Cosmos Win a Wild One

Emmanuel Ledesma, Michawl Kafari Image, NASL

By JAKE NUTTING

imgres-1Mother nature made them wait, but the New York Cosmos were finally able to secure their first home win of the year after wiping away a two-goal deficit to Puerto Rico FC with a four-goal rally in front of a sparse Mother’s Day crowd at MCU Park on Sunday afternoon.

New York stretched its unbeaten run to five games and is in a tie (on points) for second place with expansion San Francisco in the North American Soccer League’s Spring Season standings.

Puerto Rico’s first goal was the culmination of a terrific 12-pass sequence inside New York’s defensive end. Emery Welshman picked an unmarked Giuseppe Gentile, who blasted a shot into the top corner without a second thought.

Welshman then finished the next opportunity seconds after the restart. His initial attempt from the top of the box was thwarted by a slide tackle from defender Dejan Jakovic, but the rebound rolled forward for Welshman to collect and quickly deposit into the goal with a low strike.

The Cosmos (3-1-3, 12 points) were flustered by the high pressure of Puerto Rico (0-4-3, 3) out of the gate and struggled to find their footing after having the match pushed from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon because of a daylong rain storm.

“Obviously yesterday kinda threw off everyone’s routine,” defender Ryan Richter said. “We didn’t train or anything yesterday. To not train the day before a game is pretty tough. I don’t if that’s what had to do with the start, but they didn’t train either and they came out flying. It’s something we have to work on. We need to bring that intensity from the first minute because if we start like this, we won’t be able to come back every time.”

New York’s fortunes turned 10 minutes before the break when Juan Guerra made the most of a slight touch to his face as defensive midfielder Yuma ran by. Guerra’s reaction worked, drawing a red card from Referee Jorge Ramirez.

“Yuma is a very important player for them,” Cosmos Coach Gio Savarese said. “He’s a guy that is able to organize a lot of the field. So for us it was important they went to ten men and we started finding the space that we were not finding before, we started moving the ball and we started getting confidence.”

The Cosmos used the man advantage to level the match thanks to the distribution of Emmanuel Ledesma. His cross from the left flank in the 42nd minute found Andrés Flores open in front of goal for an easy finish. Another Ledesma cross a few minutes later from the opposite side made its way to Guerra for the second goal after keeper Trevor Spangenberg failed to collect it in the air.

“We knew that we had to be patient with Ledesma and he had to get back to his best form because he’s hasn’t played in a long time,” Savarese said. “He had to get the rhythm back and we see that he is. He’s that player that understands the moment of the game and is able to give us what we need. He was very good today.”

Ledesma also played a role in the go-ahead goal five minutes into the second half, though Dejan Jakovic and Richter got the ultimate credit. The Argentine’s corner kick fell to the near post, where Jakovic disrupted a clearance and flicked it toward the center of the box for Richter to power home.

Walter Restrepo bagged his first of the year and New York’s fourth of the afternoon in the 58th minute when he slipped behind the back line and bested Spangenberg in a one-on-one with a rifled shot to the near post.

Despite being up a man, the Cosmos found themselves fighting hard to keep Puerto Rico from salvaging a point after Carlos Mendes threw the visitors a lifeline. The Cosmos captain gifted Puerto Rico a penalty in the 64th minute with a late tackle on Gentile and Puerto Rico’s captain Cristiano Dias made sure to bury the spot kick.

Puerto Rico could have leveled the match in the 81st minute if not for an outstanding save by Jimmy Maurer. Making his 100th appearance in net for the Cosmos, Maurer leaped to knock a long-range free kick hit with force toward the top corner by Puerto Rico’s leading scorer Hector Ramos.

“Jimmy’s fantastic, man,” Richter said. “He’s one of the best goalies in the U.S. I think there’s not many people that doubt that that have seen him play. Once you see him on an everyday basis, you see how much quality he has. I’ve played with many good goalies, but he’s up there.”

The Cosmos are off from league action until May 27 when they host the San Francisco Deltas. They will remain busy, though, with a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match at Reading United on Wednesday and trip to Saudi Arabia for an exhibition with Al-Hilal on Saturday.

Though the club on Sunday reported an attendance of 2,240, it appeared that fewer than 1,000 were in the stands.