HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — The opponent was different, and the same type of pomp and circumstance that surrounded the New York Cosmos’ first match in 29 years, was understandably lacking on Saturday night.
But the results were very much the same.
Exactly three weeks after former Cosmos superstars, Pele, Carlos Alberto and Shep Messing were on hand to witness New York’s first match since 1984 — a 2-1 home win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, on August 3 — the Cosmos (2-1-1) took an interestingly similar path to beat the San Antonio Scorpions (0-4-0) by the same score, on Champions Night, at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium.
Against Fort Lauderdale, New York controlled the play for most of the opening half, with little to show for it, until scoring a late first-half goal. The Strikers later evened that match during the middle part of the second half, before the Cosmos barely pulled out a win on a dramatic stoppage time goal in the box, just before the match ended.
Sticking with the same script, New York kept the ball in the San Antonio end for much of the first half before finally taking a 1-0 lead on a goal by Venezuelan forward Diomar Diaz, in the 42nd minute. More than 35 minutes after being whistled for the game’s first yellow card (on a slide tackle barely over seven minutes into the contest), Diaz, after some nifty maneuvering past a couple of defenders on the left wing, attempted a pass into the box, but the ball was immediately knocked out. It was then alertly controlled by Diaz, before he blasted a strong shot into the upper left corner of the net, from just inside the edge of the box.
Just as play evened out after the Cosmos led the Strikers 1-0, the same happened for the Scorpions after they trailed by a goal, and got even after a nice cross from the right wing by defenseman Lyle Martin.
That pass drew goalkeeper Kyle Reynish — who also made three big stops in the second half — to the near post, leaving Polish forward Tomasz Zahorski all alone, in front of the middle of the net, where the striker used his midsection to deflect a game-tying score into an empty net in the 65th minute — 13 minutes after defenseman Greg Janicki picked up his second yellow card to leave San Antonio down a man over the final 42 minutes of the match.
Those moments were just a preamble to some more late-match drama, once again in injury time, once again in a thrilling conclusion that ended in New York’s favor.
Recalling his team’s win over Fort Lauderdale, head coach Giovanni Savarese noted the eerie similarities — and some differences — in the Cosmos’ second victory in as many home matches.
“In some ways, [it was the same], definitely because of the way the game went,” he said. “[We were] ahead in the game, first, they tied, and then with us winning in the last seconds. So, it was a little bit similar in that way, but the game was different. They created chances. Our goalkeeper was able to be big today in two or three [key] situations to keep us [in the game], and then we also created more opportunities [than against Fort Lauderdale]. We found more empty spaces behind the other team… but the score was the same and the drama at the end was the same.”
It certainly was.
Despite outshooting San Antonio 22-7 (including 16-4 in the second half), having nine of the game’s 10 corner kicks, and the extra man for most of the action after halftime, New York, much as it did to beat Fort Lauderdale, needed one last score to turn what seemed to be a sure draw into an electrifying win.
Italian striker Alessandro Noselli, who had a game-high-tying four shots, and who scored the game-winner against the Strikers, was curiously subbed out of the game in the 89th minute, right after a nice run into the box that nearly ended with a good scoring opportunity.
However, a Savarese hunch on a different substitution paid off enormously.
Although Diaz netted the game’s first goal, he was pulled for fellow forward, Henry Lopez, in the 71st minute.
After four minutes of stoppage time were added to the end of regulation, Lopez responded in the 92nd minute by deftly heading a ball from right in front of the penalty kick marker, into the low left corner of the net on one bounce, after a crossing pass into the box from the right wing by midfielder Danny Szetela, a header by a Scorpions defender, and a header from the left of the box by veteran midfielder Marcos Senna.
Lopez’s goal made up for a pair of earlier missed chances, when goalkeeper Pat Hannignan (seven saves) made good stops, first on a sliding Lopez header in the box, in the 78th minute, and then on Lopez strike from about 12 yards away, 11 minutes later.
Hannigan also deflected another close-range header over the crossbar, as he matched Reynish’s solid efforts to keep the match close.
While the 6,852 fans (who were handed green “This Is Cosmos Country” t-shirts) in attendance were far less than the sellout crowd of 11,929 fans who came to the Cosmos’ season opener, those who showed up saw New York move into sole possession of second place in the NASL, with seven points. The Cosmos trail first-place Carolina by three points, while last-place San Antonio remains the only club in the eight-team league without a point.
New York will play next in Edmonton (1-2-1) on Sunday, September 1, at 4 p.m. ET.
All statistics and other game information provided by the New York Cosmos’ media relations staff. All quotes courtesy of Jonathan Wagner, while covering the San Antonio Scorpions-New York Cosmos match for New York Sports Day on August 24, 2013. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanJWagner.