With a rare win, Cosmos create some separation in NASL playoff race
On the 40th anniversary of Pele’s last professional soccer match, the New York Cosmos displayed a complete performance, defeating Puerto Rico FC 1-0, snapping a nine-game winless streak and moving into a playoff spot.
Although the announced attendance at MCU Park on Sunday of 3,733 fell short of the 75,646 fans who flocked to Giants Stadium on Oct. 1, 1977 to see the Brazilian’s final game, the result was the same: a one-goal victory for the Cosmos.
“It gives you the possibility to continue to work the right way and believe in what we’re doing,” said Cosmos head coach and Sporting Director Giovanni Savarese of the win. “It was very important for us to get the three points.”
He added, “The guys had a very solid performance today, I thought the second half was even better. At the end, we found the goal in the opportunities that we created and at the right moment for us to go up 1-0.”
The game-winner came courtesy of Javi Marquez in the 73rd minute. After Lucky Mkosana stole the ball at midfield, the ball transitioned through five players before finding the feet of Marquez.
Mkosana passed to Eric Calvillo, who laid off the ball for Pablo Vranjican. Vranjican then exchanged the ball with Andres Flores at the top of the penalty area. Flores slotted the ball to the left side of the field to Marquez, who hit home his fifth goal of the season to the near post.
The Spaniard has scored three goals in four games and earned his third Man of the Match award for his performance.
Following the match, Savarese praised his goal scorer, intimating that Marquez’s recent success comes as no surprise.
“He is a quality player,” Savarese said of the ex-La Liga midfielder. “This is what we expect from him and he has done fantastic. Not only on the goal, but by making the right decisions with the ball and being a leader on the field.”
Marquez deflected any credit for the win, praising his team’s defensive efforts.
“The key was not to allow any goals,” Marquez said. “In previous matches, we allowed many goals. In this match, we kept our composure, we were able to play our game, we scored the goal we needed and thankfully, we got the three points.”
The victory was Savarese’s 60th North American Soccer League (NASL) regular-season win, which ranks him second in NASL’s Modern Era.
The Cosmos were convincing defensively and limited Puerto Rico’s chances. The shutout was a confidence booster for New York goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, who has recently fallen out of favor with Savarese.
Emmanuel Ledesma, returning from injury, was dangerous throughout the match and provided quality service.
With the victory, the Cosmos moved into the fourth and final playoff spot in the Combined Standings with 36 points.
The Jacksonville Armada fell to Miami FC 1-0 on Sunday, which gave New York a two-point cushion on Jacksonville.
When asked about the postseason, Marquez preached patience.
“We don’t speak about the playoffs,” he said. “We go game by game. We’re only focused on our next match against Indy Eleven. Internally, we discuss the playoffs, but more than that, we play every match just thinking about the next one.
“This is something that we need to keep pushing. We definitely have to do some more work.”
With five games left to play, four of which are against struggling teams, the Cosmos have a favorable schedule heading into the playoffs as New York looks to hoist its fourth Soccer Bowl Trophy in five years.
The Cosmos have a game in hand on North Carolina FC, a team that is currently in third place with three more points than New York.
For the team’s next game, New York travels to Indianapolis to battle Indy Eleven in a rematch of last season’s championship final. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on MSG and ESPN 3.
The Cosmos return to MCU Park for their home finale against FC Edmonton on Saturday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m.
Extra Time: New York Cosmos team captain and defender Carlos Mendes announced on Saturday that he would retire at the conclusion of the current campaign.
“I have been very fortunate to have enjoyed a 15-year career playing professional soccer, but after much thought and consideration, I have come to the decision that I will be retiring after this 2017 season,” said Mendes.
“My primary focus right now is to continue my work on the field with my teammates to try and help the club win another Championship.”
Mendes was the first person to sign with the Cosmos in the Modern Era in December 2012.
He was also the first player in the Modern Era to accumulate 100 games played for the team.
He was named to NASL’s Best XI for the past three seasons, and he led the Cosmos to three NASL championships in four seasons.
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