Cosmos Advance To NASL Championship Game
In a tightly contested game, the New York Cosmos used their last kick to defeat Miami FC 6-5 in a penalty shootout (0-0) in The Championship semifinal at Riccardo Silva Stadium on Sunday night.
With the win, the Cosmos will play The Championship Final for the third straight season, this time against the San Francisco Deltas at Kezar Stadium.
â€śIâ€™m very proud of our players in the way they conducted themselves today,â€ť said Cosmos Head Coach and Sporting Director Giovanni Savarese.
After making five saves over 120 minutes of scoreless play, Cosmos goalkeeper, Jimmy Maurer, made two more in the shootout to give the Cosmos the thrilling victory.
â€śI love penalty kicks. I felt like I got a really good jump on the two that I saved,â€ť Maurer said. â€śI was able to pick up where they were going.â€ť
In the shootout, Miami FCâ€™s first shooter, Michel, was stopped as Maurer guessed the correct side. The next four shooters for each team scored, giving the Cosmos a chance to win, but Juan Guerra was denied by Miami goalkeeper, Daniel Vega. Former Cosmos defender, Hunter Freeman, put Miami in front with the next kick, but Lucky Mkosana extended the game by scoring for New York.
Maurer came up huge in the shootoutâ€™s seventh round, diving to deny Mason Trafford. With a chance to end it, Eugene Starikov made up for his earlier post by burying the winner past Vega.
From the start, it appeared the game would be evenly played throughout.
A scoreless first half saw chances come few and far between on both ends, with only good defense keeping the ball out of the net.
While the Cosmos offense couldnâ€™t produce a shot on target in the first 45â€™, Miami FC got a couple good attempts at goal, the best of which coming late in the half.
In the 44th minute, Miami midfielder, Dylan Mares, got the ball off a turnover and went one on one in the box against Maurer. Looking for the gameâ€™s first goal, Maresâ€™ shot was deflected by Maurer, and Carlos Mendes came back to clear the ball out of the box and deny the attack.
The second half proved to be similar, with both sides getting chances with no results. In the 57th minute, AndrĂ©s Flores fired from long range, but Miami goalkeeper, Vega, was up to the task and made the save. Four minutes later, Emmanuel Ledesmaâ€™ strike from distance just rolled wide of the post as the Cosmos increased the pressure.
In the 74th minute, NASL Golden Boot winner, StĂ©fano Pinho, found space alone for a shot, but Maurer made another tremendous save to keep the highest scoring team in the Regular Season off the board.
As time wound down, the Cosmos got a couple final chances to break through in regulation. Vega stopped Eric Calvilloâ€™s blast in the first minute of stoppage time. In the final minute, a Cosmos free kick was cleared, sending the game to extra time.
In the 98th minute, Starikovâ€™s shot from outside the box eluded Vegaâ€™s dive, but hit hard off the far post and bounced out for a corner kick.
Five minutes later, Blake Smith got open in the box for a shot on Maurer, but the Cosmos goalkeeper was able to make the stop, cover the ball, and get the clearance as the first half of extra time ended without a goal.
The second half of stoppage time saw more shots toward both goals, but nothing close until the final whistle.
In the shootout, the Cosmos got goals from Ayoze, Danny Szetela, Calvillo, Pablo VranjicĂˇn, Mkosana, and Starikov, to end Miami FCâ€™s record-setting season.
Now, the Cosmos will play for their fourth NASL title in five seasons next weekend with a road match at San Francisco. Savarese will look to become the first coach in NASL history to lead his team to three straight championships.
â€śWe have to focus on the next game. The season is not over yet,â€ť Savarese said. â€śWe have to continue to work.â€ť
New York will travel to San Francisco to square off with the Deltas at Kezar Stadium on Sunday, November 12 at 8:00 pm, ET. The game will be nationally-televised on beIN SPORTS (English), beIN SPORTS en EspaĂ±ol (Spanish), and beIN SPORTS CONNECT (Digital).