Cosmos Draw in Puerto Rico

IMAGE, NASL

By JAKE NUTTING

The New York Cosmos opened defense of their North American Soccer League title with a scoreless draw at Puerto Rico FC on Saturday night in a match that both teams struggled to find quality opportunities in front of goal.

Puerto Rico showed early signs when Michael Kafari slid a low cross from the left side of the box in the 19th minute. Forward Conor Doyle was close to smashing it across the line, but goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer knocked it away with a last-second save.

The hosts continued to have an edge over the Cosmos in possession and positioning, but their first dangerous crack at goal didn’t come until two minutes before halftime. Attacker Jairo Puerto streaked inside the box and fired a shot that needed to be parried away by Maurer before it could slip inside the near post.

Yuma looked to catch the Cosmos napping on the ensuring corner kick when a clearance fell into his path 25 yards out. He rocketed a shot that blew through the crowd of defenders and narrowly missed the frame.

The break didn’t do much to settle either team and Cosmos Coach Giovanni Savarese finally went to his bench 15 minutes into the second half. Jimmy Mulligan entered to replace an injured Irvin Herrera after a quiet night, and soon after attacking midfielder Kalif Alhassan subbed on for Andrea Mancini, who had an ineffectual shift.

With the moves, Andrés Flores shifted to the center of the field and quickly combined with Amauri in the 62nd minute to create New York’s best scoring chance of the night. Flores, a Salvadoran international dished, to Amauri and the Italian set him up with a one-touch through ball. But the effort by Flores effort missed a foot wide of the far right post.

Ten minutes later, Amauri made way for Eugene Startikov. Amauri’s frustration was evident as he walked off the field after not registering a shot in the match. Starikov immediately made a penetrating run and whipped a cross in only to see it scoot by two teammates who couldn’t get a foot on it.

Second-half substitute Mike Ramos had an opportunity to put Puerto Rico ahead in the 81st when he was left unchecked on the back post. He waited for the cross to skip off the ground but mistimed his header and lifted the ball well over the crossbar.

A scramble inside Puerto Rico’s box in the dying moments of the match gave the Cosmos a chance at their trademark late-game magic. However, the sequence ended with Ryan Richter being whistled for a foul as he sent a hopeful toe-poked shot into the chest of keeper Trevor Spangenberg.

The start of the match was delay more than 30 minutes at Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium because of a power blackout.

The Cosmos open the home portion of the NASL’s Spring Season on Saturday night against Miami FC at MCU Park in Brooklyn. Miami drew, 1-1, against North Carolina in its opener on Saturday.