HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — While the United States women’s national team was earning an all-time best third World Cup title one day after its nation’s 239th birthday, the New York Cosmos were simultaneously pushing for a late celebration of their own just before 3,627 viewed some post-match fireworks at James M. Shuart Stadium on Saturday night.
And after a late goal pulled the Cosmos (0-1-1) even with the visiting Indy Eleven (0-1-1), it appeared that midfielder Sebastian Guenzatti had provided a dramatic game-winner, until goalkeeper Kristian Nicht (three saves), along with several of his teammates, made a quick beeline to the linesman in the corner of the field to Nicht’s left.
At the behest of Indy’s protesting, Guenzatti’s score was correctly reversed via an offside call which ultimately led to the same result that occurs whenever New York and Indy meet — another draw, the fifth in as many meetings between the two clubs, dating back to last year.
This time, the Cosmos and Eleven finished in a 1-1 tie for a third time, as even the types of goals were similar in nature, helped by a couple of fortunate ricochets, in the NASL Fall Season opener for each team.
Forward Wojciech Wojcik was the beneficiary of a lucky break when a clearing attempt by midfielder Jimmy Mulligan glanced off of the right leg of defender Cory Miller and bounced high in the air, and right onto the right foot of Wojcik, who quickly deposited the ball inside the low right post for the game’s first goal in the 26th minute.
“It seems like every time we play this team, something crazy happens and it leads to them getting a goal,” goalkeeper Jimmy Mauer (four saves) said. “Mulligan went to clear it, [Miller] stuck his leg out and the ball just went straight up in the air. From my end, I couldn’t tell where it was going to drop, outside the box [or] inside the box. I just tried to hold my line. It just ended up right on [Wojcik’s] foot and he hits it in the corner [of the net].”
Mauer noted the few previous times when New York (as it did on Sunday night, with 59 percent of the possession and a 12-7 edge in shots), controlled a match with Indy only to come away with a single point.
“It’s just tough,” he said. “We just dominate the game, they get one weird break, and all of a sudden, [they score].”
Yet, Mauer also was proud of his team’s poise in that situation.
“We didn’t panic, we just kept our composure, kept calm, played our game and we at least got the tie,” he added.
That was thanks largely to the late additions of former Real Madrid star and Cosmos leading scorer in 2015, (with four NASL goals) Raul (who turned 38 in June), and midfielder Walter Restrepo, who came on in the 58th minute and provided the equalizer 20 minutes later (two minutes after Raul subbed in), when he alertly stayed with a rebound off of his own shot.
A pass along the right wing by Guenzatti set Restrepo up in the right side of the box. His initial shot was stopped by Nicht, who slid to the ground. But as the ball came right back to Restrepo, he headed it into an empty net for his first goal as a Cosmo since joining New York in the offseason after NASL stints with Fort Lauderdale and San Antonio.
Praising his two helpful subs, head coach Giovanni Savarese said, “Raul, when he came into the game, it changed completely. We know what he’s capable of. We wanted to try to make sure that we rested [him] a little bit to get him one hundred percent fit, but there was a point at which we had to use quality, and he changed the game when he came in.”
On Restrepo, he added, “It’s difficult, sometimes, to find a player that has speed, that also has good technical abilities, and he has both… so far, he has given us a lot of good things, especially with the goal [tonight].”
Chiming in, Guenzatti said, “Walter brings another rhythm to the game. He’s a really fast player.”
Long before Restrepo evened the score, Mauer needed to come up big on multiple occasions to keep the Cosmos within striking distance.
Shortly after Wojcik’s tally, forward Duke Lacroix nearly doubled Indy’s lead on a header, but Mauer was able to leap and steer the attempt just over the crossbar in the 34th minute.
An Eleven break up the right wing ended with a close shot from the right side of the box in the 71st minute, but Mauer denied that try as well.
Just two minutes later, Lacroix had a great chance on an even better breakaway down the middle, as he briefly got past Mulligan. However, Maurer aggressively came out to meet Lacroix, which allowed Mulligan to close the gap on Lacroix and stop a dangerous Indy opportunity a few yards from the net.
“It was one of those where… it’s seems like it’s happening for a long time,” Mauer said “As a goalkeeper, you just try and stay big and if he was going to go around me, I just try and make him go wide, which luckily, I was able to do and he had to take a big touch to get around me. I held my space and then Mulligan was able to recover and we got out of it.”
Once New York drew even, Maurer’s work still wasn’t done, as a cross in front of the net was headed on target by defender Kyle Holland, who managed to sneak by the Cosmos’ defense in the 83rd minute. But Mauer was there to make another key stop.
One minute later, after the ball pinballed around in the box at the other end, a header by team captain and defender Carlos Mendes rolled slowly off of the outside of the right post.
Three minutes after that, head coach Tim Regan was sent off after having words with an official.
Regan barely made it off the field before midfielder Marcos Senna chipped an 88th minute ball into the box, which was headed slightly by Mendes and onto the foot of Guenzatti, who appeared to have scored a possible game-winner, which for a moment, was ruled a goal.
But as the Cosmos and their fans were celebrating, Nicht and several Indy players quickly sprinted to the corner to gripe about a call reversal that that after some conferring among the officials, was granted.
“From where I was, it looked a little bit like it was offside,” Savarese admitted. “That was my impression, at first, when I saw the play.”
However, Savarese also added, “It was very, very close. For me, what I think is difficult, is when the referees make a decision, it should be [upheld], especially when there is doubt. It has happened many times to us. Many times it has gone the other way, and we have taken it and we keep on going. So regardless of what I saw, I just don’t understand why the decision was changed.”
Guenzatti said, “At first, you never think it’s offsides, but they said it was, so it was the right call.”
Like Savarese, though, he questioned the decision to overturn the original call, even if he didn’t dwell on it.
“At first, they called a goal, but they took it back and they made the right call,” Guenzatti said. “If it’s offsides, it’s offsides. We can’t do anything [about it]. We’ve just got to move forward, and to the next game.”
New York had one last chance to grab its first victory against Indy, during the penultimate minute of stoppage time, in the 94th minute, but after Mulligan took a pass from Restrepo on the right wing, he rolled a crossing pass through the high part of the box that went just past the reach of midfielder Ruben Bover, who entered in the 69th minute.
Trying to figure out why his club has been unable to break through in the win column against the Eleven, Savarese candidly said, “I don’t know. There have been many games [against Indy] in which we’ve controllled [possession], we’ve played well, we’ve done a lot of good things… [but] you’ve got to give them credit. They keep on fighting… they’ve always given us a problem in regards to not allowing us to get a full three points.
“To [get a] point is a good thing, but you are always ambitious to try to get three points when you play at home.”
Despite saying that he, “Saw that there was a lot of space,” in his first game against Indy as a Cosmo, Restrepo, offered an explanation for the Eleven being able to keep up with New York.
“They’re an organized team,” he said. “It’s a team that has always made [us] work a little bit harder.”’
Although the Cosmos — who won an NASL-best sixth league title two years ago, and were the first team to qualify for the 2015 playoffs by earning a Spring Season title with an unblemished 5-0-5 record — have yet to beat an Indy franchise that joined the NASL as an expansion team last year, New York was happy to avoid its first league loss of the year.
“It’s always harder as you come [off of] an undefeated season, but we’re focused and willing to do it again this season, and hopefully, it [goes] our way [again],” Guenzatti said.
Maurer added, “That’s definitely our goal, is to stay undefeated and try to win the Fall [Season title] as well. So it’s kind of like both sides; it feels like two points lost, and at the same time, we are still undefeated and we keep moving forward.”
After a week off, the Cosmos will make their first-ever trip to Jacksonville, to face the Armada (which New York tied at home on June 13, to clinch its Spring Season championship), before taking another shot at trying to finally beat the Eleven, the following week, in Indy.