Preview: New York Cosmos host San Antonio Scorpions

IMAGE, NEW YORK COSMOS

With two victories in two matches, the New York Cosmos are looking every bit the defending Soccer Bowl champions this shortened Spring season.

Saturday, they face their biggest threat to date.

The San Antonio Scorpions have always been one of the most vibrant franchises in the NASL. Though they started the Spring season strong last year, they fell to last place in the Fall, losing direction and confidence in the process. As they look to find inclusion with Major League Soccer, they have revamped their roster with some first league talent. Former Designated Player Eric Hassli leads a group of new recruits that includes former MLSers Jonathan Borrajo, Julius James and Sam Garza, NASL standouts Danny Barrera and Walter Restrepo and El Salvador international Richard Menjivar.

San Antonio has looked better for the change, but have split results. The Scorpions fell to undefeated Minnesota 2-0 but defeated Atlanta 2-1 last week — a team the Cosmos dismantled in week one.

What can you expect Saturday night? Here are some things to watch for:

BAD BLOOD?

The Scorpions ambition has caused friction within the NASL — particularly with the New York Cosmos. Scorpions President Howard Cornfield blasted the Cosmos earlier this year for signing their former striker Hans Dennison to a “ludicrous” contract.

“It was so ridiculous that I honestly sat with Hans and I said, ‘For the good of your family, how do you say no to this?’” Cornfield told the San Antonio Express.

He went on to allude that the Cosmos bought their Championship and their business decisions negatively effected the league.

Will that kind of talk translate to tempers on the field?

BATTLE OF THE MIDFIELD

Former Silverbacks playmaker Danny Barrera is key to the San Antonio offense. The native Colombian, best known as the offensive engine of the 2012 Cal FC side, can control the tempo of a match with the best of them.

Barrera will face stiff competition in Marcos Senna and Danny Szetela. For as impressive an individual as Barrera is, Senna and Szetela have been the most lethal midfield duo in the NASL since their pairing last season.

The midfield battle will tilt the match either way.

STRIKER CAROUSEL

Alessandro Noselli road the bench in favor of Stefan Dimitrov after starting at home the week prior. The idea, of course, is that Noselli makes the bigger impact off the bench.

Will that be the gameplan against San Antonio? Hans Dennisen remains out injured, leaving the onus once again on Mads Stokkelien. The Norwegian striker has been hot in the first two matches with New York, scoring one goal and assisting on another.

FORTRESS SHUART

The Cosmos have yet to lose in Shuart Stadium (6-2-0 since 2013).

ATTENDANCE

BY NASL standards, the Cosmos did well to pull in nearly 8,000 spectators on opening day. That is tempered, of course, by the fact that Pele was in attendance. What will happen for game two? Numbers at the gate are of the utmost importance this year. Recent declarations by MLS Commissioner Don Garber stating that the team will not be a part of the league may hurt their chances of landing a stadium in Belmont. That leaves the Cosmos with one avenue towards earning their own home: fan interest. The Spring schedule won’t help their quest for numbers, but a steep drop off on a beautiful Saturday night will only exasperate those issues further.