Preview: Cosmos Open Season at Puerto Rico FC

IMAGE, PUERTO RICO FC

by JAKE NUTTING

They looked down for the count at various point during the off-season, but the New York Cosmos are up off the mat and ready to come out swinging as they open their fifth season of the North American Soccer League’s modern era Saturday on the road against Puerto Rico FC.

The matchup pits last year’s champion against the team that finished last after joining the league for the Fall Season. New York captured its second straight Soccer Bowl Trophy, defeating Puerto Rico both times the teams met.

Puerto Rico, which is owned by the New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, has been one of the most active NASL teams on the field during the off-season. The Caribbean club kept busy during the league’s off-season trying to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League. PRFC came up short last weekend, unable to progress past the group stage of the CFU Club Championship after a stoppage-time loss to Jamaica’s Portmore United.

Projected Starting XI’s:

Cosmos: Maurer; Richter, Mulligan, Mendes, Ayoze; Szetela, Guerra; Restrepo, Flores, Starikov, Amauri

Puerto Rico: Spangenberg; Rudy, Dawson, Dias, Culbertson; Yuma; Quintilla, Kafari; Rivera, Ramos, Ramirez

Matchup to Watch: Despite only playing in the Fall Season last year, Hector Ramos announced himself as one of the best forwards in the league with 8 goals and 4 assists. New York’s center backs will have their hands full trying to stymie Ramos. Carlos Mendes is a lock to start on the back line, but his partner is in question becaus of David Ochieng’s call up for Kenya’s friendlies. Canadian defender Dejan Jakovic may not be cleared to play after only being introduced by the team on Wednesday.

X-Factor: Puerto Rico likes to play an aggressive style no matter the circumstances. This philosophy led to the team conceding a staggering 31 goals in 22 matches in its inaugural season. With the team’s off-season signings leaning the offense, Coach Adrian Whitbread doesn’t seem to have softened from the attack-oriented strategy. If the Cosmos can have their counter attack coalesce in the first week of the season, they could exploit some of their host’s vulnerabilities.

Where to Watch: Saturday March 4, 7:30 p.m.; beIN Sports