By DAN KARELL
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Heading into the 90th minute with a one-goal lead, the New York Cosmos were well on their way to winning their sixth consecutive game and clinching a place in the NASL Soccer Bowl.
Instead, for one of the rare times this season, the Cosmos had a lapse of concentration as they allowed FC Edmonton defender David Proctor to head home from close range in the final minute of regulation, canceling out Alessandro Noselli’s goal 12 minutes earlier. Proctor’s goal earned the Eddies a 1-1 draw on Sunday afternoon at James Shuart Stadium, the same result as the last time these two teams faced off.
“It feels like we didn’t accomplish our target tonight, definitely,” Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said following the match. “We expected at the end to be able to get a win, and they tied right in the last three minutes at the end if you consider stoppage time as well.”
Though the game had no meaning to the Eddies, they did their best to execute their gameplan, slowing down the tempo of the game and providing physical play across the park. Both sides only had one real chance in the opening 45 minutes, as Cosmos goalkeeper Kyle Reynish stoned forward Corey Herzog in the fourth minute and a Marcos Senna strike stung the fingertips of Eddies goalkeeper Lance Parker in the 29th minute.
Savarese elected to bring on Noselli in the 61st minute, injecting life into the Cosmos attack that had settled into a lull. Just seconds after entering, Noselli took a left footed strike that went just wide of goal, with a second chance a minute later being scooped up by Parker.
After two more close chances from the Italian veteran, Noselli finally found himself with only the goalkeeper to beat in the 78th minute, poking home to give the Cosmos a well deserved lead. The chance came off a poorly cleared corner kick by the Eddies, which allowed Danny Szetela to chip into the box and forward Stefan Dimitrov headed forward to an open Noselli to finish.
“For the second straight week I say thanks to Dimitrov because he gave me a great ball, the only thing (I could do) is score,” Noselli said. I’m very happy for my goal but it’s not a good day for me because after the goal I thought that the championship was ours.”
Despite being just minutes from clinching a place in the Soccer Bowl, the Cosmos defense fell asleep on a corner kick, allowing Eddies defender David Proctor to score on a header from close range, tying the game and stunning the home crowd.
“I don’t think we attacked (the ball) well enough and they’re very good at that,” Cosmos defender Carlos Mendes said. “They live off the set pieces and they attack the ball well, and they just beat us to it on that play.”
With four minutes of stoppage-time, there was some hope in the 5,623-strong crowd that the Cosmos could find a late winner, but the Edmonton defense held strong and leave Long Island with a confidence-building result.
“It was a hard fought well earned point,” Edmonton head coach Colin Miller said via text message following the match. “I’m very proud of everyone today, fabulous team effort. We’ll continue with this kind of attitude against a good Tampa Bay side next week who are still playing for a championship.”
While it wasn’t the desired result, especially after Noselli’s goal, the draw leaves the Cosmos still in healthy shape, with 25 points from 12 games played, eight points ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Rowdies. Savarese mentioned that he believed it was better that the team gave up a late-goal to draw during the season, as opposed to potentially having a lapse in concentration in the Soccer Bowl against the Atlanta Silverbacks.
“It’s a reminder that this league is competitive, that this league is tough,” Savarese said. “We had a good run for a few games, we won and we hadn’t conceded too many goals. I think it’s a good situation for us to understand that we need to be aware (at all times).
“If we make it to the finals it’s going to be very difficult.”
Here are the game highlights: