New York Cosmos 2-0 Tampa Bay Rowdies
54’ – Raul (NYC); Assisted by Ruben Bover
58’ – Seba Guenzatti (NYC); Assisted by Walter Restrepo
The Cosmos entered the match knowing they could walk away with the top seed for the Championship. With the Fury resting many of their starters versus Atlanta and earning a 1-1 draw, only a win by two or more goals would give the Cosmos the desired position and an opportunity to host the Soccer Bowl if they won their semifinal.
The Rowdies’ need was much simpler. With the Strikers playing the next day, only a win would guarantee them a spot in the Championship. While possible that a draw or even a loss might allow them to sneak into the last playoff spot, any result by the Strikers would extend their offseason by another two weeks. With this on the line, a strong battle was expected.
But that was not what the crowd would get.
The Cosmos came out guns blazing, getting their first shot on goal just three minutes in and putting the Rowdies under constant, intense pressure. A virtually non-existent and ineffective forward Georgi Hristov shunted all the weight to their back line to hold off the onslaught. Thanks to a strong first half from goalkeeper Matt Pickens and some very chippy defending by center backs Stefan Antonijevic and Tamika Mkdanwire, they did just that. The Cosmos were held silent and halftime found both teams locked in a scoreless draw.
The stalemate was finally broken in the 54th minute as an unmarked Raul received a long pass from Ruben Bover and fired a shot between Pickens’ legs. Sebastian Guenzatti would add to the scoreline just four minutes later as Walter Restrepo touched a Marcos Senna through ball into his path.
The Cosmos held on to grab top seed in their final match. They now enter the Championship in solid form on a four-game winning streak, three of them shut outs.
Tampa’s chances for the postseason were fatally damaged and a Strikers win the next day officially eliminated them from playoff contention.
- Walter Restrepo (NYC) – The Cosmos midfielder was a terror on the right side, causing multiple headaches to the Rowdies defense and providing constant service into the box. While his passing ability still outweighs his shooting skills, this culminated in his assist on the second goal of the evening with a perfect touch to Sebastian Guenzatti.
- Marcos Senna (NYC) – Senna looked fantastic and more confident than he has in some time. His passing and control in the midfield were key and it’s fantastic to see his form returning as the Cosmos enter the playoffs. He started the play on the second goal by picking out Restrepo and threading a ball to him.
- Ruben Bover (NYC) – A weak first half turned into a strong second for the midfielder as he finally found his way into the match. His vision paid off as he spotted an unmarked Raul and set him up with a long pass that led to the first goal.
- Matt Pickens (TBR) – A two-goal outing for the Rowdies keeper, but that margin could have been wider if not for him. A double-save against Gaston Cellerino and Restrepo and a fully outstretched grab on a Raul shot are just two examples of his great form. His defense left him facing Raul in a 1v1 situation, a scenario few keepers would win and he would not either.
- Georgi Hristov/Maicon Santos (TBR) – Rowdies forwards were virtually non-existent as the Rowdies failed to register a single shot on goal or seriously threaten Jimmy Maurer.
- Rowdies Midfield – Despite a talented line-up, the midfield factored very little in this match-up. Darnell King had some interesting moments, but Richie Menjivar was mostly ineffective, Darwin Espinal was subbed out an hour in, and Freddy Adu did not factor in. The disappointing performance meant all the pressure fell on the Rowdies back line to try and force a result.
- Rich Balchan (TBR) – A big mistake by the fullback led to Raul having plenty of time to square his shot on Matt Pickens for the first goal and his poor positioning allowed Walter Restrepo to assist on the second. When the Rowdies decided to bring on Brian Shriver to boost the attack, Balchan was pulled off.