Preview: New York Cosmos at Indy Eleven

IMAGE, NY COSOMS

by JAKE NUTTING

The New York Cosmos are once again off to a red hot start in the North American Soccer League’s Spring Season.

Undefeated through two matches this year, they hit the road this weekend for the first time to test their positive start against Indy Eleven– the only remaining team in the league they have failed to defeat since their reboot.

In two seasons of play and six matches total, the Cosmos and Indy have battled to tightly contested draws each time. It’s a peculiar situation for the reigning NASL champions, who have been constantly vexed by the Midwest club that has finished in the bottom half of the combined table the past two years.

Indy is already living up to its reputation so far this season by drawing with the Tampa Bay Rowdies (0-0) and Ottawa Fury FC (1-1).


Match Information:

Saturday, April 16 at Michael Carroll Stadium. 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff

TV/Streaming: ONE World Sports

Referee: Geoff Gamble


Cosmos’ attack vs. Indy’s  defense

Momentum is clearly on the side of the Cosmos’ attacking unit heading into the weekend. They’ve hit an early stride that took last year’s Spring Season winners longer to reach. Jairo Arrieta has been a force up top, slipping behind the back line with well-timed runs and drawing the attention of multiple defenders to open up space for teammates. His chemistry with midfielder Juan Arango has already directly resulted in three of their five goals this year. The potential return of Bolivian international Yasmani Duk after his visa issues only adds another serious threat off the bench.

Indy has assembled a respectable defensive unit in the offseason, and it is certainly their source of strength at this point. Veteran MLS keeper Jon Busch now leads them between the pipes, with a quality back line that includes former Ottawa standout Colin Falvey at center back, Greg Janicki, as well as solid options Lovel Palmer and Nemanja Vukovic on the outside. Despite never playing together before, they’ve fared well in two matches and have conceded only once, though they have yet to match up with an attack as fluid and dynamic as the Cosmos.

Advantage: Cosmos


Indy’s attack vs Cosmos’ defense

Indy’s new head coach Tim Hankinson has had a tough go of it in trying to jumpstart his offense after a significant overhaul. They picked up striker Eamon Zayed from Europe to play up top, but he’s been largely ineffective through two matches, registering only two shots on frame. So far this year, Indy has relied heavily on getting the ball to the wings and trying to find the perfect service inside the box. Complicating things for Indy this week is the potential loss of playmaker Sinisa Ubiparipovic after his hamstring injury last week.

After a slightly rocky start in week one, New York’s backline looked far more settled against Jacksonville. The number of unforced errors were down to a minimum and better positioning enabled them to hold the pacey Armada to only one shot on net.

Advantage: Cosmos


Midfields

The Cosmos have the clear edge in talent and experience. Injuries to Ubiparipovic and Gorka Larrea means Indy will likely be forced to rely on younger midfielders to carry the weight. Last season’s NASL Young Player of the Year Dylan Mares could shift into the central playmaking role to replace Ubparipovic.

The general undersized nature of Indy’s midfield also plays into the hands of the Cosmos. Jacksonville had success frustrating the Cosmos early last week through physicality and constant pressure every time they tried to advance past midfield. On paper, that’s not something Indy seems incapable of doing.

Niko Kranjcar’s emergence in the second half last week was a huge part of why the Cosmos were able to pull off the win. He looked more at ease creating in the center of the field, as opposed to out on the wing where he started the match. Gio Savarese has an interesting challenge figuring out the best way to utilize Kranjcar and Juan Arango at the same time. The ankle injury to Ruben Bover could mean Andres Flores gets back in the starting lineup, or Savarese could lean conservatively and insert the more defensively-minded Adam Moffat.

Advantage: Cosmos


The Coaches

It’s still early days for Tim Hankinson in Indy, but the coach does have decades worth of experience over Gio Savarese and proved he can win in this league with a new-look team when he led the San Antonio Scorpions to the regular season title in in their inaugural season. However, Savarese continues to find ways to maximize the talent on his roster and appears to have this year’s players coalescing even earlier than usual.

Advantage: Cosmos 


Intangibles

Say what you will about Indy’s product on the field in their first two seasons, they always find a way to push the Cosmos to edge. They’ve clearly wormed their way into the heads of New York’s players and technical staff. Until the Cosmos find a way to get this particular monkey off their backs, Indy can exploit the mental advantage to their benefit and continue to punch above their weight. The large and vocal home crowd should also play in their favor as the Cosmos play away from home for the first time.

Advantage: Indy


Predicition: 1-0 Cosmos

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  • Terry Urfer at Stendig

    If 2 teams play a game and no cares does it count?