Cosmos Mount Comeback, Draw Against Jacksonville

Eugene Starikov rose above Jacksonville's defense to guide home New York's second tally of an impressive 3-goal rally on Sunday at MCU Park. Photograph by New York Cosmos

Cosmos logoBROOKLYN — On most nights, the New York Cosmos‘ (1-2-5, 8 Fall; 7-6-11, 32 Combined) three-goal rally to earn a 3-3 draw in the final 10 minutes of Sunday’s match against the Jacksonville Armada 2-3-3, 9 Fall; 8-7-9, 33 Combined) would be cause for celebration. With the Cosmos entering the match, however, carrying a six-match winless streak, a single point is an underwhelming way to kick off this week’s three-match homestand.

“We’re not content, but we are at least thankful we were able to get that point It was a complicated match. It was a complicated match because we made it complicated,” Cosmos Coach Giovanni Savarese said.

Complications arose for the Cosmos 13 minutes into the match as Kyle Zobeck made a fatal misjudgment coming off his line to cover a corner kick. Zobeck leaped toward to the near post attempting to cover the corner, but he whiffed and the ball zipped across goal. Kalen Ryden got his head on the service at the back post, sending it in Ciarán Kilduff’s direction. Center back Dejan Jaković had Kilduff wrapped up, but the attacker managed to stick his foot out and clip the underside of the crossbar with his shot.

Five minutes before the Cosmos could get into the locker room to regroup, Kilduff doubled the lead. Midfielder Danny Szetela was caught being too causal with the ball in New York’s defensive end as Kilduff and Derek Gebhard pressed him. Kilduff swiped the ball from Szetela, sprinted into New York’s box and fired a shot that clipped Zobeck before crossing the line.

Going down in the first half at home has become a familiar refrain for the Cosmos this year. They also found themselves down two goals at the break two weeks ago when Jacksonville was in town, and Sunday was the sixth time they have conceded the first goal at MCU Park.

“That’s the type of team that we are unfortunately,’ Savarese lamented after the match.”When it happens once, you can say ‘O.K.’, but this is already too repetitive. Maybe I need to be tougher with them. We have to find the same spark that we got in the second half and initiate the game like that.”

Apart from a powerful volley attempt from the right side of the box by Andrés Flores in the 54th minute, the Cosmos lacked true chances on net for most of the match. Juan Arango entered in the 60th minute in an effort to spark the attack, but Jacksonville pulled farther ahead before the Venezuelan could even settle in.

Jacksonville tallied its third five minutes after Arango’s insertion when center back David Ochieng was whistled for taking down Zach Steinberger as he charged forward on a counter attack. Jack Blake stepped to convert the penalty with ease.

New York’s comeback finally kicked into gear in the 79th minute. Javi Márquez provided the first sign of life with a composed strike inside the box that scuffed off the turf and sailed past keeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell’s shoulder. Ten minutes later, Eugene Starikov pulled another back for the Cosmos with a nifty header off a pinpoint cross from Ayoze deep in the left corner.

Substitute Juan Guerra then offered up the equalizer in stoppage time. Jacksonville’s defense gave the midfielder yards of space at the top of the box and the he punished them with a laser over the crowd and into the back of the net.

“I looked back and I saw that the defenders were dropping instead of stepping,” Guerra said. “I just tried to take a touch inside the box. As soon as I took a touch, I saw that they were far away so I just cut in and tried to hit the second post. Thank God it went in.”

Guerra’s clutch strike kept the Cosmos out of last place in the Fall Season standings, though with only 8 points so far they seem unlikely to be repeating as fall champions. More importantly, the draw does keep the Cosmos one point back of Jacksonville and North Carolina FC for third place in the Combined Season race.

“It’s not the result that we wanted,” Savarese said. “It was necessary for us to be able to get the three points, but with the way the game was, being able to score three goals and tie the game at the end ended up being very positive because it’s much better to have one point and to take two points away from them than to lose the game.”

The Cosmos return to MCU Park Wednesday to face the San Francisco Deltas.