Scouting the Cosmos
After only two games the Rowdies and Cosmos are even at 4 points on the Spring table. New York earned its points off a 1-0 win over Fort Lauderdale and a 1-1 draw against Indy Eleven.
Of all the moves by NASL teams this offseason, legendary Real Madrid’s striker Raúl’s signing in New York received the most buzz by far. However, he has yet to play a full 90 minutes in either outing for New York, coming off in the second half due to the same hamstring injury in both matches. Raúl got the lone goal in Indy after finding himself completely unmarked in the 6 yard box. There are many forwards in the NASL faster and better at attacking defenders head on than Raúl. He will need to rely heavily on his awareness and experience if he hopes to be a scoring threat.
The top performers for the Cosmos in the Spring so far have been midfield wingers Walter Restrepo and Leonardo Fernandes. The pair have been the lifeblood of New York’s attack in the early going, providing pace on the flanks and excellent service into the box. Fernandes scored New York’s first goal of the season and Restrepo assisted on both of the goals scored in 2015. Restrepo exited the Indy match in the second half with a knock but is expected to be available for selection on Saturday.
It’s no surprise at all that the Cosmos are strong on set pieces yet again. In fact, with the addition of Restrepo and Raul they are likely even better this year. Both goals this year were scored on corner kicks. Against Indy the Cosmos employed the short corner over a half-dozen times and exploited the 2 attackers on 1 Indy defender it caused every time.
Expect the Cosmos’ philosophy to mirror what the Rowdies saw from Minnesota last week, distribution to the wings and a ton of crosses as opposed to through balls. If the Rowdies back line and Kamil Contofalsky can weather the storm like they did against the Loons then they can play spoiler in New York’s home debut.
What to Watch For
- Head Coach Thomas Rongen seemed discontent with his conservative approach in the 0-0 result against Minnesota. He indicated that a new mindset may be coming to the midfield. Instead of starting out with two holding midfielders he may elect to insert a more technical and creative player to spark the Rowdies attack. Martín Núñez is a likely candidate for the job. Núñez has vast experience compared to rookie Verneri Välimaa and Rongen seemed happy with his impact on the match after entering in the second half last week.
- Stud rookie Zac Portillos’ ruptured Achilles in training this week means USF standout Ben Sweat is likely set to see his first NASL action. Sweat will need to stay alert all mach to keep the Cosmos off the board. On top of the threat from set pieces New York also loves to throw numbers forward and constantly has attacking players swapping positions to throw defenders off kilter.
- While Cosmos fans are eager to see Raúl debut at home, Rowdies fans are equally excited about the possibility of Maicon Santos’ regular season debut after leading the club in goals during the preseason. The Rowdies really have no other option at forward with the combination of physicality and technical ability that Santos possesses. If Santos plays he can provide hold up play up top that the Rowdies haven’t displayed thus far.
- New York’s willingness to attack aggressively left them vulnerable to the counter attack against both Fort Lauderdale and Indy. Neither team could capitalize on the weakness – and truthfully the counter attack has never been a strength for Tampa Bay – but with Robert Hernandez, Corey Hertzog, Darnell King, and Darwin Espinal on the roster this year there are options with serious pace to pounce on the counter.
The Spring season is still young – and the 2015 season even younger – but these are critical points up for grabs in New York. The Rowdies let Minnesota off the hook by not finishing several chances last week and therefore lost two potential points against one of the best teams in the league. The Rowdies, Cosmos, and Railhawks are all currently tied atop the table with four points, so a full three points this weekend would give the Rowdies breathing room over the Cosmos in the short Spring season where teams only play each other once.
IMAGE, TAMPA BAY ROWDIES