By MIKE GRAMAJO
ATLANTA, Ga. — For the first time in more than thirty years, the North American Soccer League championship is going back to New York.
Marcos Senna’s second-half wonder strike lifted the New York Cosmos to a 1-0 victory over the Atlanta Silverbacks for their sixth Soccer Bowl Championship in team history on Saturday night, in front of 7,211 fans at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
“The New York Cosmos are back. We worked very hard this season to play in the NASL,” said Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese. “We had to come in the second part of the season, and we didn’t have much time to work. Tonight winning the championship and bringing it back to New York is a proud moment.”
After a scoreless first half, the Cosmos returned with a wave of attacks, which culminated into the game-winning goal. Ayoze helped set up the goal after he was brought down outside the penalty area. The midfielder stepped up to take the free kick, which seconds later deflected off the Silverbacks defense, finding Senna, who quickly curled a shot into the top left corner, beating Silverbacks goalkeeper Joe Nasco.
“At that moment it’s complicated to describe the goal, only thing I can say is that we’re proud of this moment. The goal wasn’t mine, it was a goal for everybody,” Senna told reporters after the game. “I think our job was hard, but it was worth it. We deserve this championship and that goal ices everything we did in the season.
“I’m grateful to the fans who made the 14-16 hour road-trip. Our fans are the 12th man and they deserve this moment and this championship. I definitely want to return next year, and play more years if my body feels right. I want to end my career with the Cosmos.”
The first 15 minutes of match show cased a Silverbacks side poised to break the deadlock. Danny Barrera’s free-kick outside the box, which was saved by Cosmos goalkeeper Kyle Reynish, setoff a string of attacks. However, Giovanni Savarese’s men answered back when Stefan Dimitrov almost converted the opening goal in the 16th minute, only to fail to convert on a clear look at goal.
Despite the Silverbacks looking threatening in the opening minutes, the Cosmos held possession of the ball for much of the game, contesting Nasco several times throughout the game. Ayoze almost put the Long Island side in the scoreboard before halftime when his shot curled its way into the net, leaving Nasco to dive for the ball to keep the game scoreless.
“It was tremendous for us, and we’re very proud to have him (Marcos Senna) in the team,” Savarese told reporters. “Offensively we were very solid. Kyle (Reynish) is the best goalkeeper in the league this season. He’s done a tremendous job.”
After being down 1-0 in the early stages of the second half, the Silverbacks almost leveled the match in the 60th minute when Mike Randolph’s cross found Pedro Mendes to header to ball over the bar. Shane Moroney again almost tied the match for Atlanta in the 77th minute when he had an open opportunity, deflecting the ball off of Reynish’s foot.