New York’s Decisive Victory, Ottawa’s Draw Gives Cosmos No. 1 Seed In The Championship

No. 2 Ottawa will host No. 3 Minnesota; Fort Lauderdale could take No. 4 seed with a win or draw at Jacksonville on Sunday.
NASL Staff | Oct 31, 2015

The New York Cosmos scored two goals in a four-minute span early in the second half to defeat the Tampa Bay Rowdies, 2-0, on Saturday night at Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y. The victory saw the Cosmos grab first place in the NASL Combined Standings, on the second tiebreaker, and the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout The Championship, the league’s four-team postseason tournament.

Earlier on Saturday, Ottawa Fury FC rested the majority of its starters and was held to a 1-1 draw by the host Atlanta Silverbacks in a matinee match. That result meant that the Cosmos (10W-6D-4L, 36 points Fall; 15-11-4, 56 Combined) needed to defeat the Rowdies by two or more goals to pull even with Ottawa on points and clinch the top spot. The teams finished level on goal differential (+19), the first tiebreaker, but the Cosmos finished atop the standings on the second tiebreaker, goals scored (49 to 42).

For Tampa Bay (5-5-10, 20 Fall; 10-9-11, 39 Combined), the loss eventualy ended their postseason hopes. A victory would have enabled the Rowdies to clinch the final berth in The Championship. 

Fort Lauderdale (7-6-6, 27 Fall; 10-8-11, 38 Combined) is headed to a semifinal match against the Cosmos next Saturday afternoon, Nov. 7, at MCU Park in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, N.Y. after a 1-0 win against Jacksonville Armada FC (5-4-11, 19 Fall; 8-7-15, 31 Combined). Marlon Freitas scored in the 87th minute to break the deadlock to seal the No. 4 seed. The Strikers would have clinched with a draw in Jacksonville by virtue of a superior goal differential over the Rowdies.

In the other semifinal, No. 2 Ottawa (13-6-1, 45 Fall 15-11-4, 56 Combined) will host No. 3 Minnesota at TD Place on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 8.

In New York, Raúl, playing in his final regular-season game for the Cosmos (as did his teammate Marcos Senna) brought a scoreless game to life when he notched a goal in the 54th minute. Ruben Bover collected the ball about 45 yards from the goal, turned and surveyed the field before striking a diagonal ball to Raúl on the left side. The Spanish star deftly settled the ball and powered a left-footed shot past Tampa Bay (5-5-9, 20 Fall; 10-9-10, 39 Combined) goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Four minutes later, Senna sent Walter Restrepo into the penalty area with a through pass that Restrepo pushed to Sebastián Guenzatti, who one-timed it past Pickens for a 2-0 lead.

Earlier in the week Fury FC head coach Marc Dos Santos said he planned to rest many of the players who helped the team craft a 12-game unbeaten streak (a league record) on the road and one loss in 25 games since May 2. Dos Santos was true to his word, giving some lesser-used players opportunities to take the field in Atlanta.

Only Ottawa’s steady back line – Mason Trafford, Rafael Alves, Colin Falvey and Ryan Richter – took their usual places on the field. Goalkeeper Romuald Peiser was among the Fury FC players left back in Canada’s capital city, preparing for next week’s semifinal at TD Place.

In Atlanta the first shot Ottawa goalkeeper Marcel DeBellis faced ended up in the back of the net. Junior Burgos of Atlanta (6-7-6, 25 Fall, 7-12-10, 33 Combined) took only three steps before he buried another signature free kick, this one from the top of the penalty arc, that gave the Silverbacks the lead only four minutes into the match. It was his fifth goal of the year.

Ottawa tied the game with a goal 20 minutes into the second half when Aly Hassan followed up his own rebound and put a left-footed shot past Steward Ceus from six yards out.

In other Week 18 action, the Carolina RailHawks knocked off Indy Eleven, 3-1, at WakeMed Soccer Park on Friday night. The victory capped off a banner day for the organization, which introduced local technology entrepreneur Steve Malik as its new owner at a press conference earlier that afternoon.

Minnesota ended the regular season on a neutral note, playing to a 2-2 draw with the San Antonio Scorpions at home on Saturday night. Pablo Campos’ penalty kick midway through the second half cancelled out an earlier goal by San Antonio’s Guiseppe Gentile. Rafael Castillo’s late penalty for the visitors looked to have sealed all three points, but the Loons got a stoppage-time equalizer from defender Kevin Venegas to earn a share of the points. 

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