Two long time NASL foes renewed their rivalry Saturday night and the New York Cosmos grabbed a much needed three points in the race for the playoffs.
In beating the visiting Tampa Bay Rowdies 3-2 at Shuart Stadium, New York moved two points behind league leading Indy Eleven in the race for first place in the fall season. They also trail Indy by two points for the overall league lead when the seasons are combined.
“This is a group that is capable of doing amazing things,” said Giovanni Savarese, Cosmos head coach. “We battled and had a tremendous win, showing a lot of character to the opponent.”
New York found themselves down early on, as Rowdies’ English midfielder Joe Cole scored off a cross from PC to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead in the 11th minute. Just three minutes later, the Brazilian midfielder would be on the receiving end of a cross, as PC was found unmarked by Carlos Preciado to push Tampa Bay’s lead to two.
Physical play would mark the ensuing 23 minutes as four yellow cards were issued to the Rowdies’ Juan Guerra and Tamika Mkandawire and the Cosmos’ Ayoze and Jimmy Mulligan.
In the 37th minute, Andres Flores drew a foul from Guerra in the Tampa Bay box and a penalty kick was awarded to the Cosmos. Rowdies keeper Matt Pickens dove to his right on the penalty kick attempt from Adam Moffat, but Moffat went the other way as he cut the deficit to one.
Following the penalty kick goal, the Cosmos demonstrated energy in trying to find an equalizer, closing out the first half with aggressive play and starting out the second half with the same intensity. The turning point of the match would be found in the 62nd minute.
Lucky Mkosana received a pass and was starting to make a run into Tampa Bay’s box, but was brought down by Guerra as he crossed the line. The Venezuelan midfielder was called for another foul that resulted in a penalty and Moffat converted again to equalize the match at 2-2.
In the 65th minute, Tampa Bay defender Darnell King put a hard challenge from behind on a Moffat possession around midfield. The two would push and shove each other, which resulted in both teams congregating near the spot of the foul, exchanging words and more shoves. When the dust settled, King and Moffat earned red cards and yellow cards were issued to the Rowdies’ Neill Collins and the Cosmos’ Yasmani Duk.
Both teams would find themselves each a man down as play resumed roughly six minutes after the fracas. The fourth official announced there would be seven minutes of stoppage time, and the Cosmos would find their match winner two minutes in.
Sebastian Guenzatti played a Danny Szetela cross and started his run further into Rowdies territory. Guenzatti would then pass it off to Flores, who found an open David Diosa, who knocked in the stoppage time goal to give the Cosmos a late 3-2 lead.
“I was just out wide, but I came in because I knew a cross was going to come,” Diosa said as he described his goal. “It was a great pass by Guenzatti to Flores, and all I thought was go near post, I got there, and I scored.”
Tampa Bay would not go down easy as midfielder Michael Nanchoff looked to have found a late equalizer in the eighth minute of stoppage time, but Cosmos defender Jimmy Mulligan was there to protect his line and came up with the huge goal line save and sealed the thrilling 3-2 victory.
“I do it all the time in practice,” Mulligan said of his big play. “Jimmy [Maurer] knows that he’ll cover the near post and I’ll take the back post. I knew [Nanchoff] was probably going to curl toward the back post, so I dropped and got to the right place at the right time and I cleared it out.”
“Today, we all worked together to get a win,” Savarese said. “It came very late, but for us, it was well deserved.”
The Cosmos next match will be on August 20 as they will play their first away match against NASL expansion-side Puerto Rico FC. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET from Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium in Bayamón, Puerto Rico.