Cosmos Can Clinch Postseason Spot in Jacksonville

IMAGE, PUERTO RICO FC

Cosmos logoThe New York Cosmos (3-8-2, 17 Fall; 9-7-14, Combined) took control of their postseason chances with an emphatic 4-1 win over last-place Puerto Rico (2-7-4, 10 Fall; 3-16-10, 19 Combined) on Wednesday night.

Cosmos Coach Giovanni Savarese made the decision to start the match with his most productive attackers, Emmanuel Ledesma and Javi Márquez, on the bench. The move did not cost the Cosmos as the veteran Ayoze propelled them to their largest margin of victory of the year with a free-kick goal in the 35th minute and a second tally from the penalty spot to close the match in the 83rd.

Eugene Starikov and Bledi Bardic notched their third and second goals of the year to round out the rest of the scoring for New York. The Staten Island native Sidney Rivera pulled one back for Puerto Rico as a consolation in the final minutes.

“It was a great result, we needed this result,” Savarese said. “We did a lot of good things today, we found the goals with the opportunities, and I’m pleased with the performance.”

While the Cosmos were dispatching Puerto Rico in Lauderhill, Fla., the Jacksonville Armada (3-5-6, 15 Fall; 9-9-12, 39 Combined) was hanging on for a point at home against Edmonton. Jacksonville’s failure is New York’s gain as it places the Cosmos in sole possession of the fourth and final postseason spot.

Jacksonville hosts New York on Sunday in a crucial showdown that could determine which team will reach The Championship, the North American Soccer League’s four-team postseason tournament. New York will leave Jacksonville with either a postseason berth in its hands or a challenge to keep fighting for one next week.

A win this weekend would seal the spot for the Cosmos, while a draw would keep the Armada in the hunt for the final round of action next week. If the Cosmos lose in Jacksonville, though, it would leave them a point behind the Armada and out of the playoff picture heading into their home finale, with Puerto Rico on Oct. 28.

The Cosmos also still have an outside shot at grabbing the third seed in the postseason at the final hour, though they need help to do so. They are two points back of North Carolina (5-2-7, 22 Fall; 11-9-10, 43 Combined) in the Combined Standings with two matches left to play for both sides. A win or draw this weekend against San Francisco would lock North Carolina into the postseason. A draw would likely do the same as North Carolina has a commanding lead over New York and Jacksonville in the goal-differential tiebreaker.