Cosmos stay atop standings, beat Minnesota, 1-0

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Paulo Mendes scored his second goal in as many matches to lift the New York Cosmos to a hard-fought 1-0 win over Minnesota United FC at NSC Stadium in Blaine, Minn.

The Cosmos, who extended their winning streak to four straight games, had their best scoring chance of the first half when captain Carlos Mendes latched onto a Marcos Senna free kick at the far post in the 24th minute, but the defender’s header was off the mark.

Minnesota nearly opened the scoring in the 37th minute, but Aaron Pitchkolan headed the ball over the bar from eight yards out following a corner kick.

The Cosmos, who sit atop the North American Soccer League Fall season standings, broke the scoreless draw in the 53rd minute when midfielder Mendes found space in the box and blasted the ball into the roof of the net.

Cosmos goalkeeper Kyle Reynish made sure Mendes’ goal held up, coming off his line to save the ball at the feet of Mike Ambersley four minutes later.

Paulo Mendes nearly headed home a second goal in the 65th minute, but Minnesota goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel robbed him with a point-blank save.

Senna tried to add to the Cosmos’ lead, but his attempt from 25 yards out in the 77th minute went just wide of the net.

Minnesota nearly added a dramatic equalizer in the second minute of second-half stoppage time, but Pablo Campos’ chip sailed over Reynish’s crossbar. Reynish made five saves in the match to earn his fourth clean sheet of the season and his second consecutive shutout away from home.

“It was definitely a big win because we played against a very good team,” said Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese.  “They created many difficulties for us especially in the second half.  Our team was very compact and we were able to pull out a very important win.  Overall, we beat a very good team today.

“I have to especially give a lot of credit to Reynish, who I think came up very, very big today to show that he’s a great goalkeeper.”

This is the second regular season meeting between the sides with the Cosmos also pulling out a 1-0 victory at home on Sept. 14 on a goal by Sebastian Guenzatti.

“I think definitely it shows a mature team,” Savarese said. “I think our guys did very well today because they were able to be very compact, make it difficult for the Minnesota team to find space. They tried a lot of times to stretch us out, but our guys were able to close the spaces very well and we were able to go forward and be dangerous and find a goal that put us in a very good position to win the game.”

The Cosmos are now seven points clear of Minnesota in the table, extending its lead with 21 points on the season and leaving United tied with three other teams with 14 points.

The Cosmos return to Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University on Oct. 12 to take on the Carolina Railhawks, who handed the Cosmos a 3-0 loss when the teams met on Aug. 17. Tickets for the game are available at nycosmos.com/tickets.

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