July 11, 2016
Some takeaways from a mixed bag of results from New York's 3 pro teams
By Michael Lewis
This past weekend, New York's three pro teams had a mixed bag of results:
A Cosmos victory, a New York City FC loss and a Red Bulls tie.
So, let's take a quick look at each team:
Cosmos 3, Miami FC 2
For the fans, the fantastic finish to this North American Soccer League match could not have been better or more dramatic.
The Cosmos took a 2-1 lead in the 81st minute, saw it disappear when the hosts scored several minutes later before Lucky Mkosana's second goal of the match and 11th-hour heroics decided matters.
So, three quick thoughts:
* Close-out headaches. If the Cosmos have an Achilles Heel, it's their inability to close out matches, especially on the road. That cost them the NASL spring season crown and an automatic berth in November's playoffs. Yes, they still have a great opportunity to qualify by gaining one of the three spots available in the fall season (they have won both matches to start the 20-game campaign). But you have to wonder if they continue their late-match problems when they have the lead whether it will catch up to them when push comes to shove in September or October.
* Getting Lucky and good. The Zimbabwean striker is hot, very hot. He scored his first goal of the season in the 2-1 home win over Ottawa Fury FC last week and was a force the entire game. On Saturday, he raised his game with two more goals. He obviously has earned a spot in the Starting XI. With the Cosmos playing twice this week -- at home against Jacksonville Wednesday and on the road at Rayo OKC Saturday, will coach Giovanni Savarese start him in both games or try to rest him. You want to play your hot hand, but you don't want to burn him out.
* Brian's song. Has Brian Holt replaced Jimmy Maurer in goal? He has been solid the past two starts. It will be interesting to see if head coach Giovanni Savarese returns Maurer to the net Saturday or decides to go with Holt for three consecutive matches. Yes, Maurer did a mea culpa after that mistake in the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup two weeks ago cost the Cosmos an opportunity to go to the quarterfinals, but that should not be a reason to bench him for a long period of time. Or is it? Guess we'll see who's in goal at Shuart Stadium Wednesday night.
Sporting Kansas City 3, NYC FC 1
Nothing lasts forever in Major League Soccer. If you are on a winning streak of three or four games, you can bet your bottom dollar that the team will stumble and vice versa.
After recording four consecutive victories, NYC FC resorted back to its early-season form in Kansas City, Kansas Sunday night.
So, three quick thoughts:
* Two out of three ain't good enough. Three times this season City faced a team that likes to pressure (the Red Bulls twice and Sporting once), and two times they failed the test. Part of the problem could be fatigue since they were forced to play three games within an eight-day stretch, including two on the road. Like most teams, NYC FC's Achilles Heel is three games in a short period of time.
* Gift goal. Josh Saunders has played well all season, but he should have stopped Jimmy Medranda's goal in the 16th minute that lifted KC to a 2-1 lead, a shot from distance that bounced once into the lower left corner. Had Saunders stopped the shot, who knows what would have transpired the rest of the match?
* Sunday showdown. For now, we'll treat this as an aberration because Eastern Conference leader City's big test will come in Chester, Pa. against the second-place Philadelphia Union Sunday night. With a week's rest, they have to show they can bounce back -- again -- especially with so much on the line.
Red Bulls 0, Portland Timbers 0
Nothing much was doing in this encounter. Give the Timbers a lot of credit for finding a way to bottle up the Red Bulls. Don't give the Red Bulls any credit for being uncreative.
So, four quick thoughts:
* What happened to the attack? The Red Bulls did not show enough creativity from the midfield and forward spots. You have to wonder if they are getting a bit too cautious at times or that they lack the confidence to pull something off.
* The right (side) stuff. With no Lloyd Sam patrolling the right side after his trade to D.C. United, the Red Bulls lacked his superior speed. Gonzalo Veron hasn't played like a Designated Player should and 20-year-old Alex Muyl, well, is 20-years-old and we're not exactly expecting miracles out of him, bending steel with his own feet.
* June/July swoon? The Red Bulls' form hasn't been very good recently as they have bled points since the middle of last month. They are in the midst of a five-game winless streak (0-3-2), earning only two out of 15 points. They last won a league match on June 19, a win over the Seattle Sounders (sorry, that 2-0 win over Club America doesn't count at all). That was 22 days ago.
* Before they welcome NYC FC for their third and final Hudson River Derby encounter on Sunday, July 24, the Red Bulls must navigate their Achilles Heel, a road match, at the Montreal Impact Sunday night. They're 1-7-2 away from RBA, and that lone win was that 7-0 triumph over City. They desperately need a win and prove that win at Yankee Stadium wasn't aberration.