This is Cosmos Country Blog — August 21, 2014 at 8:50 am

Cosmos Loss To Rowdies Review

Image Credit: Tampa Bay Rowdies

Image Credit: Tampa Bay Rowdies

By Julien Llerena

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Last spring season, New York Cosmos entered the NASL with swagger.

They brought in big names with Marcos Senna. Big sponsors with Emirates Airlines. And big money. Everything. Big. A glamourous aura surrounded the club. We entered a time machine and exited with fur coats and oversized sunglasses. The 70′s were back.

The Cosmos’ biggest league contribution was on the pitch. Prior to the reboot, NASL fixtures were scrappy affairs. Hard tackling midfield battles peppered with occasional breakaways and set pieces. Games looked like scenes from The Gladiator with 22 Russell Crowes in shorts and high socks.

Head Coach Giovanni Savarese developed a more sophisticated style of play. One that relied heavily on technical prowess over passionate grit. This new approach yielded great results for the Cosmos, a loyal fan base and the 2013 Soccer Bowl.

The rest of the league responded. No longer could old techniques be relied on. Teams spent, grew, and adapted. Tampa Bay Rowdies midfielder, and game goal scorer, Keith Savage agreed.

“Them (Cosmos) coming in and raising the bar immediately and then Minnesota having a new owner coming in and buying big players. As well as San Antonio. Every team has stepped it up… We are deeper now than we ever been, that’s because the league is so tough”

Savarese’s boys ran face first into the progress they enacted in St. Petersburg, FL. In the pants-clung-to-sweaty-legs heat of Al Lang Stadium, the Tampa Bay Rowdies completely outplayed the Cosmos. Like Victor Frankenstein meeting his monster, New York didn’t fare well.

Don’t blame the visiting team for the loss. That’s too easy. Yes; you can point at the errant passes, loose possession, and slack defending as the issue. But New York didn’t play horribly, in fact their performance might had led to a late winner or at least a scoreless draw in 2013.

Tampa Bay just got better.

Sometimes you win.

Other days you draw or lose…

Two strikers defined Saturday night’s game. New York’s Mads Stokkelien and Tampa Bay’s Amani Walker. The Rowdies starved Stokkelien. He spent the game isolated on his own personal island. He talked to a volleyball. He spearfished in his underwear.

Without any substantial possession by Stokkelien, the Cosmos resorted to hopeful long range shots. Marcos Senna behind many of those. All sailed over the bar. The lackluster attacking thrust from the Norwegian forward deconstructed New York’s shape. Senna dropped deeper throughout the game, as some points deeper than his centerbacks.

Any deeper and he would be in the parking lot. He wanted to ignite the attack, but only disrupted the team’s shape. The introduction of Stefan Dimitrov bridged the midfield and forwards. Yet, it was too late. The Rowdies were already two goals up. New York put out a candle while the house burned down.

Walker came to Tampa from Minnesota United (then the Minnesota Stars) in 2013. Through excessive injury and mediocre performances, he never cemented a starting 11 spot. This game, along with last week’s performance against Carolina, showed the quality coach Ricky Hill originally saw. Walker looked strong and aggressive.

Both attributes displayed in the first goal. He entered beast mode and never let up. In the 22nd minute, he received a long ball over the top. Swatted off Roversio. Then delivered a perfect low cross to Savage. The play was beautiful from the San Diego native. A replay could be placed in The Louvre. Hill explained the striker’s inclusion in the line up.

“Amani gave us that ability, where he can freeze the game by controlling the first ball out of defense, bring the midfield players into the game facing the right way, and other people can make runs from Amani’s feedbacks. The last two games he’s done exceptionally well. His first two games in over a year”

Walker had a chance to add to his assist in the 25th minute, an ambitious half volley just inside the box. Jimmy Maurer caught it easily. A shot only taken by a player with growing confidence.

Tampa’s backline showed the good and bad of their game. Every channel closed as the Cosmos couldn’t take advantage of their little possession. The Rowdies bullied New York’s attackers. They gave the boys from Long Island wedgies, swirlies, and dangled spit over their faces.

Centerback Tamika Mkandawire added the second goal in the 58th minute, a clever finish with his left foot after a Maurer clearance. The Englishman showed he has a good shot along with his great defensive ability. Also a last name built for a Scrabble high score.

The Rowdies’ inability to stay focused for 90 minutes resurfaced as the Cosmos robbed the home side’s clean sheet. Substitute Hans Denissen slickly chipped Matt Pickens. It quieted Ralph’s Mob. They came back strong after the restart. New York looked poised to make a late comeback. It never materialized. Blake Wagner’s low drive to the corner in stoppage time ended those chances and handed the 3 points to New York’s long time rivals.

The Cosmos and their fans shouldn’t think too heavily on the loss. The quality seeped from New York and showed itself in short flashes. As seen in Stokkelien shot off the post early in the game and Johnson’s shot into the side netting. Nothing more than spilled coffee on the khakis and an exploding pen in the shirt pocket. A bad day at the office.


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