Cosmos Midseason Report Card

Photo-May-27B

By JAKE NUTTING

Cosmos logoThe New York Cosmos experienced highs and lows throughout the North American Soccer League’s Spring Season. In the end, though, they produced enough highs in the 16-match competition to finish third in the standings, positioning them well for the Fall Season and a potential fifth-straight postseason appearance. In general, the individual performances of the Cosmos (6-4-6, 24 points) have been similar to their spot on the table — slightly above average but much room for improvement.

Goalkeepers

Jimmy Maurer has been one of the few constants. Yes, Maurer has posted lower goals against averages in the past, but his current 1.31 GAA still ranks as the third lowest among the league’s top keepers. With a fluctuating back line in front of him, Maurer stopped 47 of the 64 shots. Grade: A

Brian Holt stepped in for the injured Maurer to record two shutouts, although he wasn’t challenged much in either. It’s hard to pin blame on Holt for New York’s 4-2 loss to Edmonton when the team fell apart in front of him. Grade: B

Kyle Zobeck has yet to play. Grade: Incomplete

Defenders

David Ochieng hasn’t shown the progress many hoped for. International duty kept him away from NASL action on occasion, but the center back often looked out of sync with the Cosmos anyway. His decision making and careless distribution hung Maurer out to dry several times. Grade: C-

Ryan Richter is the standout defender. Now in his first full season with the Cosmos, Richter is the only defender to have played in every match and leads the team with 41 clearances. He has also been the most successful defender transitioning into the attack. His pinpoint crosses from the right wing have helped create 12 scoring chances. Grade: A-

Jimmy Mulligan wins the fictional most-improved player award. The Long Island native took a step forward last year after his loan to Swope Park Rangers, but he has truly gained the trust of Coach Giovanni Savarese. Mulligan’s been solid at left back with well-timed tackles and good recovery speed. The only thing holding him back is sparse offensive contributions. Grade: B+

Darius Barnes has been steady, yet he’s failed to make his mark in central defense, attempting just four tackles in 9 starts and winning fewer than half his duels. Barnes, as well as most of the back line, could do better marking runners into the box. Grade: B-

Dejan Jakovic been the best defensive pickup as he’s locked down one of the starting center back spots. His anticipation, as well as his timely tackles and blocks have snuffed out a number of buildups. Grade B+

Carlos Mendes‘s Spring Season was one to forget. The veteran missed large chunks of time because of two injuries, limiting him to seven starts and an appearance off the bench. Even when he was playing, Mendes appeared to be knocking rust off and was often a step behind opposing attackers. Grade: B-

Alexis Velela is the only active defender to have played fewer minutes than Mendes. Velela only made his debut as a late substitute in the spring finale. Grade: Incomplete

David Diosa‘s preseason knock kept him out of the spring action entirely. Grade: Incomplete

Midfielders

Ayoze is showing little sign of wear at 31. The Cosmos shifted him from his usual left back spot into the midfield and he hasn’t missed a beat. With his vision, lethal distribution and dangerous set pieces, Ayoze doesn’t need to be the fastest on the field. Injury eliminated him from the last batch of spring matches. Grade: B+

Emmanuel Ledesma‘s habit of coming through in critical moments has been welcome on a team that lacks attackers able to take hold of a match. Ledesma has grown into the role as the season progressed, evidenced by his recent four-match scoring streak, but he’s also been a reliable creator throughout. Along with his team-leading five goals, Ledesma is tied with Miami’s Kwadwo Poku for a league-leading 30 scoring chances. Grade: A

Walter Restrepo was asked to play out of position as a forward for much of the spring. Finishing has never been his strong suit, but he had a couple moments of brilliance as the lynchpin up top. Acting as a creator for others continues to be Restrepo’s best role, and he’s done a respectable job of that with 2 assists and 18 scoring chances created. Grade: B-

Richard Menjivar‘s had an underwhelming spring. The Salvadorean has yet to stand out in any significant way on offense or defense in New York’s crowded pool of midfielders. Grade: C-

Eric Calvillo put in his best shift in the spring finale, which could set up the teenager for more minutes in the second half of the year. In his last two appearances, Calvillo showed a boldness moving into the attacking third that others have not. He’s still a raw player in need of more molding. Grade: C+

Juan Guerra does the dirty work in midfield, busting up counter attacks, relieving pressure as an outlet in the center of the field. Guerra leads the team in passes but is still well outside the NASL’s top 10. He could cut out needless turnovers and start creating more in the attack. Grade: B

Javi Márquez gets lost in the shuffle too often. Apart from his wondrous free kick goal at Jacksonville, Márquez has not lived up to the hype of his La Liga pedigree yet. Grade: C+

Kalif Alhassan scored one exceptional equalizer against North Carolina but has otherwise struggled to win a spot on the field. Poor fitness and a lack of commitment to defense has held him to five substitute appearances. Grade: C-

Andrés Flores continues to leave everyone wondering when he is going to break through and live up to his potential. One goal and two assists does not seem enough for a player of Flores’ talents. He needs to play more aggressively and start taking more risks. Grade: B-

Danny Szetela was in and out of the starting lineup, but was sturdy as a midfield enforcer whenever he took the field. Keeping the midfield around him organized and supporting the back line more should be on his Fall Season agenda. Grade: B

Salvatore Barone appeared once as a late substitute. Grade: Incomplete

Forwards

Irvin Herrera has demonstrated brief flashes of scoring prowess, but injury and inconsistent finishing have prevented him from becoming a true threat. Herrera’s best moments have typically been when he has another attacker to combine with, which rarely happens in New York’s midfield heavy system. Grade: C+

Eugene Starikov‘s streakiness has been confounding. One week he looks like a player with talent meant for a higher level and in the next his heavy first touch is stopping attacks dead. He’s worked best as a spark plug off the bench. Grade: C

Pablo Vranjican was thrown five appearances right off the bat after joining late in the spring. So far he’s provided some good hold up play, but has yet to make a lasting impression in five short appearances. Grade: Incomplete

Amauri has been missing in action since early May and isn’t expected back. Showing up is an integral part of the game. Grade: F

Coach

Giovanni Savarese ensuring the Cosmos had a roster in time for the start of the season given where they stood in late January is impressive enough. Getting that roster in to the top three midway through the season is a borderline miracle. It hasn’t all been positive. Savarese has called out his players for mismanaging matches and not showing maturity. The team has left far too many points on the table at home and overlooked Reading United in its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup exit. Savarese bears responsibility for these shortcomings, but ultimately the three-time Soccer Bowl Trophy winner has his team poised to make another run at the title. Grade: A-