Cosmos remain unbeaten with draw

The Island Now

The New York Cosmos fell behind Minnesota in the eighth minute, and 82 minutes later it looked as if they may leave NSC Stadium with their first loss of the NASL Season. But an inch-perfect long ball from midfielder Andrés Flores and a clinical finish from Raúl drew New York even in the 90th minute of the match, and eventually secured the Cosmos a point on the road.

“Raúl is a very clever player,” Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said of the Spanish football legend after the match, “[He] found space very well going against the back four and pushing forward. Flores delivered an excellent ball – a perfect ball I would say – to his chest.

“Most players wouldn’t be able to bring it down the way [Raúl] did. It showed the quality of a great player. He was able to finish, and this was a very important point for us.”

The Loons adopted an aggressive posture early in the game, pressing high on the Cosmos back line. It paid off when a free kick from right back Kevin Venagas found forward Pablo Campos, who headed past Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer in the eighth minute to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. Upon replay it looked as if a handball penalty could’ve been called on Campos, but the goal stood.

The Cosmos first real chance came six minutes later. Fullback Ayoze cut inside from the left wing and picked out striker Lucky Mkosana, who juked right and fired a low ball that curved toward the right post. His attempt was wide of Minnesota goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock’s goal.

Another free kick from Venegas, this one deep in first half stoppage time, nearly gave United a two-goal advantage heading into the break. Central defender Tiago Calvano’s attempt at goal was high of the crossbar.

“They were strong in the first half,” Savarese said of the home side. “We came out well in the second half. I think this was a fair result.”

New York made all three of its allotted substitutions in the second half, opting for more offensive firepower to find a late equalizer. Flores, who replaced Adam Moffat in the 79th minute, proved the spark the Cosmos needed. His service to Raúl from just outside center circle sailed over the head of a diving Cristiano Dias. From there the longtime Real Madrid captain gracefully controlled the ball and guided it past Ndjock.

“That was an unbelievable ball from Flores,” said Cosmos captain Carlos Mendes. He was a bright spot on New York’s back line, holding 2014 NASL Golden Ball winner Miguel Ibarra in check on a few occasions. “Then it was great control from Raúl and an equally great finish.”

Mendes said a result like this is a testament to the team’s mental strength. On May 16 the Cosmos snatched a point on the road from Carolina, with Flores netting a 97th-minute goal to make it 2-2.

“We’re confident,” said Mendes of his team. “We keep playing, keep pressing. We fight for 90 minutes – sometimes more – and show a high level of maturity. We came out in the second half of this game with the right attitude.”

With a draw the Cosmos move to 5-4-0 (WDL) on the year and one step closer to their first Spring Season championship.  Jacksonville Armada FC’s 4-0 loss to the Carolina RailHawks on Saturday night means only Minnesota and the Tampa Bay Rowdies can catch the Cosmos.

The result also helped New York remain unbeaten against United FC in the all-time series (3-3-0). The last time Minnesota and New York met at NSC Stadium, both sides came away with a point in a scoreless draw on October 18, 2014.

The Cosmos’ final Spring Season game is Saturday, June 13 against Jacksonville Armada FC. They have a bye next weekend, but traveled to Havana, Cuba for a historic friendly against the Cuban National Team on June 2, winning 4-1.

“I felt like the atmosphere from the [Cuban] fans was phenomenal,” Mkosana said.” Everyone was just trying to support us wherever we went and I think that was big for us today.”

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