Cosmos Back in Playoff Picture With Win Over Puerto Rico

Javi Marquez's 73rd-minute tally secured the second win of the fall for the Cosmos on Sunday against Puerto Rico. Photo by NY Cosmos

Cosmos logoBROOKLYN, N.Y. — The New York Cosmos (2-3-6, 12 Fall; 8-7-12, 36 Combined) are back in the win column, and not a moment too soon.

New York prevailed by one goal over the visiting Puerto Rico FC (2-3-4, 10 Fall; 3-10-12, 19 Combined) at MCU Park on Sunday, with Javi Márquez providing the winner in the final 20 minutes. The win, which lifted the Cosmos into sole possession of the fourth spot in the Combined Season standings, is the first for the Cosmos since July’s Fall Season opener.

“It was very important for us to be able to get this win today at home in the way we were able to against a difficult team that has given problems to everyone that they have played against,” Cosmos Coach Giovanni Savarese said. “I was very content with the attitude of our team and how we were willing to fight for the three points. It was very important. When you win, fixing things is always easier.”

Both sides split possession almost exactly 50-50 throughout the first 45 minutes, though the Cosmos were able to earn the more promising chances of the two.

Midfielder Juan Guerra slipped behind the visitors’ back line in the 18th minute, receiving a well placed through ball from Pablo Vranjican from the left side of the box. Keeper Trevor Spangenberg rushed off his line, though, cutting down the angle and stopping a point-blank shot from Guerra in the middle of the box.

An end-to-end sequence in the 43rd minute that nearly saw both teams find out the back provided the most excitement of the opening. Carlos Mendes, who announced his plans to retire after the season, was at the center of the New York’s next chance, getting a strong header on a Emmanuel Ledesma corner kick that was only thwarted by an outstanding reaction save by Spangenberg.

While the Cosmos were still wondering how Spangenberg denied Mendes, Puerto Rico charged down the field to produce its first only shot on target. Giueseppe Gentile beat Jimmy Maurer to the ball at the top of the box, poking it forward past the keeper and shooting for the empty net. Fortunately for New York, defender Jimmy Mulligan raced in to clear the line at the last second.

New York appeared to pull ahead in two minutes after the break when Eric Calvillo directed a rebound header on target, but Spangenberg swatted it away before it could fully cross the line. Spangenberg’s save caught the post and a defender was finally able to clear the ball from danger.

“We have spoken to the guys just to make sure they are calm, that they enjoy it, that they don’t have anything in their heads about some things not going our way. Come and enjoy it. Do the things that you do. The things that we worked on,” Savarese said. “It was a very good week for us and we just have to continue. We need to create this environment where we have to believe in ourselves and continue to work that way. I think that was a key factor.”

Substitute Lucky Mkosana offered the spark for the winner in the 73rd minute. Mkosana stripped a player of the ball and promptly passed for to Calvillo, who played the ball into the middle of the field. Pablo Vranjican and Andres Florés were in the vicinity, but Florés was the one who stepped up with a clever pass into space for Márquez to run onto on the left side of the box. Márquez did not squander the chance and finally beat Spangenberg.

The Cosmos were able to ride out the rest of the match comfortably. There were no careless mistakes in their own defensive end and Puerto Rico’s rally was cut short by a red card to Walter Ramirez at the start of stoppage time.

“Everybody had to be on the same page and together be able to solve the issues that are gonna give us the game,” Savarese said. “There were some moments where there were some little mistakes, as well. Everybody’s gonna make mistakes, but in the end the important part is how we react to those mistakes. Today the reaction to those mistakes was very positive.”