Preview: New York Cosmos host Puerto Rico FC

IMAGE, ANTHONY J. MERCED FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by JAKE NUTTING

The New York Cosmos return home after finishing a three-game road trip with two losses and one draw, capped by an especially disheartening 2-1 stoppage-time loss to FC Edmonton. They’ll look to rebound against a new foe — NASL expansion side Puerto Rico FC.

While the Cosmos are licking their wounds, Puerto Rico should be riding high off the feeling of clinching their first win last week against Rayo OKC, who currently lead the Fall Season race and knocked off the Cosmos 3-0 two weeks ago.

The Cosmos remain tied with Indy Eleven at 28 points atop the combined season standings, but the streaking Eddies and Minnesota United are both hot on their heels and within three points.


Match Information

Saturday, July 20, Shuart Stadium at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV/Streaming: ONE World Sports, ONEWorldSports.com

Referee: Edvin Jurisevic


Cosmos’ attack vs. Puerto Rico’s defense

It appears that Costa Rican veteran Jairo Arrieta has fallen down New York’s depth charts.While only manifesting in short spurts, the return of forward Yasmani Duk has provided decent dividends to the Cosmos in their last two matches. The Bolvian international tallied an outstanding goal in the draw with the rival Rowdies and played a part in the buildup to the lone goal in Edmonton. Lucky Mkosana even came close to producing a goal as a substitute in the last outing.

Puerto Rico’s back line rebounded well from the 3-0 drubbing it took against the Rowdies two weeks ago by recording its first clean sheet on the way to its first ever win last week. Led by former Fort Lauerdale Strikers keeper David Meves, the defensive unit has so far showed better at home. While the expansion side took Indy to the brink at home, it has also allowed six goals through three matches on the road.

Advantage: Cosmos


Puerto Rico’s attack vs. Cosmos’ defense

Hector Ramos got a late start to the year, but if the Puerto Rican international keeps scoring at his current rate there’s a strong possibility that he could be in contention for the league’s Golden Boot award. The forward has already netted a goal in all but one of Puerto Rico’s first five matches. While the rest of the squad has been quiet, attacker Pedro Mendes should not be discounted. Having played in the NASL and against the Cosmos, Mendes knows what it takes to score in this league.

It might be time to start asking serious questions of New York’s back line. Keeper Jimmy Maurer can’t be held accountable for the team’s latest collapse in Edmonton. Maurer was strong in net, but his defenders let him down on both goals by allowing opponents to be completely unmarked on rebounds. Moving Hunter Freeman back into central defense to partner with Carlos Mendes didn’t remedy the team’s tendency to fall apart in the final stages. Shutouts from the Cosmos no longer seem to be the norm.

Advantage: Push


Midfields

Well-worn veterans to the NASL Chris Nurse and Paulo Mendes have earned themselves starting spots so far in Puerto Rico’s inaugural campaign. Nurse has earned a reputation over the years for being a physical player in the league, with plenty of yellow cards and whistles against to back it up.

The Cosmos hold the clear advantage over Puerto Rico when it comes to attacking flair, as they do against most of the teams in the league. However, their poor game management in the midfield this year continues to hold them back. Needless turnovers and a habit of getting caught up in end-to-action late in matches has cost them a significant amount of points this year. With no clear leader stepping up in the midfield to take hold and help close out matches, the Cosmos will likely continue to produce consistent results.

Slight Advantage: Cosmos


Coaches

Puerto Rico FC may be new to the NASL, but head coach Adrian Whitbread is not. Whitbread was a longtime assistant coach for the Puerto Rico Islanders before assuming the head coaching role for their final season in 2012. That experience may or may not come in handy considering how drastically the NASL has changed since the Islanders folded. The level of talent was a far cry from what it at the moment, with the Cosmos helping to usher in a higher level of of players.

Gio Savarese is in need of not only a positive result, but also a quality showing from his squad. With the first half against Edmonton being the lone exception, the Cosmos were underwhelming throughout their three-game road trip. They only managed a point against the Rowdies thanks to a lack of finishing from the rivals and some questionable officiating.

Slight Advantage: Cosmos


X-factor

Puerto Rico FC is expecting several hundred fans to show up for their first ever meeting with the Cosmos on Saturday. The notion of rowdy supporters backing the away team should be cause for concern for the Cosmos, who have had a terrible time away from home this year. Cosmos supporters will need to bring their best to ensure their club doesn’t get any confusion about what city they’re playing in.


Prediction: Cosmos 2-1