Catastrophic 5 Minutes Dooms Cosmos

Jacksonville extended New York's winless streak to five matches with two opportunistic first-half goals at MCU Park. Photograph by NASL

Cosmos logoBROOKLYN, N.Y. — A full moon hung high over Sunday night’s proceedings between the New York Cosmos (1-2-3,6 Fall; 7-6-9, 30 Combined) and Jacksonville Armada (2-3-2, 8 Fall; 8-7-8, 32 Combined) at MCU Park. The lunar effect may offer an explanation for the peculiar five-minute stretch in New York’s box that saw Jacksonville capture a two-goal lead against the run of the play that it was able to ride to a win.

New York began the night dominating play only to to see things swing in favor of the visitors a half hour into the match. Jacksonville got on the boat thanks to an inadvertent assist from Juan Guerra. A free kick whipped in by Armada captain Mechack Jérôme skipped off the turf and Guerra attempted to clear it out for a corner, but his clearance took a disastrously odd bounce off the turf to bound into the open net.

Just four minutes after Guerra’s gaffe, Jimmy Maurer was forced to dive left and deny a powerful attempt by Derek Gebhard at the edge of the box. The ensuing corner kick, though, would result in Jacksonville’s second of the night.

Maurer came off his line to deal with Jack Blake‘s arching corner kick, but lost his footing  in the crowd  at the top of the six-yard box as he did so. Waiting to pounce on the open look in the center of the box was Ciarán Kilduff, who tapped it across the line.

Nearly every player in a Cosmos shirt swarmed Referee Younes Marrakech after he signaled for the goal to stand. They insisted Drew Beckie was guilty of impeding Maurer on the corner, but Marrakech stood firm with his decision and flashed yellow cards to Maurer and Kobi Moyal for their vehement protests.

“There’s always something you can do better, but they found a break when we have the momentum I don’t think they had any chances up until that point. I don’t even think they had a chance until the second goal,” Cosmos Coach Giovanni Savarese said.

New York rebounded from those calamitous  five minutes to maintain the edge in possession. However Coach Mark Lowry‘s squad matched the Cosmos by keeping tight defensively and closing down any potentials windows in the final third. The Cosmos outshot Jacksonville, 16-7, on the night, but 10 of those attempts for the Cosmos were taken outside the box. Two of their few challenges to keeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell in the second half were headers by Eugene Starikov and Pablo Vranjican off corner kicks.

Reigning NASL MVP Juan Arango made his long-awaited return to the Cosmos with an appearance off the bench in the 83rd minute. The Venezuelan aimed to pull one back for the Cosmos with a long-range free kick just before stoppage time that was pushed wide by Patterson-Sewell.

“We have to give Jacksonville credit because with the result in their favor, they knew how to be compact, to not give any space and make sure it was difficult for us,” Savarese said. “We just needed to be a little quicker in the second half to find the spaces because, even though we kept the ball and dominated in the second half, we were not dangerous enough to get back into this game. We tried, we put everything that we could going forward, but we needed a little bit better quality inside the box to be able to be more dangerous.”

The loss is only New York’s second of the Fall Season, but the three draws sandwiched in between its last defeat means its standing in the postseason race is not a solid as it once was. The Cosmos are second from the bottom in the fall standings and have fallen to fourth in the Combined Season standings. Jacksonville took hold of third in the combined table, while North Carolina is just one point back of the Cosmos.

With just 10 matches left in their regular season — two of which they will play in the next six days — Savarese admits the Cosmos are still a work in progress.

“I think it’s definitely not a good moment for us because when you don’t win in a month, that means that you’re not doing things the right way and we need to be better,” he said. “Today was tough. Today I saw a lot of good things I didn’t see in North Carolina. I can tell you today was a much better game. I think today maybe we deserved a little bit more. The important part is to continue to work. Some pieces have arrived, we’re still putting some things together.”

The Cosmos hit the road to face Miami on Wednesday before closing the week out with a trip to Puerto Rico.