Cosmos overcome 3-1 deficit to tie Jacksonville in 8-goal thriller
In true Cardiac Cosmos fashion, it took the full 90 minutes for New York to mount its comeback against Jacksonville Armada FC, rallying from 3-1 down to earn a vital point.
“The team showed character in the second half,” said Cosmos head coach and Sporting Director Giovanni Savarese after his team’s 4-4 draw on Sunday at a sold-out Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida. “The guys came convinced that we were going to get back into the game.
“Not only [did we get] back into the game, but we were able to score four goals. I’m not pleased with some of the things we did in the first half. There’s no reason for us to have given those goals away so easily.”
With the tie, the Cosmos maintained a two-point cushion on Jacksonville for the final playoff spot with one game left to play.
A determined second-half performance and goals from four different players allowed New York to remain in the driver’s seat for the playoffs.
After conceding in the fourth minute, the Cosmos responded quickly through an unlikely goalscorer.
Defender David Ochieng ran onto a through ball and slotted his first goal of the year on a one-on-one with Jacksonville goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell.
Entering halftime, the scoreboard read 3-1 in favor of the hosts.
In the 58th minute, Eugene Starikov collected the ball on the right side of Jacksonville’s box, took a touch towards goal and placed the ball off the keeper into the far post.
In the 66th minute, substitute Lucky Mkosana made it 3-3 when he beat a defender to a loose ball, took a touch in the penalty area and deftly placed the ball into the back of the net.
In the 77th minute, defender Jimmy Mulligan put the Cosmos into the lead with an inspiring 25-plus yard strike that bounced off the wet pitch and into the net past a diving Patterson-Sewell.
Just three minutes later, however, Jacksonville tied the score at four apiece.
The Cosmos might have escaped with three points were it not for a late and controversial decision from the referee.
Needing a win to improve its playoff chances, Jacksonville pressed for a fifth goal in stoppage time.
On a corner kick, Jacksonville brought up its goalie, but the Cosmos emerged with the ball. On the ensuing counterattack, with a three-on-one rush and an empty net, the referee ended the game just before New York could have potentially scored a playoff-clinching goal.
Savarese made no attempt at hiding his frustration at the untimely whistle.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “A breakaway to score a goal and the referee actually took the goal away. It’s a goal that could have defined an entire season. I can’t believe that he called it away. It was insane.”
Officials typically allow the team with the ball to finish a play until there is a change of possession or a stoppage in play, but referee Geoff Gamble decided to end the match after the Cosmos advanced the ball to midfield.
A more appropriate time to end the game would have been immediately after New York gained control of the ball.
Following the conclusion of the match, players and staff on the Cosmos stormed the referee as security guards shielded Gamble.
Although it took two unlikely goalscorers and a second-half substitute to earn the draw, it was a well-deserved point in a hostile environment.
“Wild game in Jax yesterday,” wrote Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer on Instagram. “We showed incredible fight and spirit to come back from 3-1 at half to leave with an important point. We still hold our own destiny.”
New York will conclude the regular season with a 7 p.m. matchup against last-place Puerto Rico FC on Saturday at MCU Park. As part of skipper Carlos Mendes’ final home game, the first 2,500 fans will receive a commemorative captain’s armband.
New York could potentially overtake North Carolina FC for the third playoff position if the Cosmos win and North Carolina loses.
Jacksonville will travel to the West Coast to take on the San Francisco Deltas, who have already secured a place in the postseason.
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