U.S. Open Cup Preview: Cosmos host Jersey Express

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by DAVE MARTINEZ

The U.S. Open Cup is traditionally the most anticipated part of the New York Cosmos’ campaign. This year is no different.

The Cosmos enter the third round of the tournament, facing a familiar foe in the Jersey Express. Both sides met last year at Belson Stadium, with the Cosmos waltzing past their amateur competition in a 3-0 rout. The Express advanced on that very same Belson field earlier this month, dispatching the New York Pancyprian Freedoms 1-0. Now, they meet the Cosmos on those familiar grounds.

The Cosmos will be without Niko Krancjar and the recent transfer of Michael Lahoud has taken a key contributor from their ranks. However, the team is their deepest in recent history, meaning several other players will be ready to step in and take charge.


PROJECTED STARTING XI

New York Cosmos (4-1-4-1): Maurer; Freeman, Ockford, Mendes, Ayoze; Szetela; Guenzatti, Bover, Arango, Orozco; Arrieta

Jersey Express (4-5-1): Greczek; Mahoney, N’Guessan, Sobot, Pounce; Williams, Kahlon, Karcz, Goulart, Otto; Bilay

HISTORY: Cosmos lead series 1-0 (2015, 3-0 win over Jersey Express at Belson)

KEEP AN EYE ON: Ruben Bover. With Krancjar out, Bover will be the shuttler and creator at midfield, serving to connect Szetela, Arango and the forwards against the Express.

X-FACTOR: Belson. Both teams have experience on the rough surface at St. John’s University. Cosmos fans have traveled en masse in recent outings, creating a true home feel for the New York side.


ANALYSIS:

No single competition quite gets the Cosmos’ blood pumping like the U.S. Open Cup.

For their third straight year, New York are looking to make a big impression on the national stage. That road begins, once again, at Belson Stadium — against a familiar opponent.

Last year, the Cosmos faced off against Jersey Express, taking down the USL PDL side 3-0 in front of a friendly home crowd.

This year, New York will look for similar results. However, a congested fixture will make selections a tough endeavor. With several starters featuring in NASL play and in a recent friendly against Eibar, head coach Giovanni Savarese will likely have to juggle his roster to find the right combinations against the Express. That could mean debuts for David Ochieng and Roversio, and perhaps an appearance from the likes of Velela, Diosa and Calvillo.

However, with the NASL season one match from its conclusion, expect Savarese to go starter-heavy in this one-off encounter.

If you are looking for a familiar face in the Jersey Express, some old time Metrostars fans will remember Chris Karcz. Karcz is a key cog in their attack, as shown against the Freedoms on his game winning assist to teammate Ansger Otto.

The defending Champion Cosmos should make easy work of the Express, moving on to face NYCFC in the fourth round.

Prediction: 2-0 Cosmos