As with many professional soccer leagues around the world, the NASL has some what of a single table format. The difference with NASL is that they have two separate seasons, albeit they are each single table. Which makes the final week of the season usually the week in which champions are decided. The spring 2014 season will end up being just that way.
Saturday’s match was essential for the New York Cosmos when it came to their spring NASL title hopes. Unfortunately for Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese, he needed to start a lineup that excluded several key starters due to injuries. Marcos Senna, Diomar Diaz and Ayoze were held out of the match due to injury. During the first half, having some of his substitutes in the match proved to almost be costly. Jimmy Nealis was beaten on defense on a few occasions almost costing the Cosmos a goal. On offense, David Diosa seemed to be getting outmatched and was showing ineffectiveness up front for the Cosmos. Those performances as well as those from the rest of the team led Coach Savarese to proclaim the half as “the worst half of soccer he has seen in a while”. Fortunately for the Cosmos, the Strikers were unable to convert on several of their chances and the score was tied 0-0 at the half.
In the second half the Cosmos were a much more different team. They were attacking on offense from the start of the half and soon enough they would draw a penalty kick after Mads Stokkelien was fouled in the penalty area by Strikers Rafael Alves. With both Senna and Ayoze unavailable on this night, Stokkelien would step up to take the penalty kick. Even though Strikers goalie Oka Nikolov guessed correctly on the direction of the kick, Stokkelien still drilled it past him for the Cosmos first goal of the match. Shortly thereafter Joseph Nane had an opportunity from about 20 yards out from the right side of the goal and struck a shot that Jimmy Ockford deflected with his chest into the goal to make the score 2-0. Ockford who had just come into the match to make his first official NASL appearance for the Cosmos, had scored this past Wednesday for the Cosmos during their US Open Cup match. The goal in this case was credited to Nane giving him his first goal as member of the NY Cosmos.
Finally in the 75th minute of play Danny Szetela would connect from about 10 yards out for a goal after receiving a cross from Sebastian Guenzatti making the score 3-0.
This match was indeed a tale of two halves. One that was considered to be the epitome of how not to play soccer and one that was a testament to having a deep team. Without Senna, Diaz, and Ayoze, the Cosmos managed to secure a 3-0 victory over the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. With their victory the Cosmos kept pace with NASL leading, Minnesota United FC. Earlier in the evening Minnesota had won 2-1 over the Atlanta Silverbacks. The Cosmos find themselves three points behind Minnesota going into the final week of play for the Spring championship. The Cosmos have the luxury of having their game played on Sunday in week 9. With Minnesota playing their match on Saturday, the Cosmos will know where they stand come gametime Sunday evening. If all goes well for the Cosmos, Minnesota will drop their match to Tampa Bay and will set up a possible Spring season clincher against the Ottawa Fury. However if Minnesota either wins or draws, then they will clinch the Spring season. Even if Minnesota clinches, the Cosmos need to be mindful of every point in the standings. Two of the four post season spots are based on most points scored during both seasons combined. With the Cosmos already losing two matches this season, they cannot afford to drop any more points the rest of the year.