Preview: New York Cosmos host Miami FC

IMAGE, ANTHONY J. MERCED FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by JAKE NUTTING

The pressure is off the New York Cosmos in their final two matches of the regular season after clinching the Fall Season title and top postseason seed with a thrilling 3-2 win at Jacksonville last week. But given how important momentum has proven to be in an unpredictable year, they won’t want to throttle back too much.

Starting this weekend with a meeting with a desperate Miami FC, New York’s remaining two matches could both be against teams fighting to claim the fourth and final postseason berth.

Miami’s remarkable turnaround in the fall after just a seven-point Spring Season at one point had them threatening the Cosmos for the fall crown, but the expansions side is now on the brink of being eliminated from the postseason picture entirely after going winless in their last four matches. They head to New York on short rest after a deflating 3-2 loss to Jacksonville on Wednesday.


Match Information

Saturday, October 22, 7 p.m. ET. Shuart Stadium

TV/Streaming: ONE World Sports, oneworldsports.com

Referee: Jorge Gonzalez

Last meeting: Cosmos W, 3-2


Cosmos’ attack vs. Miami’s defense

Much of Miami’s success in the Fall Season was built on the poaching of players on the Cosmos roster, but two of those acquisition are guaranteed to miss Saturday’s encounter. Gabriel Farfan is out due to yellow card accumulation, while right back Hunter Freeman is unavailable as a result of a clause in his transfer deal that prevents him from playing against the Cosmos. Rhett Bernstein and Mason Traford are solid performer on the back line, but Freeman’s experience and distribution will be missed.

Lucky Mkosana could be back in the mix after sitting out the last two matches because of an injury suffered in training, although the team likely won’t be in any rush to get him back on the field with their postseason spot already locked up. Jairo Arrieta had one of his better showings of the last few months in the win at Jacksonville, helping to set up the opening goal and finding his own in the final seconds of the match. Yasmani Duk could also be in line for minutes after a lengthy absence due to international duty.

Advantage: Cosmos


Cosmos’ defense vs. Miami’s attack

On top of the defensive absences, Miami will also have to overcome the suspension of Kwadwo Poku, who had a reputation of playing well against the Cosmos during his time with New York City FC. With a seasoned attacker like Dario Cvitanich and the versatile Jaime Chavez, though, Miami still has plenty of offensive threats to test the Cosmos.

Like Mkosana, captain Carlos Mendes is likely to miss Saturday’s match as he returns to fitness. New York’s back line fell apart in Jacksonville almost immediately after the exit of Roversio, who was taken off as a precautionary measure while he work toward full fitness. Jimmy Ockford and David Ochieng showed they’re quite not ready for the full-time starting job in central defense.

Advantage: Push


Midfields

While he didn’t end up on the scoresheet, Andres Flores demonstrated he’s more than capable of filling the starting role out on the right wing after the loss of Sebastian Guenzatti. Flores and Yohandry Orozco out on the wings are an imposing attacking duo for any NASL opponent. Adam Moffat will hope to clean up his game after a number of needless turnovers against Jacksonville. If not for Juan Arango’s heroics, the sloppy and lethargic play from New York’s midfield in the second half would have sunk the Cosmos.

Richie Ryan’s dip in form over the last few weeks has cost Miami dearly. An inability to ride out matches with possession or disrupt the rhythm of opponents in the midfield has led to several devastating collapses.

Advantage: Cosmos


Coaches

Gio Savarese recorded his historic 50th victory as head coach of the Cosmos last week to earn the right to rest up for the postseason after grueling fall campaign. On top of securing the fall title, last week’s win also lifted the Cosmos to 59 points for the year, establishing a new single-season record for the modern era NASL.

The cash Miami has dropped to retool their roster during the year has certainly paid off for first-year head coach Alessandro Nesta with a 30-point Fall Season. That said, the expansion side appears to be falling apart at a crucial juncture thanks to a failure to put teams away once they grab a lead.

Advantage: Cosmos


Prediction: 1-1