Cosmos’ Woes Continue in Loss to North Carolina

Austin Da Luz battles Cosmos' forward Pablo Vanjican. Da Luz had a goal and an assist for North Carolina in its win over New York. Photograph by NASL

Cosmos logoThe New York Cosmos (1-3-6, 9 Fall; 7-7-12, 33 Combined) and Coach Giovanni Savarese tried to focus on the positives after both of their draws at MCU Park earlier in the week. Savarese was less charitable after his team closed out the week with a 2-0 loss to North Carolina FC (3-2-6, 15 Fall; 9-9-9, 36 Combined), extending its winless streak to nine matches.

“I think the reality is that this is a winning club, a winning franchise,” Savarese said. “We always have won things. At the moment this is not a winning team. What we have is not a winning team. Whoever is going to step on the field will need to do a better job. That goes for everybody. For me, the players, everybody. This is not good enough for us and we need to be better.”

Saturday night’s match was an echo of the tie New York recorded against Jacksonville last weekend. The Cosmos pressed the opposition to earn a few early chances only to be undone on the counter attack and through defensive lapses.

North Carolina jumped ahead 12 minutes into the match with an expertly executed counter attack. Noticing Renan Gorne standing alone at the halfway line on the right side of the field, Austin Da Luz lofted a perfectly weighted long ball into the final third for the attacker to run onto. Ayoze was late to react to Gorne’s run and wasn’t quick enough to catch up with the forward before he penetrated the box and slotted a clinical strike into the bottom left corner.

As usual, possessing the ball wasn’t an issue for the Cosmos, who held nearly 70 percent of the ball throughout the night. Converting that possession, though, was a struggle. Pablo Vranjican rose to guide one header on-frame in the 36th minute, but keeper Bryan Sylvestre did well to stretch out and swat the ball away before it slipped across the line.

It appeared the Cosmos were going to have a chance to regroup during the break only down by one until a breakdown in the final minute of the half bit them. North Carolina’s captain Nazmi Albadawi battled Cosmos captain Carlos Mendes off the ball in New York’s defensive third and charged toward the end line. While fending off Mendes from behind, Albadawi drew keeper Brian Holt to the near post and ripped a low pass across goal to an unmarked Da Luz. The midfielder calmly took a touch and fired the ball into the empty net.

“Today we had a very good start, we did a lot of good things, and then I think we gave up two goals that were too easy for them,” Savarese said. “Then I think with the past two games, it was difficult for us to have the energy to change the game. We tried, but you could tell that the guys couldn’t go anymore. I think the two goals killed us. Even though we tried, they pretty much felt in control defending”

Emanuel Ledesma made his much anticipated return from injury shortly before the hour mark, but New York’s leading scorer on the season couldn’t work his magic to get the team back into the match. The Argentine earned the team’s only on-target shot of the second half when he craftily deflected a blast from Eric Calvillo onto frame that Sylvestre easily handled.

The loss is a significant blow to New York’s postseason push. With only six matches left on the schedule, the Cosmos remain outside the top four in the combined standings and are all but eliminated from Fall Season contention. The Cosmos are still even on points with the fourth-place Jacksonville Armada, though Jacksonville has two matches in hand and could pull ahead on Sunday when it faces Miami.

It won’t matter what the standings look like if the Cosmos don’t start winning soon, though. No team is getting into the postseason this year with just one win in the fall.

“I wish I had the recipe to just change things around. It would be easier,” Savarese said. “I think the only way is to continue to work, to continue to stay positive, to continue to go forward. But I think the only way is the players need to change. The players need to believe and make sure they change this. It’s more mental than anything else. We’ve got to continue to go forward and change things around. As long as we make the playoffs, then the playoffs is a new beginning.”

The Cosmos have another shot at grabbing a result at home next Sunday as they host Puerto Rico FC. New York was originally scheduled to play in Puerto Rico, but the teams switched home dates because of Hurricane Maria’s devastating impact on the island.