By Cesar Trelles – 11/7/14
A tale Of Two Seasons Defined By Defense.
The New York Cosmos come into San Antonio this weekend with hopes to avenge the three losses that they have suffered at the hands of the 2014 NASL Fall Champion San Antonio Scorpions. The Scorpions of course clinched their fall season title last weekend against the Cosmos in the final match of the fall season. For ninety plus minutes the Cosmos did something they had not done for most of the fall season – they played defense. It is that defense that will prove whether or not the Cosmos will move onto the Soccer Bowl or whether this Saturday will be their last match of the 2014 NASL season.
The fall season has been an alarmingly different season for the Cosmos when it comes to defense. In the spring campaign, the Cosmos resumed the reputation that they earned last year as being a stingy team when it came to giving up goals. In the spring, the Cosmos only gave up three goals the entire season. Unfortunately for them, two of those three goals would hand them their only two losses as they would lose those matches 1-0. Those two losses were also enough to allow Minnesota United to capture the spring championship. Fortunately for the Cosmos, that same stingy defense allowed them to rack up 19 points in the spring season which would prove to be beneficial in clinching their playoff spot.
In the fall season however, we saw an entirely different performance from the Cosmos defense. The Cosmos went from giving up three goals in nine matches in the spring (0.3 goals per match) to giving up 24 goals in eighteen matches in the fall season (1.3 goals per match). In the fall season, the Scorpions allowed the fewest goals giving up only fifteen of them. Some of this lackluster performance can be blamed on injuries to their back line. Roversio , who is still questionable for Saturday’s match, has missed a lot of matches in the fall season. Jimmy Ockford has had to miss several weeks due to some concussions as well as other injuries. Aside from those two players, a majority of the defense has remained healthy and will need to step up this weekend if they are to get a positive result against the Scorpions. Looming in the background against the Cosmos is San Antonio’s performance against the Cosmos. In 2014 the Scorpions have outscored the Cosmos 5-1 in their three matches, with all three results going to the Scorpions.
Not all can be seen in a negative light however for the Cosmos defense. As highlighted earlier, the team seemed to perform well defensively last Saturday when they battled a full Scorpions squad to a 0-0 draw until injury time in the second half. If it wasn’t for a scramble off a corner kick that allowed the Scorpions to net their only goal, one could argue that a Cosmos “B” squad was able to keep a Scorpions “A” squad to a scoreless draw. Of note, the Cosmos did not play Ayoze, Hunter Freeman or Carlos Mendes last week, all of whom are vital components of the Cosmos defense. Head coach Giovanni Savarese gave them, as well as several other starters, a much needed week off last week against the Scorpions. For Mendes, last Saturday’s day off made that two matches in a row where he was kept out of the lineup as he served his one match suspension the prior week when the Cosmos played the Rowdies for his red card against Minnesota United. Hunter Gorskie, who did play against the Scorpions last week, served as the captain in the absence of Carlos Mendes and had a strong match defensively. It is likely that he will start at center back along with Mendes while Freemen and Ayoze starting start at right and left back respectively.
Should the Cosmos defense step up and have a strong performance, it only takes one goal from the offense to allow them to defeat the Scorpions and advance to the Soccer Bowl. Cosmos fans only need to remind themselves of the 2013 Soccer Bowl to remember that a strong defense can keep the opposition off of the scoreboard, especially when you have offensive threats like Marcos Senna. Although Senna was the center of a post-match incident two weeks ago at home against Tampa Bay, the NASL determined this week that he would be available for Saturday’s post season match against the Scorpions. Senna’s discipline, leadership and offense will undoubtedly be needed Saturday against the Scorpions if the Cosmos are to score goals against San Antonio’s stingy defense.
Which Cosmos defense will show up this Saturday – the fall version of the defense or the spring version? The fate of Cosmos Country will likely be determined once this question is answered.
#2 San Antonio Scorpions v. #3 New York Cosmos
Saturday, Nov. 8 at 8:30 p.m.
Toyota Field in San Antonio. Broadcast on One World Sports, NASL Live and ESPN3. Official Viewing Party at Smithfield Hall in NYC