Cosmos Rally for Second Home Win

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By JAKE NUTTING

Cosmos logoThe New York Cosmos (5-2-5, 20 points) looked as if they were ready to have a fork stuck in them as they headed into halftime on Friday night down by 2-1 to Puerto Rico FC (1-7-4, 7). Coach Giovanni Savarese‘s squad turned it around with a spectacular three-goal comeback to close out a three-match home stand with a crucial three points in front of a crowd of 4,927.

“I can’t say every line of my halftime speech because it would just have to be bleeped out,” Savarese said. “The reality is we needed more. We needed to be aggressive, to put a little more spirit into it, to believe more, to attack the spaces, make sure that we’re more compact. We need to continue to grow. They scored two goals on us at home again.”

New York pounced on the visitors in the 13th minute through an assured dead ball strike from Ayoze. The Spanish veteran hit his free kick with confidence, slyly sending it to the side of the defensive wall and inside the far post while keeper Austin Pack stood helpless at the other post.

The promise of Ayoze’s go-ahead goal quickly dissipated as Puerto Rico evened the match four minutes later. Giuseppe Gentile muscled defender JimmyMulligan off the ball and fired a cross from the left side that skimmed over a defender and dipped in the center of the box where Jairo Puerto was waiting to smash it across the line.

Puerto Rico didn’t stop at one. The Caribbean side continued to pin the Cosmos down, resulting in another tally from the opposite flank in the 24th minute. Puerto shook his man and delivered a cross to the center of box again for forward Connor Doyle to deposit into the goal with his left foot.

New York took another hit when captain Carlos Mendes called for a replacement in the 31st minute after stretching out for a ball. David Ochieng took his place, less than a day after returning from the Kenyan national team.

A chaotic sequence in the final minutes before the break nearly doubled Puerto Rico’s lead, though the Cosmos escaped with a clutch clearance from Darius Barnes.  Jimmy Maurer left the net open after a botched punch-out fell for Gentile, who put a header on frame that Barnes knocked off the line.

New York’s urgency picked up out of the break, but the three-goal rally didn’t start until the insertion of Emmanuel Ledesma in the 62nd minute. In his return from an ankle injury, Ledesma made an immediate impact slotting into Ayoze’s spot on the left wing, leveling the match seven minutes after coming on with a long distance volley that sailed past Pack, who wasn’t expecting the blast. His blast is a clear goal of the week candidate.

“The ankle is not 100 percent, but the important thing is my mind is 100 percent. If your mind is positive, you can do whatever you want,”Ledesma said. “Before the goal, I kick with my right foot and I feel like my ankle is broke again but I continue and get the goal. I’m so happy because we won. We needed that three points and we get it.”

With the momentum now in their favor, attackers Irvin Herrera and Walter Restrepo combined to put the Cosmos ahead in the 74th minute. Herrera created a window of space on the left flank and dished a low cross in front of goal that Restrepo latched onto with a sliding finish.

Puerto Rico’s hopes of a comeback were dashed shortly after the 80th minute as Ledesma drew a harsh challenge from Rudy Dawson that earned the defender a straight red card.

Making his first appearance, Cosmos newcomer Pablo Vranjicán iced the fourth goal with a composed individual effort in stoppage time shortly after entering off the bench.

“I think [Ledesma] brought the right spirit into the match. He brought quality. He scored a tremendous goal which was very important for us. His spirit lifted the whole team up,” Savarese said. “I though the second half was much better. We need to be better still, but I saw a better second half with a team that had spirit and I think Ledesma was important for us.”

The win is only New York’s second (2-2-3) at MCU Park of the year. It gives the team a much-needed boost before they head into next week’s matchup with the first-place Miami FC.

“We haven’t won that many games at home, so us it was very important for us to get these three points,” Savarese said. Yes, the celebration was great because the guys were really passionate about winning today and these three points are huge for us to continue to believe as we go forward. Now we have a difficult match next weekend. We’ll enjoy this one and we’ll watch the things that we should have done better and we’ll prepare what is coming.”