Preview: Cosmos at Miami FC

Walter Restrepo, Robert Baggio Kcira IMAGE, STEVE HAMLIN/THIS IS COSMOS COUNTRY

By JAKE NUTTING

NY.Cosmos.Logo.OfficialThere is a long way to go in the North American Soccer League’s Spring Season, but there are already major concerns for the New York Cosmos. The two-time defending champions are winless after two matches for the first time in the team’s modern era.

New York will aim to avenge its 3-0 defeat in last week’s home opener at MCU Park as it travels to South Florida for Miami FC’s first home match of the year. Miami’s home stadium at Florida International University was recently renamed after the team’s owner Riccardo Silva, a media magnate, after he donated $3.6 million to the university’s athletic department.

Miami leads the Spring Season table with four points from two matches and is also tied for most shots on goal (9). Meanwhile, the Cosmos are struggling after being shut out twice and failing to guide any of their 14 shots taken on target.

At the moment there does not appear to be any easy answers for the Cosmos. Coach Giovanni Savarese started last week’s match without a true forward on the field, citing an injury to Irvin Herrera and concerns over the fitness of second-half substitutes Amauri and Eugene Starikov. Without a credible finisher up top, the Cosmos will likely continue to flounder on offensive.

Projected Starting XI’s:

Cosmos: Maurer; Richter, Barnes, Ochieng, Ayoze; Guerra, Marquez, Restrepo, Flores, Starikov; Amauri

Miami: Vega; Lahoud, Freeman, Trafford, Kcira; Rezende, Ryan, Mares; Pinho, Poku, Chavez

Matchup to Watch: Last weekend was a difficult shift for center backs Dejan Jakovic and David Ochieng, who had difficulty handling Miami’s Stefano Pinho. Pinho tallied a goal, completed all but one of his passes and set up scoring opportunities for several teammates on his way to a spot on the NASL Team of the Week. With Carlos Mendes in doubt for the match because of injury, the Cosmos need to find a solution at the back without him. Apart from a few slip ups, Darius Barnes had a more solid appearance in central defense against Puerto Rico than either Ochieng or Jakovic. Look for Pinho to again exploit New York’s vulnerability.

X-Factor: If there’s one bright spot to the first two matches for New York, it’s that goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer appears to be in fine form. He leads the league with eight saves and is the sole reason the Cosmos were able to take a point in Puerto Rico and were not shellacked more by Miami. If not for an own goal and a trip up by Ochieng, Maurer would have been able to limit Miami to one goal.

Out: Cosmos defender Jimmy Mulligan is unavailable after receiving two yellow cards in the final stages of last week’s match. Miami’s Gabriel Farfan will also miss the match as he serves the second of his two-match suspension.

Where to Watch: MSG Networks, ESPN3; 7:30 p.m. Eastern