The first meeting between the New York Cosmos and NYCFC in the U.S. Open Cup lived up to the expectations of local soccer nerds everywhere. Despite City taking a 2-0 lead at Hofstra in their fourth round match, the "Cardiac Cosmos" would not be denied their second MLS scalp, winning after extra time in a sudden death penalty shoot out.
It was a far more competitive match than last year's meeting between the Cosmos and the Red Bulls, when the Cosmos destroyed an MLS side who genuinely couldn't care less about the domestic cup competition. Jason Kreis brought NYCFC out with a mostly first choice XI, leaving only captain David Villa and goalkeeper Josh Saunders on the bench.
For most of the match, City's strategy seemed to be working. They absorbed the Cosmos attacking pressure, calmly cleared the roughly 9,000 corner kicks the Cosmos earned, and built a 2-0 lead on the few attacks they had thanks to Kwadwo Poku, including this ridiculous bit of skill for the opening goal:
But just when it seemed like the last NASL side was destined for elimination from the Cup, the momentum started to swing. A two-on-one miss by Mehdi Ballouchy left the Cosmos with a door open into the match. The home side would pull a goal back in the 65th minute thanks to Leo Fernandes, and live up to their "Cardiac Cosmos" nickname with a stoppage time goal from Lucky Mkosana.
Extra time saw both sides miss chances, including a missed penalty by NYCFC's Pablo Alvarez that rattled off the crossbar to deny City a potential winner. After 120 minutes of play, the game was sent to penalties, the simultaneously cruelest and most thrilling way to determine a victor. Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer made three saves in the shoot out to be the hero, while NYCFC goalkeeper Eirik Johansen, making his first ever start for the club, probably should’ve done better on the final kick from Hunter Gorskie after getting a hand to it.
Jimmy Maurer, who won man of the match honors, talked about the pressure of dealing with a shoot out: "You just have to go with your gut whichever way that you're feeling, and you just push 100 percent. Anytime as a goalkeeper you get to PKs, you're just excited. It's finally a chance to be the hero.”
Game Highlights HIGHLIGHTS-NYCvNYCFC-6-17-15 from OWS Production on Vimeo.
Waiting for the Cosmos in the next round, coincidentally, are the New York Red Bulls, who will host the Round of 16 match on either June 30th or July 1st. But expect things will be more competitive than last year’s blow-out, as Jesse Marsch fulfilled his promise to take the competition seriously and fielded a first-choice lineup to eliminate the Atlanta Silverbacks on Tuesday night. The Red Bulls will be out for revenge after last year’s embarassment, while the Cosmos will be looking not only towards the trophy but the potential bragging rights as the best soccer team in NYC.