Ledesma lights up the sky, rescues point for Cosmos on July 4th
It was America’s birthday, and the country’s most famous soccer team put on a show that rivaled the excitement levels of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest and the Fourth of July fireworks show.
Hours after Joey Chestnut won his 10th Mustard Belt by eating an all-time record 72 hot dogs in 10 minutes, the New York Cosmos battled to a 1-1 tie against Indy Eleven.
Although the Cosmos could not secure three points on Independence Day, the night was still a success as fans were allowed to come on to the field after the game to enjoy a pyrotechnic display.
During the match, however, it was Emmanuel Ledesma who lit up the sky with his team-leading fourth goal of the season and his third in three games.
With captain Carlos Mendes out with injury and Dejan Jakovic not available due to international duty, the Cosmos were forced to implement a young defensive pairing of David Ochieng and Darrius Barnes.
“We’ve never been a club that looks for excuses if there are guys that are not here because of injuries or call-ups with their national team,” said Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese.
“We had a good team today. I thought we did some very good things; unfortunately, the little things could have put us on top of the game. At the end, it’s an important tie because we were losing 1-0, but at home we always want three points.”
The visitors went on the board first in the 33rd minute after Ochieng slipped, leaving Indy forward Ben Speas one-on-one with Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer.
Speas drove a right-footed shot through Maurer’s legs for the first goal of the game.
The Cosmos came out of the break hungry, looking to tie the scoreline in front of an announced attendance of 6,734 at MCU Park.
New York had several opportunities to score, but it wasn’t until the 85th minute that a reckless challenge on Ledesma earned a penalty for the Cosmos.
The midfielder coolly tucked home the spot kick, sending Indy goalkeeper Jon Busch to the wrong side.
With the draw, the Cosmos moved to 1-6-2 all-time against the club from Indiana. New York has never lost at home to Indy.
The Cosmos will look to maximize points in their final two matches in a push to make the playoffs.
The winners of the spring and fall campaigns get automatic qualification into the four-team playoffs. The next two teams with the best records over the course of the two seasons get the final two spots.
Miami, Jacksonville and San Francisco are all still fighting for the Spring Season crown.
Jimmy Maurer, who earned Man of the Match honors for his heroics between the pipes, said the team needed to play faster and be cleaner going forward.
“We just needed to be a bit sharper on both sides of the ball,” Maurer said. “We were leaving big spaces for their counter, which they’re good at, and that’s what hurt us. That’s why we were down at the half.”
Moving forward, Maurer articulated what New York needs to do to finish the season strong.
“More of the same, we just got to — it’s easy to say — but we got to play better,” he said. “We have to be more confident, we have to be sharper on the ball, we have to be sharper off the ball, be switched on tactically when we have the ball and defend, and things will take care of themselves.”
The Cosmos will look to generate some momentum in their final two games of the spring campaign before the Fall Season begins later this month.
New York is on the road against Indy on Saturday. The team will then visit FC Edmonton on July 15. Both games will be broadcast on ESPN3.
The Cosmos will open the North American Soccer League Fall Season against Miami FC on July 29 at MCU Park.
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