Preview: New York Cosmos at Minnesota United FC

Duk Lucky Cosmos

by JAKE NUTTING

The New York Cosmos will close out their regular season with a trip to Minnesota United FC, who are angling to earn a follow up meeting with the Cosmos in next week’s semifinal round of The Championship.

Minnesota needs a win and nothing less to jump Rayo OKC for the fourth and final playoff spot. However, even with a victory in the regular season finale, the Loons would still require a loss from Rayo OKC against Indy Eleven on Sunday night to officially claim the spot.

Whichever side comes out on top for the final postseason berth, the Cosmos will be waiting to host them at Shuart Stadium where they are unbeaten this year with 14 wins and two draws.


Match Information

Saturday, October 29, 8 p.m. ET. NSC Stadium

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

Referee: Allen Chapman

Season Series: Minnesota W (1-0), Cosmos W (1-0)


Cosmos’ attack vs. Minnesota’s defense

Forward Jairo Arrieta has found a groove with two goals in his last two outings for the Cosmos. A hot striker heading into the postseason is a plus, but the team could look to get more minutes for Lucky Mkosana and Yasmani Duk up top after extended absences. Duk got his first appearance in a while as a substitute in the 4-0 rout on Miami, but Mkosana has been out of the gameday roster entirely the last three weeks as he worked his way back from an injury.

Minnesota’s back line has returned to full strength since the last time the two sides met. Kevin Venegas’ reintegration on the right side provides the Loons with a speedy defensive cover and another credible threat going forward. An injury to Damion Lowe is a concern for Minnesota. The center back’s physicality could cause problems for the undersized Arrieta or Mkosana.

Slight Advantage: Cosmos 


Cosmos’ defense vs. Minnesota’s attack

This battle could be decided on who the Cosmos choose to start in defense. The team has been cautious with its two most experienced center backs, Carlos Mendes and Roversio. Mendes has been sidelined the last two matches with an injury, but he’s expected to be ready for selection this weekend if called on. Meanwhile, last week’s win over Miami was only Roversio’s second 90-minute shift of the year, meaning the Cosmos might not want to tempt fate one week before the postseason.

Even with Mendes and Roversio anchoring the back line, the Loons are a tough team to shutdown thanks to Christian Ramirez, whose 18-goal tally is sure to hand him league’s Golden Boot award. Ramirez will likely be prepared to go all out to find the back of the net to help his side pick up all three points.

Advantage: Minnesota


Midfields

With competition for a starting spot fierce, every midfielder for the Cosmos should be motivated to prove themselves before the start of the postseason. Andres Flores had a decent showing in the win at Jacksonville, as did David Diosa against Miami, but Yohandry Orozco outperformed everyone with his brace last week. Other than leading scorer Juan Arango, just about every starting spot in the midfield is up for grabs.

Minnesota’s midfield took a significant blow last week with Jeb Brovsky’s torn ACL. Veteran Aaron Picthkolan is the most likely candidate to fill in for Brovsky as the team’s defensive midfielder. Lance Laing has had an underwhelming year, but the Jamaican international has experience burning the Cosmos from the left wing. He caused havoc for the Cosmos in Minnesota’s narrow loss in New York earlier in the Fall Season. Like the Cosmos, Minnesota’s midfield is stacked with talent, but their inability to come together as a unit consistently has held them back.

Advantage: Cosmos


Coaches

Gio Savarese has weathered injuries and a number of departures to earn the right to rest his team on the final week of the regular season. If they will take that opportunity though is in question. The Cosmos also could have eased up last week at home against Miami, but they instead poured four goals on the expansion side with one of their most dominant wins of the year.

First-year head coach Carl Craig has had a rough time pulling off the same gritty results through hardships. Minnesota could have walked away with the final playoff spot weeks ago if not for a disastrous string of results in the final two months of the year. Craig’s squad is in desperate need of a win to have a shot at the postseason, but they’ve only managed one victory in their last seven outings.


Notable

If the Loons come up short in the race for the last playoff spot, Saturday will be the final league meeting between the two sides as Minnesota is set to make the jump to MLS next year. In four seasons of play, the series between New York and Minnesota has been one of the most closely contested in the NASL. The Cosmos hold the all-time edge with a record of 5W-4D-1L, but the Loons have never made it easy. They’ve held the Cosmos to one goal or less in seven of their nine encounters.


Prediction: 1-1