Preview: New York Cosmos vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers

IMAGE, ANTHONY J. MERCED FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by JAKE NUTTING

The New York Cosmos are in far better form now compared to the last time they traveled to Fort Lauderdale to take on the Strikers.

They limped into that Spring Season finale having crashed out of the U.S. Open Cup only a few days before and looked eager for the midseason break to come as they fell 2-1 to the Strikers.

A few months later and the Cosmos have turned a new page, asserting their grip on the top spot in the NASL’s Fall Season and combined standings over FC Edmonton and Indy Eleven with a four-game winning streak. With the Eddies still holding two games in hand, though, the Cosmos must remain focused if they wish to maintain their lead.

Fort Lauderdale is in the midst of a decent run themselves. The South Florida side is unbeaten in its last four, with two wins and two draws. The Strikers were in action at the same time as the Cosmos on Wednesday night, finishing with a scoreless draw at home against Minnesota United FC.


Match Information

Saturday, September 3, 7 p.m. ET. Central Broward Stadium

TV/Streaming: ONE World Sports, oneworldsports.com, ESPN 3

Referee:  Rubiel Vazquez

Last Meeting: Cosmos L, 2-1


Cosmos’ attack vs. Strikers’ defense

The Cosmos seem to have found their stride at a critical time in the season. Their recent 6-1 win over the RailHawks was a historic result, but it wasn’t much of a shock considering Carolina fields the leakiest defense in the NASL. Following that performance up by dropping three on a more than respectable Indy Eleven indicates the attacking upswing may be for real. Jairo Arrieta’s resurgence in recent weeks has filled any potential hole from Yasmani Duk’s international call up, and Lucky Mkosana looks energized regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench.

Gale Agbossoumonde has been a leader in central defense for the Strikers all year, playing every possible minute and recently assuming the captaincy in the last five matches. Since joining the Strikers from Miami in July, Jorge Luis Corrales has also become a mainstay in eight straight starts. The Strikers have a lot of physicality and talent along the back line, but disorganization has hampered them at times.

Advantage: Cosmos


Strikers’ attack vs. Cosmos’ defense

It is no coincidence that Fort Lauderdale’s four-game unbeaten run started right after the signing of former Italian national team forward Amauri. The seasoned attacker has already bagged three goals in four appearances, placing him just two behind the team’s leading scorer for the year Maicon Santos. However, the 36-year-old might not be in the lineup come Saturday given the fact he just went the full 90 on Wednesday night.

Saturday night will be the first test for the Cosmos back line after the departure of Hunter Freeman. The 2-1 win in Puerto Rico two weeks ago was the only match Freeman had missed for the Cosmos all year. Jimmy Ockford and David Ochieng started in central defense that night, but that won’t be the case again as Ochieng is away with the Kenyan national team. Captain Carlos Mendes returned to action on Wednesday after an injury scare and Roversio could also be in line for his first start since early July.

Slight Advantage: Cosmos


Midfields

The Strikers typically deploy two defensive midfielders, with Manny Gonzalez, Luis Felipe Fernandes or Kleberson being the top choices. Out on the wings is where their biggest threat looms, though. With four goals and three assists, Jose Angulo has been the closest thing to consistency the Strikers have had in midfield all year. His dangerous crosses and skills on the ball make him a persistent threat.

David Diosa will be out of the fray for the Cosmos this weekend after picking up his fifth yellow card of the fall on Wednesday. Yohandry Orozco made his return to the lineup in the Indy win and is a likely replacement for the suspended Diosa on the left wing. Given their excellent showing in the last two matches, Ruben Bover and Juan Arango are likely to make the starting lineup as well. After recording four goals in two matches, the NASL’s Golden Boot is well within reach for Arango, who now only trails the Christian Ramirez by two goals.

Advantage: Cosmos


 Coaches

Fort Lauderdale’s Caio Zanardi has his team playing with more confidence in recent weeks, but much of the success is due to individual efforts of certain players. While the Strikers rely on individuals to make a difference, Gio Savarese’s Cosmos are truly clicking on every level, attacking and defending as a swarm. When one chance is stymied, another Cosmos players has hustled into position for the follow up.

Advantage: Cosmos


X-factor

Saturday will be the first time the Cosmos have faced off with the Strikers since their move to Central Broward Stadium. The new facility offers a narrower playing area than Lockhart Stadium, but Central Broward’s playing surface is markedly better than the one the two sides met on back in the spring. The Cosmos would definitely benefit from having a smoother playing surface. They struggled to implement their style on the bumpy filed at Lockhart earlier this year.


Prediction: Cosmos 2-1