Savarese: Collapse a Sign Cosmos Lack Maturity

Sainey Nyassi dribbles past Jimmy Mulligan. Image, NASL

By JAKE NUTTING

Cosmos logoBROOKLYN, N.Y. — Wednesday’s match at MCU Park against last-place FC Edmonton was expected to be a simple start to a crucial three-match home stand for the New York Cosmos. Instead, a 1-0 lead at halftime evaporated in an instant as the Cosmos lost, 4-2, digging themselves a hole with two suspensions ahead of Saturday’s match against North Carolina FC.

Throughout most of the first half, the Cosmos (4-2-4, 16 points) were on top of the Eddies (3-6-1, 10), who were fresh from a 3-0 drubbing by cellar-dwelling Puerto Rico FC. Ayoze, Irvin Hererra and Danny Szetela all had promising chances just miss the net or be handled adeptly by keeper Nathan Ingham in the first half hour.

The Cosmos appeared to have a sure-fire chance to the take control of the match when Referee Geoff Gamble signaled for a penalty immediately after Walter Restrepo was chopped down by Pedro Galvão on the edge of the penalty area. A huddle with his assistant on the sideline who had a clear view of the incident led to Gamble reversing his decision and awarding the Cosmos a free kick that culminated with Herrera sending a header wide.

Hererra made good on his next look on goal. The Salvadorean attacker found New York’s go-ahead goal seconds before the break with a strong header back across goal off service from right back Ryan Richter.

The wheels came off for the Cosmos midway through the second half. In the 69th minute, Carlos Mendes and Jimmy Mulligan were both left with their hands in the air hoping for an offside flag that didn’t come as Sainey Nyassi nodded home an arching cross from Galvão. Just three minutes later, Tomi Amebobi put the visitors ahead with a quick one-two passing sequence with Mauro Eustaquio inside New York’s box that he converted with a blast past goalkeeper Brian Holt.

Cosmos Coach Giovanni Savarese was at a loss after the implosion.

“I don’t know. … we gave the game away,” Savarese said. “We didn’t show maturity. We dominated the game up until the 65th minute. We created chances, we had the game in hand. We just needed another goal to close the game down, and then we gave it away. We start losing attention and I think not everyone that was on the field was mature enough to be able to do what we needed and they found that goal.”

The substitute Eugene Starikov gave the Cosmos hope for a comeback a few minutes later when he had a hopeful shot from the right edge of the box cleared off the line at the last second by Papé Diakité. It was the last glimmer of hope the Cosmos would see.

Maturity, or the lack of it, came in to play as two Cosmos were shown straight red cards in a five-minute span for off-the-ball incidents. Center back Darius Barnes was shown red for violent conduct on Diakité after a failed free kick in the 74th minute and Juan Guerra’s night then came to an early end when he initiated contact with a slight head butt to Eustaquio after play had already stopped.

Jake Keegan came on for the Eddies in the 82nd minute and found the back of the net only three minutes later when he tapped home a slow-moving cross the Cosmos could not clear. Ameobi then got on the scoreboard again right before stoppage time as he and a couple teammates slipped behind New York’s three-man back line and overwhelmed Holt.

New York netted a consolation goal deep into stoppage time as Ayoze converted a penalty, but only after Javi Márquez banged another penalty off the left post a minute prior.

Heading into the match, the Cosmos had only allowed eight goals through nine matches, while the previously impotent Eddies had only recorded four goals in the same number of matches. While the Cosmos were on an eight-match unbeaten run and were threatening to challenge Miami FC at the top of the North American Soccer League’s Spring Season table, Savarese views as another sign that his team needs to wake up.

“We lost a little composure and then we collapsed. It’s happened already,” Savarese said. “It’s a sign of a lack of maturity because it happened in the U.S. Open Cup. In nine minutes [Reading United] scored three goals. It happened today. In nine minutes we got two goals and two red cards. We have to be able to be better in adversity.”

The Cosmos don’t have much time to mature before they head back out onto the field to face North Carolina in a rematch. North Carolina will be eager to match up with the vulnerable Cosmos after falling to them 1-0 last weekend in Cary, N.C.

“I think maturity comes after situations like today and learning from today and doing better,” Savarese said. “But now what happens is we have two less players on the weekend coming up and it’s a situation where we give up four goals against a team that doesn’t score many goals. There’s many negatives. It’s incredible. You see the result and you don’t know. This is a game that should have been closed way before the 65th minute.”