The New York Cosmos played their way by Rayo OKC in their 1–0 win Saturday night at Shuart Stadium to remain in contention for the NASL Spring Season title.
Danny Szetela’s first goal of the season was the Cosmos’ reward for controlling the play in a match they needed to collect all three points. The Cosmos would hold 75 percent of the possession and complete three times as many passes as Rayo OKC.
“I think it was an important and deserved win for us for what we put into the game,” Cosmos Head Coach Giovanni Savarese said. “I thought we had a lot of good moments in the first half and we kept on battling. They were tough and very physical but we did a lot of good things.”
The Cosmos started Rubén Bover in midfield to replace the injured Niko Kranjčar. Bover played the full match and completed the most passes out of any player. Savarese said he was pleased with his midfield play throughout the match.
“We trust every player,” Savarese said. “Bover, we know what he is capable of doing. He has the quality and the engine. Szetela is a little bit more stationary with some moments where he gives us good balance. I thought they worked out very well and they did the same thing last week.”
The Cosmos’ midfield combined well with each other and got their wide players involved in the attack. Yohandry Orozco had three shots in 67 minutes of action, including one from 25 yards that forced a diving save from Daniel Fernandes.
Sebastián Guenzatti assisted on Szetela’s goal but Fernandes stopped two of his chances to pad the Cosmos’ lead late in the second half. Guenzatti said the Cosmos attack needed to remain patient.
“First half we got a little desperate because we couldn’t get in their box,” Guenzatti said. “When we came in at halftime, Gio talked to us and told us to keep our heads and calm down because the balls were going to come to us; and they did at the end.”
The Cosmos completed 518 passes with 87 percent accuracy. Their successful passing allowed them to dictate the tempo throughout the match. But Szetela’s goal, his first after a spring plagued by injury, was the vital breakthrough.
“It feels great, especially being the winning goal,” Szetela said. “For me, goals are always important and you always want to score but it’s important that you’re on the field doing the best you can to help your team win.”
The win keeps the Cosmos atop the Spring Season table with 18 points. They lead Indy Eleven and FC Edmonton by four points. Though those teams each have a game in hand on New York, the Cosmos can clinch the Spring Season title with a win at Fort Lauderdale next Saturday.
Before that, however, is a U.S. Open Cup match Wednesday, June 1, against Jersey Express of the PDL. Savarese said he may need to balance his squad for both ties.
“Right now we have to see how the guys are feeling,” Savarese said. “We have a lot of injuries and not many players available. We had 16 players in total for today so we have to see who we have available and who’s ready.”
The Cosmos conclude the Spring Season next Saturday at the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.