On Saturday, the New York Cosmos were victorious by 2-0 against the La Liga side Valencia, in an international friendly at the New Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan. The game, played at the new home of the CFL’s Saskatchewan RoughRiders, was part of “Soccer Day in Saskatchewan”, which included other soccer related events and youth games.
“I think the guys did very well,” said Cosmos Head Coach Giovanni Savarese. “It’s a great result for them to now be confident against Miami.”
Despite some injuries and the absence of goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, the Cosmos brought a strong starting XI to the field against Valencia. Cosmos B veterans Harry Hawkins and Hector Guerrero (in Canada for the injured Brian Holt) earned spots in the gameday roster, as did US U-20 midfielder Coy Craft, guest for the match from FC Dallas. Valencia, while producing an XI with many youth players from Valencia B, still started three noticeable talents in the form of striker Simone Zaza, winger Fabian Orellana, and goalkeeper Neto.
The first 45 minutes saw the Cosmos produce one of their most composed and technically sound performances in recent weeks. With Valencia sitting back while in possession, a trio of Eric Calvillo, Juan Guerra, and Andres Flores were tasked with constantly collapsing on the ball. This pressure forced Valencia players to constantly move the ball and stay attentive on the attack. The Cosmos defensive pair of David Ochieng and Harry Hawkins held up well, teaming up to neutralize chances from newly signed Italian striker Simone Zaza. Despite not having many concrete chances, Eugene Starikov was able to produce a moment of magic near the end of the second half. Turning his defender in the box to the wrong side, Starikov was able to curl an effort past Norbeto Neto and under the bar, but the effort did not land over the goal line.
The second half saw Valencia bring on more experienced senior team players, including striker Alvaro Negredo, currently on loan from English side Middlesborough. The changes brought a marked improvement from Valencia, with winger Rafa Mir producing two solid scoring chances early against the Cosmos defense.
However, the opening goal would come from the Cosmos. On the counterattack, Eugene Starikov sent a cutback ball through the middle of the Valencia 18 yard box. Too far and fast behind Pablo Vranjican, the pass would find Eric Calvillo all alone, with the midfielder finishing the chance low and hard to the keepers right.
Calvillo with the pinpoint drive ? BOOOOOM!
— New York Cosmos (@NYCosmos) July 22, 2017
That wouldn’t be the end of the scoring. On a well-executed counterattack in the 77th minute, a Eugene Starikov shot was parried away by Neto but right to Emmanuel Ledesma. The Argentine winger, a constant threat throughout the night, rocketed a shot to the far left corner to pull the Cosmos 2-0 ahead.
While many can point to Valencia’s inexperienced side, the Cosmos performance can certainly give fans hope going into the fall. David Ochieng looks to be stabilizing his form, and Emmanuel Ledesma doesn’t seem to be letting up on his torrid goal scoring pace. Most exciting, however, is the development of Eric Calvillo. The U.S. Youth National team member seems to have finally found his footing as a true #8, box to box midfielder. Calvillo’s work rate, movement off the ball, and passing acumen are all maturing right in front of Cosmos Country’s eyes.
There are still numerous questions as the Cosmos trudge through the remainder of their fall campaign. Despite Savarese’s promise of a new signing, the Cosmos striker core is far from in form, even with Lucky Mkosana waiting in the wings. Both Ayoze and Carlos Mendes have not been seen in weeks, which raises questions of defensive depth even for a side that returns Dejan Jakovic.
Cosmos begin their NASL Fall Season campaign at MCU Park on July 29th, hosting Spring Season champions Miami FC. Miami’s last visit to MCU Park saw them triumph 3-0, and their last match against the Cosmos was a 2-1 victory on June 24th at home.