Midway through the NASL fall season, the New York Cosmos – in their first season since the 1980s – are atop the league standings.
With a 1-0 win over visiting Minnesota United on Saturday night at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium, the Cosmos moved to 3-3-1 on the season and ahead of the Tampa Bay Rowdies for first place with 12 points.
The Cosmos’ first-place standing could be short-lived, as the Fort Lauderdale Strikers will take the league’s top spot with a win over FC Edmonton on Sunday. But the Cosmos are happy, but not satisfied, to be where they are.
“We find ourselves in a good situation,” Cosmos coach Gio Savarese said. “There are still seven more games to play, and we still have to work very hard on every match, but I think the effort in the players has been tremendous so far.”
Sebastian Guenzatti headed home a Hunter Freeman cross in the 77th minute for the game’s only goal. It was Guenzatti’s first goal of the season, and it came at after both teams struggled to create scoring opportunities in a physical, closely contested match played in front of 6,081 fans.
“I played it to Hunter, and Hunter, like always, gave me a beautiful ball,” Guenzatti said. “It landed right at my head. I had nothing to do except put it away.”
That goal didn’t end the drama, though. Shortly after the Cosmos went up 1-0, Freeman went cleats up on a slide tackle and was sent off by the referee. The Cosmos then held off an aggressive Minnesota United attack with just ten men.
Both Savarese and Freeman questioned the call, although Savarese declined to comment on the play after the game.
Freeman, however, openly disagreed with the ruling.
“If you watch the replay, I don’t even touch the guy,” Freeman said. “Was it the cleanest of tackles? No. But I got all the ball and I didn’t even touch him. Those guys are there to make a decision and you hope they make the right ones, but I don’t think that’s a red card.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about my assist or the red card, it’s about the three points that we got.”
Minnesota nearly took the lead in stoppage time when midfielder Floyd Franks received a long ball in the box, but his attempt sailed just high of the crossbar. The Cosmos received another scare in the 83rd minute, when Minnesota’s Pablo Campos’ nipped the ball toward the net before the New York’s Roversio cleared it inches from the goal line.
The Cosmos had a few scoring chances, most notably in the 26th minute when Satoru Kashiwade lobbed a header that Minnesota’s Matt Van Oekel stopped right at the goal line.
But as it’s gone lately, the Cosmos – who have scored just seven goals in seven games this season – needed every goal.
“I felt that we tried the beginning to come out and play as an offensive-minded team, but sometimes the game is going to obligate you to do different things,” Savarese said.
While every goal may be “precious cargo,” as Freeman put it, the Cosmos can’t complain about the result: A win against a strong Minnesota United club and first place in the NASL.
Complete Match Report (Box Score)