Preview: New York Cosmos vs. Puerto Rico FC

IMAGE, NY COSMOS

by JAKE NUTTING

After dispatching the rival Tampa Bay Rowdies in a spirited comeback win last weekend, the New York Cosmos must shift focus to securing points on the road as they make their first trip to Puerto Rico FC.

In their nine away matches this year, the Cosmos have been on the losing end six times. The Cosmos rode out a 3-0 victory over the NASL expansion side last month, although two of those goals came late in the match as Puerto Rico got stretched out while pushing for an equalizer. Since that loss in New York, Puerto Rico has posted two draws and a loss.

With Indy Eleven and FC Edmonton ahead of them on both tables by only a few points, the Cosmos could find themselves on top of both the fall and combined standings if results swing their way. However, considering how many road points they’ve let slip through their grasp due to poor game management, a draw in Puerto Rico should suit them just fine.


Match Information

Saturday, August 21, 7:30 p.m. ET

Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium in Bayamón, Puerto Rico

TV/Streaming: ONE World Sports, oneworldsports.com

Last meeting: Cosmos W, 3-0.


Cosmos’ attack vs. Puerto Rico’s defense

On the surface, four goals in two games sounds like a great output for an attack. However, when you take into account that three of those were from penalties, you start to question how effective the attack has truly been. Lucky Mkosana deserves praise for continuing to bring a tremendous work rate to force opposing defenses into uncomfortable situations, but the Cosmos could use some better finishing in open play.

Puerto Rico’s back line is physically imposing and has the potential to diminish the relatively undersized Cosmos attack. Yasmani Duk’s physicality is essentially the closest thing the Cosmos have to a strong attacker to go toe-to-toe with big-bodied defenders.

Slight Advantage: Cosmos


Puerto Rico’s attack vs. Cosmos’ defense

The two penalties and the stoppage time winner last week let New York’s defense off for what was truly a disastrous start to the match against Tampa Bay. Marking looked optional for everyone across the back line when the Rowdies jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 15 minutes. They recovered nicely to stymie the Rowdies after, but a lot of that credit goes to the players in front of them for dominating possession for the rest of the night. Captain Carlos Mendes was held out of the match for tactical reasons, meaning he is fully fit for selection if the coaches view him as one of two best options at center back. His experience at the position over guys like Hunter Freeman and David Ochieng could carry a lot of weight when it comes to that decision.

Whomever does suit up for the Cosmos at the back, their main focus should be on halting the red hot Hector Ramos. The forward has already tallied six goals in the Fall Season, including one last week in the team’s draw at Carolina. Ramos also recorded his first assist last week to help secure the draw.

Slight Advantage: Cosmos


Midfields

Losing Adam Moffat to red card suspension is a big blow for the Cosmos in midfield. Not only is the Scotsman tied for most goals on the team with seven after converting three penalties in the last two games, he also provides composure on the ball when trying to maintain possession or break up attacks. Expect Danny Szetela to fill in for Moffat. David Diosa’s heroic performance off the bench could be enough to earn him a starting spot again, especially as Yohrandry Orozco continues to recover from his groin injury.

Puerto Rico’s midfield is a bit of a weak spot for the expansion side. They rarely look in control of matches, relying mostly on set pieces and counters to score, as opposed to quality build up play from the midfield. No one in the midfield has announced themselves as a serious threat for the young club quite yet.

Advantage: Cosmos


Coaches

Gio Savarese has built up a ton of credit from his years of success in the NASL, but it’s time for his talk to match the team’s execution when it comes to road performances. Savarese has been saying since June that the team needs to be better at closing out matches so they don’t drop crucial points in the final moments. With the Fall Season nearly halfway over, Savarese needs to get his team to start delivering on that goal.

It’s still early days for Adiran Whitbread. He’s assembled a competitive inaugural squad that has rarely been blown put since starting midway through the NASL season. He’s also unfortunately put together a roster that has only managed one win in its first nine games.

Advantage: Cosmos


X-factor

The heat and humidity is expected to be a factor just as it was last week against the Rowdies.  This could lead to a match played at a slower pace, which could play into the hands of Puerto Rico. The Cosmos generally like to play a high-tempo style that can be draining in the heat, while Puerto Rico has no problem slowing things down and patiently waiting for an opportunity to strike.


Prediction: Cosmos 2-0