Preview: Cosmos Host Miami FC

IMAGE, NASL

By JAKE NUTTING

On Saturday, the New York Cosmos will play their first home match of the year at Coney Island’s MCU Park. After dying on the vine in four seasons at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium, the North American Soccer League team is angling to turn things around with a move into New York City proper.

New York’s season got off to a punchless start last week with a scoreless draw in Puerto Rico. It’s the first time in the modern NASL that the Cosmos have failed to record a win or a goal in their season opener. Last year, the Cosmos had the most lethal attack in the NASL and recorded 59 goals.

Matching up with the Cosmos this weekend is Miami FC, one of the preseason favorites to reach the postseason and compete for the championship title. Miami continued its strategy of nabbing the NASL’s top talent in the off-season, including past Golden Boot winner Stefano Pinho and Indy Eleven standout Dylan Mares. The South Florida team kicked off the season last week with a 1-a draw at North Carolina FC.

Projected Starting XI’s:

Cosmos: Maurer; Richter, Ochieng, Mendes, Ayoze; Szetela, Guerra; Herrera, Flores, Starikov – Amauri

Miami: Vega; Bernstein, Freeman, Trafford, Borrajo; Lahoud, Ryan, Mares; Pinho, Poku, Chavez

Matchup to Watch: Jimmy Maurer earned a spot on the NASL’s Team of the Week for his five saves in the draw with Puerto Rico. He could be asked to put in a similar performance this week given Miami’s attacking talent. Pinho is joined up top by the Jaime Chávez and Kwadwo Poku. Any one of them would be tough for a team to close down. Miami was second in the NASL with 11 shots last week. The only team with more was Puerto Rico, which exploited lapses in New York’s defense to test Maurer. Fullbacks Ayoze and Ryan Richter may not be able to bomb forward as much as they usually do considering Miami’s firepower.

Jumpstarting the Attack: With the Cosmos in need of an offensive spark, they are likely grateful to be facing Miami. Last year, they managed to find the back of the net 10 times in three matches against Miami. Still, it’s a new year and there are still questions about who will emerge as the leading force in the attack. Neither Amauri nor Irvin Herrera were noteworthy in their Cosmos debut last week, and Andrea Mancini looked ineffective in the midfield.

X Factor: The move to MCU Park brings new challenges. To eliminate the permanent baseball lines and brown turf on the infield skin at the minor-league baseball stadium, the Cosmos are using the same Nexxfield Turf system used by Rayo OKC last year. The removable turf tile system was roundly criticized by players and coaches across the league, although some did question whether Rayo OKC was putting in the necessary work to ensure the turf was maintained properly. Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact have also used Nexxfield.

Where to Watch: beIN Sports, WPIX Channel 11 in New York area; 7 p.m. Eastern

Referee: Rosendo Mendoza