Preview: New York Cosmos at Philadelphia Union, U.S. Open Cup

IMAGE, NEW YORK COSMOS FACEBOOK

By ANTHONY J. MERCED
Staff Writer

The New York Cosmos certainly shocked the American soccer landscape when they made easy work of the New York Red Bulls in the fourth round of their U.S. Open Cup encounter.

Can they go two for two against MLS competition?

This time, the team travels to PPL Park in Chester, PA. to take on a shaky Philadelphia Union team. Through fifteen MLS games, the Union have only grabbed three wins and lost seven. A lack of consistency on the field and the loss of their head coach means that they are a vulnerable side but one that could still prove to be dangerous.

The Cosmos enter this match in relative health, with Diomar Diaz and the inimitable Marcos Senna out for the encounter. Jemal Johnson looks to be back to full health while Hans Denissen awaits his call to the starting XI.

While much will be made of the Cosmos’ need to succeed this tournament, the Union will have just as much to prove ahead of regular season MLS action. Interim coach Jim Curtin is taking the match quite seriously, already finding an unlikely ally in the Red Bulls who have shared their video analysis of the Cosmos ahead of their encounter …

Not a derby, right?

What can you expect? Here are a few key points:

PREDICTED COSMOS STARTING XI (4-4-2):
Maurer; Freeman, Mendes, Roversio, Ayoze; Guenzatti, Szetela, Nane, Johnson; Stokkelien, Noselli

PREDICTED UNION STARTING XI (4-4-2):
Blake; Gaddis, Okugo, Williams, Fabinho; Le Toux, Edu, Nogueira, Lahoud; Maidana, Wenger

FROM NASL UNDERDOGS TO NEW YORK HEAVYWEIGHTS

As odd as it may sound, the Cosmos should be considered the favorites going into this Tuesday night’s clash — regardless of what head coach Giovanni Savarese may assume.

The team has only allowed three goals in 2014 and proven to be effective at scoring goals on the road. Mads Stokkelien found his inspiration during last week’s Red Bull clash and could easily find the back of the net once again if the team controls the ball like they did at Hofstra.

The midfield will be missing Marcos Senna for this one, but if last Saturday were any indication, Joseph Nane and Danny Szetela can play a stifling defense against MLS quality opposition. That pairing, along with the combination of Carlos Mendes, Roversio or Jimmy Ockford can make the middle a dangerous place to challenge. Bradley Wright-Phillips has been a goalscoring machine through half a season for the Red Bulls, but was invisible against the Cosmos. This two by two block is a major reason for it.

Momentum is high, as are expectations. Unlike last Saturday, the Cosmos won’t surprise anyone at PPL.

FIELD OF DREAMS

Much has been made of the field at Hofstra University and everyone would agree that it isn’t perfect. However, there shouldn’t be any issues in Philadelphia. PPL Park is one of the newer stadiums in MLS and sports one of the better fields in the league. The dimensions will be wider than the Cosmos are accustomed to. They will need to be prepared for more open play in the midfield.

The Cosmos defense will see a much more versatile team in Philadelphia, depending on who the starters are. Players like Conor Casey and Andrew Wenger could prove to be difficult to handle, potentially exposing the younger defensive players like Jimmy Ockford. Captain Carlos Mendes will need to need to hold the back line together in the face of stiff competition.

MLS ISN’T AS INVESTED — BUT WILL PHILLY BE?

The comments and actions of Mike Petke and Sigi Schmid have proven that MLS teams just don’t take the competition seriously — especially this year. Fielding sides that aren’t comparable to their usual lineups is just the first in a long string of evidence showing the 1st division’s disinterest.

With that said, it doesn’t make the competition any less important to the Cosmos — or the Union. The Open Cup represents the Cosmos’ only opportunity of entering the Champions League and New York needs to be focused — even when other teams aren’t doing the same.

The rhetoric has been consistent from the Cosmos. The Open Cup is the ultimate goal and may even be considered more important to them than the NASL Championship. Whatever the case may be, New York will be fielding a top level team. Philadelphia should be doing the same, but will be forced to balance their competitive needs with their league fixture on the 28th.

  • Dan in New York

    Will the game be on TV or steaming online?

    • Anthony J. Merced

      It will be streaming on the Union’s website, which is pretty much a youtube live stream. If you’ve got a roku box or PS3 (etc.) you can have a nice viewing party on your TV. :)

  • jspech

    if D1 continues to disregard competition, then they should no longer be afforded a bye until 4th round.

  • jspech

    if D1 continues to disregard the competition, then they should no longer be afforded a bye until 4th round.

    • Dave from Dix Hills

      Agree with this. Only fans lose when they aren’t taking it seriousz