Playoff Preview: New York Cosmos at San Antonio Scorpions

IMAGE, DAVE MARTINEZ, EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by ANTHONY J. MERCED
Staff Writer

The New York Cosmos return to San Antonio on Saturday for the NASL Championship semi-final.

This one game playoff puts the Cosmos against a team they’ve lost to in all three meetings this year, handing the Fall 2014 Championship to the Scorpions with their loss last week. New York has been unable to solve the puzzle on the field and have begun to develop a reputation for post-game conflict in the process.

For Giovanni Savarese and his men, it will be a chance to exorcise the demons from a lackluster Fall that saw them finish in sixth place.

The Aura Around The Team is No Longer An Advantage

Last year, the Cosmos arrived in the NASL with a reputation for collecting trophies and being one of the most famous franchises in American soccer history. One year later, that aura seems to have faded. San Antonio in particular has shown no signs of intimidation, defeating the Cosmos at Hofstra twice and once in Texas.

At this point, New York is just like every other NASL team. They are not seen as the unbeatable force from just one year, or even one season prior. Carolina, Indy, Minnesota and Tampa Bay have all shown an ability to pull points from a Cosmos team that has seemed, at times, unable to respond.

On Saturday, New York will need to find a new way to grab the momentum from the Scorpions. The Fall Champions will be riding high off of a late victory against the Cosmos and must feel like they have New York’s gameplan committed to memory. An early goal and solid possession should be the key to slowing San Antonio. However, the team will still need to believe in their own abilities to regain what may be left of the team’s once indestructible aura.

Cooler Heads Will Need to Prevail

The last two games for New York have ended with post-match scuffles, with both results not being optimal for the Cosmos. Should San Antonio grab the upperhand early, it will be up to the team leaders to keep the team’s head in the game.

This season has seen the team grab an abundance of red cards, Mendes and Senna most recently come to mind. Discipline is always important in the playoffs but even more essential when the games are knockout formats. On the road, combined with a hostile crowd, San Antonio will attempt to push the Cosmos as far as they can. Should they crack, it will put them at a serious disadvantage to advancing to the Final for a second year in a row.

Is Denissen Ready?

The shadow of Hans Denissen has hung over the team all season.

The league’s runner-up in goals last year has made limited appearances for the Cosmos after going through major knee surgery in the off-season. Recently, it has appeared that Denissen is rounding into top form and if that happens, San Antonio will be forced to deal with something they haven’t seen from the Cosmos; a legit scoring threat.

Even in those limited appearances, Denissen has proven to be effective at helping create opportunities for other players. Mads Stokkelien will be in desperate need of options as San Antonio has made him a non-factor in their previous encounters.

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