Cosmos Stymied by Deltas in NASL Final

Tommy Heinemann powered the Deltas victory over the Cosmos in the NASL final with an early penalty. Photo by NASL

champ-logo-no-yearThe 2017 New York Cosmos finally ran out of steam on the road in Sunday’s North American Soccer League Championship final.

An organized and resolute San Francisco Deltas side was too much for the two-time defending champions. The first-year team pushed past the Cosmos with an early penalty from Tommy Heinemann and a stoppage time tally to a 2-0 result in front of 9,691 at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.

Tensions were running high from the outset of the match as both sides got into a shoving match before the first 10 minutes were up. An altercation between New York’s Juan Guerra and San Francisco keeper Romuald Peiser ignited the conflict. Guerra was first pushed from behind into Peiser as New York lined up for a corner kick, but the Venezuelan escalated the situation by stabbing out at the keeper with his foot as he fell.

Both sides got off with a warning from Referee Rubiel Vázquez, but the choppiness continued throughout the night.

Guerra inadvertently sparked San Francisco’s pivotal scoring chance when Carlos Mendes‘ attempted clearance caught the midfielder in the head and flew backward into New York’s box. Jimmy Maurer and Jacksón both sprinted toward the ball, but the keeper caught enough of the attacker’s feet as he lunged for the ball to draw a whistle from Vázquez.

Heinemann made no mistake on the conversion, putting plenty of power behind a strike down the middle as Maurer dove left.

The Cosmos’ struggled to develop any rhythm going forward or dictate the tempo of the match from the midfield. San Francisco stayed organized to neutralize playmakers Emmanuel Ledesma and Javi Márquez for most of the match. Ledesma created four scoring chances — all from New York’s 13 corners kicks — while Márquez produced none.

New York’s only shot on target of the first half came in the eighth minute after Peiser punched a corner out to Marquez, who fired it back on frame, requiring Peiser to push the ball out for another corner.

Heinemann pestered New York’s goal again five minutes before the break. After the Cosmos failed to clear the ball from the box multiple times, Heinemann nearly made them pay with a swift strike that Maurer just managed to get down and deny.

Seeking his second, Heinemann fired another effort onto the frame at the hour mark. New York’s back line was caught napping as a row of defenders allowed a cross from Michael Stephens to roll from the right flank all the way to an unmarked Heinemann in the center of the box. Maurer, though, rushed off his line to stymie Heinemann from close range.

Four minutes later, Ledesma earned his only shot on target of the night. Collecting a free kick into the box, Ledesma turned and shot for the near post but was thwarted by Peiser.

Cosmos Coach Giovanni Savarese inserted forward Lucky Mkosana to provide a partner for Eugene Starikov up top in hopes of jumpstarting the attack. The move nearly paid off in the 77th minute as Mkosana penetrated from the left wing before having his shot deflected to the far post where Starikov was waiting. Starikov might have guided the chance across the line if not for a diving header from defender Maxim Tissot to disrupt him as he went for the ball.

Ultimately, the Cosmos came up short as their final four shots all missed the mark and San Francisco capitalized on a turnover in the final minute of stoppage time. Before being cleared out by a frustrated tackle from Maurer in the middle of the box, Kyle Bekker managed to push the ball out for Devon Sandoval, who had a free run at goal to seal the match with the last kick of the match and the season.