Preview: New York Cosmos Home Opener Against Rowdies

IMAGE, NYCOSMOS.COM

The time has finally come for New York Cosmos fans to meet their newest star acquisition.

And some past superstars will be on hand to usher in this new era.

Fresh off of an undefeated road trip (1-0-1), the New York Cosmos make their home debut on Saturday night, taking on heritage rivals, the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The great Pele and German legend Franz Beckenbauer will be on hand to welcome Real Madrid legend Raul Gonzalez to the club.

A strong crowd is expected at Hofstra — and the opposition will certainly be a handful. While both teams are atop of the NASL Spring table, the Rowdies have done so through a trial by fire, taking out San Antonio in week one and holding Minnesota scoreless. Thomas Rongen has remodeled and helped restructure the Tampa Bay Rowdies to his tastes, bringing on lethal talent from the MLS first division to bolster his side, and scooping up players with personal history to reinforce his ideals. After an initial absence, Maicon Santos will make his Rowdies debut, countering the talented Raul on the Rowdies front line.

Here is how both sides match up:


Projected Starting XI:

COSMOS (4-2-3-1): Maurer; Gorskie, Mendes, Roversio, Ayoze; Senna, Szetela; Guenzatti, Raul, Fernandes; Stokkelien

ROWDIES (4-3-3): Contofalsky; Antonijevic, King, Portillos, Mkandawire; Hristov, Saragosa, Chavez; Espinal, Santos, Hernandez

Battle To Watch: Senna, Szetela vs. Tampa Bay attack. The Rowdies showed promise on the attack against San Antonio in week one, drowning the Scorpions under the weight of three goals. They did so by overwhelming the midfield and steamrolling the defense. A purposeful defensive stance at United put the breaks on the onslaught — an error Rongen promises not to repeat. Marcos Senna and his midfield partner will be a pivotal first line of defense against the Rowdie assault.

X-Factor: Raul. The Spanish legend is the most noteworthy signing of the modern NASL — bar none. His presence alone will influence the flow of the match. However, recent injury concerns — alone with an unforgiving turf at Hofstra — will play a mighty part in his overall stamp to the match.


Analysis:

The Tampa Bay Rowdies will be the first true quality opponent New York has faced all season. Yes, Fort Lauderdale played well in the season opener. Yes, Indy Eleven is no walk in the park.

However, these Rowdies are another breed.

If Maicon Santos is made available, Rongen and the boys will have a steamroller up top who will lay into the veteran Carlos Mendes and the oft-injured Roversio early and often. If he isn’t? The team still has a quality scorer in Corey Hertzog, flanked by Espinal and Hernandez, making for a difficult three headed monster on the front line.

What also sets Tampa Bay apart is their depth. Savage and Shriver have both been proven players in NASL and offer a spark if Rongen’s men need one late in the match.

With Tampa promising an attacking show, New York will have openings and opportunities to counter. This is where Fernandes and Guenzatti will be vital. While Raul has served well as a false-nine, Stokkelein continues to be the same target forward he has ever been. It is up to the wing options to stretch Tampa Bay thin, creating the time and space for Raul to operate in the middle and the precision passing necessary to spring their Norwegian finisher.

To date, the most exciting match for the “reboot” Cosmos stands as a 5-4 victory over the Rowdies at home. We may be in for a similar affair this Saturday evening.

Prediction: 3-2 Cosmos

 


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