A second-half goal by former Spain international Marcos Senna gave the New York Cosmos a 1-0 win and the NASL Soccer Bowl championship in their first year in the league.
The rebooted Cosmos, who won the league’s fall title, captured the championship by beating the spring champion Atlanta Silverbacks at Silverbacks Park in front of 7,211 fans. They were cheered on by a noisy section of partisan traveling Cosmos faithful.
The championship is the sixth NASL title in the history of the club, following on from its success during the 1970s and 80s in the former version of the NASL.
“We didn’t really know each other, and then coming together and winning a championship, that’s what it’s all about,” said team captain Carlos Mendes, a Mineola native out of The Wheatley School. “For us, this is what you play for. Hopefully we’ll write a new future now and continue to win championships.”
After dominating the attack in the first half, the Cosmos broke through in the 50th minute. Ayoze took a free kick from 25 yards out that was cleared by an Atlanta defender. The ball fell to Senna who struck a long-range shot from the right side into the opposite upper 90.
“It’s difficult for me to say exactly the goal the way it went, “ said Senna. “What I can say is that it was a moment of happiness.”
In the fifth minute, Cosmos midfielder Diomar Diaz broke into the box, but had the ball tackled away before he was able to get a shot off.
Atlanta got its first chance in the 10th minute when Borfor Carr made a run down the right side, sending the ball into the box, but it was cleared for a corner kick that New York also successfully defended.
Brad Stisser gave NASL Golden Glove winner Kyle Renish his first test of the game in the 13th minute, taking a shot from the right that the New York keeper easily handled.
Striker Stefan Dimitrov forced Atlanta goalkeeper Joe Nasco to make a key save in the 17th minute, taking a shot that was heading toward the left post before the Atlanta keeper dove to cover it up. Two minutes later, Cosmos defender Hunter Freeman took a corner kick from the near side, but sent his effort sailing across the area and out.
Diaz came close twice in a one-minute span, first putting a shot wide in the 21st minute, then getting under a cross from Carlos Mendes and again sending wide.
Sebastian Guenzatti had the Cosmos’ best chance in the 28th minute when Freeman put a cross into the box. The Cosmos forward had time to settle the ball before shooting, but instead tried to slam a shot, sending it up over the net.
A minute later, Senna took a free kick from just above the penalty area, curling it toward the lower left corner, but Nasco was able to dive and cover it up.
New York continued to put pressure on the Atlanta defense and in the 35th minute when Ayoze played a masterful ball into the area. Cosmos midfielder Paulo Mendes got a touch on it, but could not redirect it into the net.
After going down a goal early in the second half, Atlanta began to push the attack, and the Cosmos did well to absorb the pressure to hold onto the lead.
Danny Barrera instigated an attack on the left side in the 61st minute, putting a ball across the face of the goal, but the Cosmos cleared it out for a corner, which they also successfully defended. A minute later, Mike Randolph’s cross into the box was headed high by Atlanta forward Pedro Mendes.
In the 78th minute, Atlanta’s Shane Maroney barreled his way into the goal box, but Reynish threw himself at the ball to block the shot.
“It’s an exciting day for sure, the New York Cosmos are back,” said coach Giovanni Savarese. “I’m very proud of the players because they accomplished great things. Tonight, winning a championship and bringing a championship back to New York is a proud moment for us.”
The 7,211 attendance set a new record for NASL Soccer Bowl since the NASL returned in 2011.