American Soccer and its long history earned yet another precedent in the 102nd running of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The New York Cosmos of the NASL met New York City Football Club of the MLS for the first time. With this exciting fourth round matchup, Spanish legends Raul (Cosmos) and David Villa (NYCFC) were bound to face off. Unfortunately for the fans, the anticipated matchup did not materialize because NYCFC coach, Jason Kreis kept Villa off the field. Despite Villa’s lack of appearance, Raul played without little hesitation.
The highly anticipated East River Derby began as 11,446 fans packed Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University. Fans of both teams were boisterous from the opening whistle.
The Cosmos found themselves trailing by two goals as the second half progressed. But little did the fans know, they would see one of the most exciting finishes on American soil so far this year.
The Cosmos were long overdue for a goal. Their many missed chances throughout the game culminated midway through the second half. The 65th minute arrived and the Cosmos finally claimed their opportunity when Leonardo Fernandez found the back of the net. But the chances were looking rather bleak for the Cosmos, who were down 2-1 as stoppage time approached. The Cosmos pressured the defense of NYCFC until Lucky Mkosana uplifted the spirits of Cosmos fans when he scored during stoppage time and sent the game into extra time.
Early in the first extra time period, Mkosana continued to pressure NYCFC when he hit the post.
But NYCFC had a great chance in the 97th minute when Cosmos Hunter Freeman sent NYCFC Andrew Jacobson to the penalty spot. Pedro Alvarez took the kick for NYCFC and stung the ball off the crossbar and failed to convert.
When extra time expired and penalty kicks arrived, the fans were engaged and on their feet. The Cosmos were down 3-2, entering the fifth and final round of kicks. Miraculously, Jimmy Maurer saved Patrick Mullin’s shot. Subsequently, Adam Moffat stepped up to the spot for the Cosmos with the chance to force a sixth round of penalty kicks and he did just that.
Maurer saved yet another shot in the sixth round and Hunter Gorskie converted the winning penalty kick, sending the Cosmos through to the fifth round of the U.S. Open Cup. Celebration ensued from the Cosmos supporters, as the NYCFC supporters quietly exited in disbelief.
Remarkably, Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer saved three penalty kicks, in essence saving the game for the Cosmos. When asked if he thinks the New York Cosmos are the best team in New York, Maurer said: “On the run, we’re 2-0 against New York Opponents. We haven’t lost yet, so hopefully we can keep it going.” Maurer made it clear that he trusts his teammates and looks forward to the next round.
When speaking about the impact of the game, Hunter Gorskie, who had the game winning penalty kick, said: “There’s a big emphasis on the Open Cup and establishing ourselves as a global brand. The brand has already been built with the Cosmos of old; we’re just trying to maintain that legacy. The goal is to win the Open Cup, get into CONCACAF (Champions League) and really compete on an international level.’’
The Cosmos now await their Round of 16 matchup with the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena for yet another New York Derby. The Cosmos defeated the Red Bulls, 3-0, in the fourth round of their 2014 U.S. Open Cup run and aim to do nothing less this year.
Are the Cosmos the best team in New York? I’ll leave that up to you to find out.