Preview: Cosmos at Ottawa Fury FC

IMAGE, ANTHONY J. MERCED FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by JAKE NUTTING

With a postseason spot secure, the New York Cosmos will hope to maintain their fine form in their final four matches of the Fall Season in order to secure the critical home field advantage throughout The Championship.

Sitting eight points clear of FC Edmonton in the combined standings, another three-point result this weekend in Ottawa would go a long way toward helping them lock in the fall championship and top postseason seed.

Two straight losses last week halted Ottawa Fury FC after a lengthy unbeaten streak that was highlighted by back-to-back wins over Minnesota United FC. Already eliminated from the fall title race, a loss to the Cosmos would all but guarantee the Canadian side would miss out on the postseason just one year after finishing as runners up in The Championship final.


Match Information

Sunday, October 9, 2 p.m. ET. TD Place

TV/Streaming: ESPN3, ONE World Sports, oneworldsports.com

Last meeting: Cosmos W, 2-1


Cosmos’ attack vs. Ottawa’s defense

Five of New York’s league-leading 49 goals were tallied in two matches against Ottawa at Shuart Stadium, though the Cosmos have had a much harder time posting multiple goals on opponents in recent weeks. Teams have had success frustrating the Cosmos early in matches by throwing a lot of numbers behind the ball. They eventually prevailed with 2-0 results over Carolina and Fort Lauderdale, but only by the grace of quick attacking bursts after scoreless first halves. The Cosmos will be without Yasmani Duk once again thanks to World Cup Qualifying, leaving the team with Lucky Mkosana or Jairo Arrieta up top. New York has not gotten a goal from any of their forwards since August.

The individual ability of keeper Romuald Peiser always has the potential to make Ottawa difficult to score on. Even his talents, though, haven’t stopped Ottawa from conceding the fourth-most goals in the league (34). Ottawa has taken to implementing a three-man back line with Rafael Alves, Timbo and either Mallan Roberts or Eddie Edward. The same strategy could leave them exposed against the Cosmos’ versatile attack.

Advantage: Cosmos


Cosmos’ defense vs. Ottawa’s attack

Due in part to the conservative approach taken by many teams against them, the Cosmos’ defense has been especially stingy recently. The defensive unit has posted a clean sheet in five of the team’s last six outings, with the 3-0 loss in Indy being the only blemish on their record. With 13 shutouts for the year, keeper Jimmy Maurer is just one back of Edmonton’s Matt Van Oekel.  The Cosmos back line will have to deal with the absence of left back Ayoze, who will miss just his second match of the year due to suspension. David Diosa is the most likely candidate to take over at the spot. Center back David Ochieng should be back in the mix for selection after playing in a friendly for Kenya earlier in the week.

After struggling to score with consistency all year, Ottawa suddenly appears to have found a dynamic attacking duo as forward Giuseppe Gentile and midfielder Ryan Williams have accounted for six of Ottawa’s last eight goals. Gentile’s three-goal tally over the few weeks has matched his entire output in two previous years in the NASL.

Advantage: Cosmos


Midfields

International call ups will leave Ottawa without Jamar Dixon and Maxim Tissot, who have been regulars for the club out on the midfield wings during their recent turnaround. Questions of depth have persisted with Ottawa all year, and they continue to linger even after the league’s roster freeze. Kyle Porter and Gerardo Bruna are both returning to the lineup from injury, but neither are as dynamic as Dixon or Tissot. Porter’s position of strength as always been on the right side of defense rather than on the wing.

Juan Arango showed his worth last week by breaking through Fort Lauderdale’s defense to set up Ruben Bover with his second goal in as many matches. The evidence plainly shows that when New York’s midfield is clicking, the team is nearly impossible to stop. If they falter like they did in Indy a few weeks ago, though, things can get ugly in a heartbeat.

Advantage: Cosmos


Coaches

While his team is looking to take a step toward another Fall Season title and home field advantage in the postseason, Gio Savarese is on the verge of entering an exclusive club in the NASL. Savarese is one victory away from recording his 50th win as head coach of the Cosmos. It’s a significant achievement considering that Savarese has only been coaching the Cosmos for three and a half seasons. The only other coaches with more to surpass 50 wins, Colin Clarke and Manny Lagos, were both coaching in the NASL when the league launched back in 2011.

Paul Dalglish has convinced his team to stick with him despite the fact that their playoff hopes are diminishing every week. With budget restraints and injuries throughout the roster, Dalglish has found a way to make his side competitive week in and week out and seriously challenge many of the top teams in the league.

Advantage: Cosmos


X-factor

If the Cosmos want to earn the coveted top seed in The Championship, they will need to find the same consistency on the road that they have enjoyed at Shuart Stadium all year. Their unbeaten record at home this year has put them in their current advantageous position, but it’s very likely their away form will be what decides where they finish. With matchups against Miami and Minnesota set for last two weeks of the season, taking care of business against a vulnerable Ottawa side on Sunday is crucial.


Prediction: Cosmos 1-0