By Cosmos News Service
HEMPSTEAD, NY (June 17, 2015) – In a front of a crowd of 11,446 and in a game full of dramatic twists and turns, the New York Cosmos came away victorious in the inaugural East River Derby against MLS side New York City FC. The Cosmos erased a two-goal deficit in the second half before defeating New York City FC 4-3 in penalty kicks in their U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round tie to remain undefeated in competitive play in 2015.
“The guys performed,” said Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese after the match. “We found the two goals and at the end. The thing I’m most proud of is that we kept on fighting.”
The Cosmos saw most of the possession and scoring chances in the opening minutes of the game. Raúl came close to putting his name on the score sheet in the 13th minute, but his shot from winger Walter Restrepo‘s cross went just wide off the outside netting.
New York City FC would take the lead in the 24th minute through an acrobatic effort from striker Kwadwo Poku. RJ Allen’s cross into the box popped up in the air, and with his back to goal, Poku connected with an overhead kick to put the visitors in front 1-0. The goal came against the run of play and was NYCFC’s first shot attempt of the match.
NYCFC would continue to press but failed to register another shot on goal as they took a 1-0 lead into the break.
Although trailing, Savarese said the team was relaxed in the locker room and confident heading into the second half.
“After the talk at halftime the team came into it with a different mentality,” Savarese said. “We believed that we were going to be able to win the game.”
But it was NYCFC that would extend its lead with Poku scoring his second of the night in the 57th minute, collecting a ball from Pablo Alvarez and firing past Jimmy Maurer. Alvarez’s pass looked to have found Poku in an offside position but the linesman’s flag stayed down.
The Cosmos would make a key second-half change when Leo Fernandes came on as a substitute in the 63rd minute to replace Sebastian Guenzatti, and the Brazilian midfielder made an immediate impact for the Cosmos. Just two minutes into his shift, Fernandes connected on a cross from Hunter Freeman to cut NYCFC’s lead to one. Freeman’s cross was flicked on by Lucky Mkosana in the box. Fernandes got ahead of his marker and beat NYCFC goalkeeper Eirik Johansen in goal.
With less than 10 minutes to play goalkeeper Maurer kept the Cosmos alive, making a huge one-on-one save on Mehdi Ballouchy, who took a ball from Poku and moved in on goal all alone. Maurer threw out his leg to deflect the shot wide.
As the clock neared full time it looked like the Cosmos’ run in the U.S. Open Cup was over, but Mkosana tallied in the 90th minute to level the score at two. Once again it was Freeman with a cross from the right wing, as Mkosana took one touch to settle and another to find the back of the net.
Maurer put in an Emirates Cosmos Man of the Match performance, but even he was impressed with the strong play from Mkosana.
“Lucky’s a monster, man,” Maurer said. “He’s so fast, so strong, but he’s such a good player too. He holds the ball for us; he gives us outlets. Those assists, those goals – he’s been killing it. There’s not enough you can say about him.”
Mkosana nearly put the Cosmos ahead just a minute into extra time, with his shot beating Johansen low only to hit off the post, as Restrepo blasted the rebound over the net. A few minutes later it was Mkosana again getting a shot off, but Johansen was there to make a strong save for the visitors.
Despite the Cosmos’ early pressure, it was NYCFC who could have taken the lead in extra time when Patrick Mullins was pulled down by Freeman in the box. The referee pointed to the penalty spot and Alvarez stepped up for the kick, but his shot rattled off the crossbar to keep things all square at two in the 98th minute.
Maurer came up huge again in the second period of extra time, making a diving stop on Ned Grabavoy. As Maurer’s save deflected across the box, Fernandes got his body in front of the rebound to make sure the match went to penalty kicks.
Heading into the penalty shootout, Maurer said he was rather confident and excited.
“You just have to go with your gut whichever way that you’re feeling, and you just push 100 percent,” Maurer said. “Anytime as a goalkeeper you get to PKs, you’re just excited. It’s finally a chance to be the hero.”
And a hero he was. After Chris Wingert and Mads Stokkelien traded goals to open the penalty kicks, both Maurer and Johansen made big stops to keep the penalty score 1-1. Ballouchy scored for NYCFC and Fernandes fired his shot over the net, as the visitors took a 2-1 lead.
Mix Diskerud converted to put NYCFC ahead 3-1, before Mkosana pulled one back for the Cosmos.
Maurer made another huge save on Mullins to keep the match going, and Adam Moffat found the back of the net to level the score 3-3 in penalties after five shooters aside.
Maurer’s epic night continued as he made his third save of the shootout, stoning Shay Facey on NYCFC’s sixth kick. Hunter Gorskie then stepped up to the spot and buried his shot, sending the Cosmos into the fifth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
After defeating the New York Red Bulls last year in the Open Cup and now beating New York City FC, Coach Savarese believes the Cosmos are a threat every time they step on the pitch, no matter the opposition.
“I think the most important thing is that they take us seriously,” Savarese said. “They know that we are capable of big things, and that we can compete with anyone.”
In the Round of 16, the Cosmos could potentially face another Major League Soccer side. The date and location of that match will be announced at Thursday’s U.S. Open Cup draw.