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Cosmos advance to 3rd consecutive NASL championship game

Cardiac Cosmos beat Miami FC on penalties, face San Francisco Sunday in Soccer Bowl

November 6, 2017 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Ayoze celebrates after scoring in a penalty shootout on Sunday. The Cosmos defeated Miami FC 6-5 on penalties to advance to the team’s third straight championship game. Photos courtesy of Miami FC
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It took more than 120 minutes and a tense penalty-kick shootout, but New York, in true Cardiac Cosmos fashion, defeated Miami FC 6-5 on penalties in the North American Soccer League (NASL) semifinal.

With the victory, the Cosmos advanced to their third consecutive championship game. The team will take on the San Francisco Deltas, who defeated North Carolina FC 1-0 in the other semifinal matchup.

“I’m very proud of our players in the way they conducted themselves today,” Cosmos head coach and Sporting Director Giovanni Savarese said after his team’s historic win on Sunday in front of 7,115 fans at Riccardo Silva Stadium in Miami.

Were it not for New York goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, however, the game could have played out differently. After making five saves during regulation and extra time, Maurer stopped two penalties in the shootout to cement the victory for the Cosmos.

“I love penalty kicks,” Maurer said. “I felt like I got a really good jump on the two that I saved. I was able to pick up where they were going.”

After the game ended in a scoreless draw, Maurer stymied Miami’s first kicker Michel by diving in the right direction on the spot kick.  

Each of the next four shooters for both teams found the back of the net, which gave Juan Guerra an opportunity to win the game for the Cosmos. Miami goalkeeper Daniel Vega, however, had other plans, as he denied the Venezuelan’s shot.

After both teams scored in the sixth round, Maurer made a key save on Miami’s seventh kicker Mason Trafford.

The pressure then fell on Eugene Starikov, who stepped up to the penalty spot looking to seal the deal for the Cosmos.

Starikov approached the ball, did a stutter step to fool the goalie and coolly slotted the ball into the right side of the goal to give New York the victory.

The Ukrainian ran to the corner, forming a heart with his hands as his teammates swarmed around him to celebrate.

In the shootout, the Cosmos received goals from Ayoze, Danny Szetela, Eric Calvillo, Pablo Vranjicán, Lucky Mkosana and the winner from Starikov to end Miami FC’s record-setting season.

The team from South Florida won both the spring and fall seasons and led the league with a combined 69 points.

The victory ensured that New York captain Carlos Mendes, who announced that he would retire at the end of the season, would play one more game.

The Cosmos will look to hoist their fourth NASL title in five seasons on Sunday in San Francisco.

During the course of the two campaigns, the Cosmos and Deltas have been evenly matched. The Cosmos are 1-2-1 (W-D-L) against San Francisco.

With a win, Savarese will become the first manager in NASL history to win three consecutive Soccer Bowls.

The fifth-year Venezuelan gaffer, however, is taking it one match at a time.

“We have to focus on the next game,” Savarese said. “The season is not over yet. We have to continue to work.”

New York will travel to the West Coast to take on the Deltas at Kezar Stadium on Sunday at 8 p.m. The game will be nationally televised on beIN SPORTS (English), beIN SPORTS en Español (Spanish) and beIN SPORTS CONNECT (Digital).


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