Cosmos Draw at Jacksonville; Inch Closer to Postseason

Andres Flores Karl Ryden Photo by NASL

Cosmos logoDespite scoring three unanswered goals in the second half to wipe away a two-goal deficit to the Jacksonville Armada (3-5-7, 16 Fall; 9-9-13, 40 Combined) on Sunday afternoon, the New York Cosmos (3-3-9, 18 Fall; 9-7-15, 42 Combined) only managed to come away with a point in a thrilling match that finished 4-4.

A win would have sealed New York’s fifth-straight trip to the North American Soccer League‘s postseason. Instead it will need to wait until the regular-season finale next weekend to do so. A win next week still gets the Cosmos into the postseason, while a draw would likely do the same as Jacksonville trails them in the goal-differential tiebreaker. Jacksonville losing or drawing at San Francisco would also get the job done.

Jacksonville entered the match in need of a win and that desperation was evident from the outset as it dropped three goals on the Cosmos in the first half hour.

Three minutes into the match, Jack Blake chipped a great ball into the left side of the box for Derek Gebhard to run onto. Gebhard picked his head and hit a pass back for Zach Steinberger as he streaked into the area. With no pressure coming, Steinberger smoothly placed his first touch inside the far post.

New York dampened the home side’s celebration just three minutes later with a goal against the run of play. Emmanuel Ledesma picked out David Ochieng with a long ball into the attacking third as the center back made a rare run forward. Ochieng trapped the ball with an awkward touch inside the box before slotting his shot past Caleb Patterson-Sewell.

The match remained even until poor set-piece defending put the Cosmos into an even deeper hole in the span of four minutes.

Blake played the initiator again, stepping up to drop a free kick from 25 yards out into the middle of the box. Jacksonville crashed the box with bodies and defender Kalen Ryden squeezed between Dejan Jakovic and Jimmy Maurer to head the ball into the left post. The rebound fell favorably at the opposite post for and unmarked Drew Beckie, who easily headed the ball across the line.

Jacksonville’s third tally came under similar circumstances. This time Blake delivered a free kick from farther out on the left wing to the top of the box. Ryden once again lost Jakovic in the scramble and did well to beat Maurer with his first touch.

Eugene Starikov sparked the rally shortly before the hour mark with a calm finish. Ledesma first passed to Andrés Flores, who flicked the ball out to the right for Starikov. Patterson-Sewell leaned to his left expecting Starikov to fire for the near post, but Starikov went the other way to cut the lead in half.

Before the restart on Starikov’s goal, Lucky Mkosana entered to give the Cosmos an extra push in the attack. Mkosana rewarded the confidence with a swift impact in the 66th minute, stepping in front of Beckie before he could clear at the top of the box and calmly depositing the ball into the bottom left corner.

The Cosmos kept the momentum going in the 77th minute when Jimmy Mulligan tried his luck with a low strike from long range. Mulligan’s strike glanced a defender and skipped off the turf twice before sliding into the same corner as Mkosana’s goal.

With the win and the guaranteed postseason spot in their sights, the Cosmos slipped up to let Jacksonville back into the match just two minutes later. Substitute Charles Eloundou was left free inside box to time a powerful half volley into the goal.

Jacksonville threw everything it had into New York’s defensive end for one last corner kick as the clock ticked past the fifth and final minute of stoppage time, including Patterson-Sewell. Nothing came of the corner, but the Cosmos attempted to take advantage of the empty net with a counter attack. Referee Geoff Gamble, though, blew the whistle as Flores was nearing the halfway line. Flores fired the ball down the field in frustration, but most of the Cosmos’ bench sprinted toward Gamble to protest the whistle before the ball had even left Flores’ feet.

Cosmos Coach Giovanni Savarese and a handful of his players gave Gamble an earful, but there was nothing to be done. The Cosmos and Armada will have to wait another week to find out which team will earn the fourth and final postseason berth.