Miami Eliminates Cosmos From Spring Season Race

Stefano Pinho and Vincenzo Rennella celebrate Miami's first goal in their comeback win over the Cosmos. Image, NASL

By JAKE NUTTING

For a brief period on Saturday night in South Florida, it looked as if the New York Cosmos (5-3-5) were up to the task of replicating their April win over the NASL’s pacesetter, Miami FC (9-1-3). In the end, though, the Cosmos could not stifle Miami’s high-powered attack and fell for the first time on the road. The 2-1 defeat eliminates the Cosmos from the Spring Season race and moves Miami closer to claiming the spring crown.

The Cosmos came out flying in the oppressive humidity at Riccardo Silva Stadium. In the 6th minute, Spaniard Javi Marquez picked off a poor pass from Miami’s Blake Smith and quickly distributed the ball to an unmarked Emmanuel Ledesma. The Argentine clinically placed his finish from the edge of the box into the bottom left corner for the early go-ahead tally and his third of the year.

David Ochieng almost coughed up New York’s lead three minutes later with his own turnover. The Kenyan international carelessly played an arching ball to the top of his own box in between Jimmy Mauer and Stefano Pinho. The speedy attacker outpaced the keeper to the ball and progressed into the box. With only Ochieng defending the goal line, Pinho’s flick clanged off the top corner of the near post for a momentary reprieve.

Persistence paid off for Pinho as he soon found the equalizer. As the clock struck 20, Pinho launched a volley off the turf from 19 yards out that was meant for the far post but deflected off the chest of center back Dejan Jakovic. The ricochet redirected the ball toward the near post where it rolled across the line as Maurer watched helplessly.

Maurer came through with two clutch saves to keep the Cosmos level at the break as Miami ramped up the pressure, stonewalling two point-blank blasts from Dylan Mares and Blake Smith in the 22nd and 37th minute.

A major defensive collapse from the Cosmos, though, gave Miami its winner in the first moments of the second half. After having his corner kick sent back out to him on the right flank, midfielder Richie Ryan whipped in a cross toward the near post for Vincenzo Rennella to head home. Without a Cosmos defender anywhere near him, Rennella was able to comfortably notch his league-leading eighth goal.

The Cosmos were thrown a life line a minute before the hour mark when Kwadwo Poku picked up a straight red for raising an elbow to Ledesma as hoped to spark a counter out of Miami’s defensive end. Poku put up no fight with the referee as he hustled to the locker room, leaving his team to ride out the result down a man.

For the remaining 30 minutes and change, the Cosmos controlled the ball but could not convert the possession into meaningful chances on net. Juan Guerra sent a long distance attempt straight into the arms of keeper Daniel Vega in the 70th minute, while substitute Pablo Vranjicán had two weak headers collected by Vega and fired another wide of goal.

New York’s chances at capturing the spring title may be done and dusted, but the team still has three matches left before the league’s mid-season break. In the immediate future, the Cosmos have an Independence Day date with Indy Eleven at MCU Park in Brooklyn.