Cosmos earn first point at MCU Park, end Jacksonville’s shutout run
On a night where fans were given collectable Pelé T-shirts, the New York Cosmos put on an impressive performance that the Brazilian legend himself would have been proud of.
Not only did the “New York Originals” earn their first point of the season at their new home with a 1-1 draw on Saturday, but they also ended first-place Jacksonville Armada’s shutout streak, courtesy of a strike from La Liga veteran Javi Marquez.
The goal came in the 22nd minute off a counter-attack initiated by Cosmos midfielder Walter Restrepo. Restrepo made a darting run down the left side of the pitch and displayed good vision to find Marquez on the opposite side of the box.
Marquez deftly took a touch inside and drove home a low shot to the near post as Jacksonville goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell was caught flat-footed.
It was the Barcelona-born midfielder’s first goal of the season, and it earned him Man of the Match honors.
“We would have liked to get our first win in our stadium, but it wasn’t able to happen,” said Marquez through a translator. “Hopefully, next home match it will happen. I think we needed more fight in the game, more desire to win and that’s what we missed out.
“Hopefully, for the next match we will come out ready to fight.”
Two weeks after being outshot 22-4 against Miami FC, progress was noticeable as the Cosmos totaled four shots on goal to Jacksonville’s zero after the first 45 minutes.
The first-half performance was one of the team’s best of the season and Cosmos Chairman Rocco B. Commisso, watching from the supporters’ section, sang and screamed as green smoke cascaded from the goal line bleachers.
The Cosmos outshot Jacksonville 13-10 in total. New York’s dominant performance was highlighted by effective possession and high pressure on Jacksonville’s backline.
That intensity, however, waned in the second half, as the team was unable to maintain that energy for a full 90 minutes.
Jacksonville evened the score in the 67th minute thanks to a screamer from J.C. Banks.
Banks received the ball at half field, dribbled the length of the pitch, took a touch in the box with a change of speed and delivered a dipping strike to the far post past a diving Jimmy Maurer.
Following the goal, Banks taunted the Cosmos supporters as he ran to the corner flag cupping his hand to his ear.
Immediately after the equalizer, a passionate Armada head coach Mark Lowry was ejected from the technical area.
“There was about four or five minutes that we were in trouble, and they were able to take advantage to score the goal,” said Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese. “Once we adjusted back again, then we got the ball again and started to be dangerous.”
Coming off a bye week, the Cosmos looked more comfortable as new players were further integrated into the team.
Despite the draw, Savarese was pleased with the progress of his team.
“We’ve been working, finally,” said Savarese, who moved to 56-31-20 all time as Cosmos coach. “We needed time. The team looked a lot better today. We were dynamic. We had the ball. We created a lot of good chances. We looked alive and this is only because we had time to be able to work.
“These two weeks were perfect for us. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the three points that we wanted to but I was pleased with a lot of the things we did today.”
“We’ve had a lot of new players this year and have had little time to adapt,” added Marquez. “With more practices, we’ll come together. We are going to try and win like always. The New York Cosmos have a history and every team is coming out to get us and we understand that, so we have to show up for every game.”
The draw moved the Cosmos up to fifth place in the North America Soccer League standings. Jacksonville remained atop the division.
New York travels to the West Coast next week to take on the San Francisco Deltas. The game will be televised on MSG networks and kickoff is slated for 10 p.m.
The team returns to Coney Island May 13 against Puerto Rico FC, a team owned by Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony.