play a complete match,” said Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese. “We need to make sure we do the right things towards the end of the game and be able to manage what we have in front of us and not allow the teams to be able to step on us, but push them and continue to pressure them high.”
Asked about the physical mismatch between the teams, Savarese had a different viewpoint.
“It’s an interesting question because I think it depends on how you watch soccer,” he said. “We felt today that we put out a team that was going to be good with the ball. That we were going to have guys on top that were fast to open spaces. So we threw at them, instead of throwing athleticism and height, we threw soccer. We threw guys that can move the ball, guys that can be confident to be able to find the ball and that’s why from the beginning even though they were pressuring us high, we were not afraid to try to play.”
With the win, the Cosmos climb back atop both the fall and combined tables, while Maurer posts his seventh clean sheet of the year. The Cosmos will next host Rayo OKC on Sunday night, looking for revenge for the 3-0 loss the experienced nearly two weeks ago.
Check out match highlights below:
The shutout was the seventh of the year for the Cosmos and the sixth at home, where they have permitted only two goals in 2016.