The New York Cosmos played a strong game from start to finish and came away with a 2-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rowdies Saturday night. An enthusiastic crowd of 12,550 filled Shuart Stadium for the club’s home opener.
Marco Senna and Leo Fernandes scored for the Cosmos while Jimmy Maurer had to make only two saves to keep Tampa Bay off the scoreboard.
The large crowd got to see the legendary Pelé during pre-game ceremonies and a strong performance from the home team once the match got under way.
“It was definitely one of the greatest days of the new era,” Head Coach Giovanni Savarese said. “We had a lot of energy inside the place.”
The Rowdies played their best soccer in the opening five minutes, getting the game’s first quality scoring chance when Juan Guerra shot the ball just over the cross bar in the fourth minute.
The Cosmos quickly were able to turn the tide and began to gain control of the ball and the match.
Marco Senna got the Cosmos on the board in the 11th minute on a penalty kick after Darnell King of the Rowdies was called for a hand ball just in front of his own goal. Walter Restrepo made a pretty cross in front that led to the hand ball.
That goal gave the home team momentum that they did not lose for the rest of the match.
At the half, the Cosmos had a 4-3 edge in shots and controlled the ball for 53 percent of the time. After the first five minutes, the Rowdies were not given much chance to run their offense and use set scoring plays.
New York added to its lead early in the second half on a goal by Leo Fernandes from nine yards out. The 23-year old former Stony Brook University star has two goals in his first three matches with the Cosmos.
“I have to say there’s no surprise about that,” Savarese said. “He’s an excellent player who is developing, has great qualities. We juts have to continue helping him to reach an even bigger point because there’s still room for improvement. He has so much talent and he’s showing it every single game.”
The Fernandes goal was set up by a pretty pass by Restrepo, who now has an assist in all three matches for the Cosmos this season.
The match became physical at times as eight yellow cards were handed out by the officials. Tampa Bay received five yellow cards while the home team was booked on three occasions.
The Cosmos were also pleased with the play of Raúl who had a strong performance, controlling the tempo of the match. He remained in the game until the third minute of stoppage time despite dealing with a hamstring condition.
“Today I felt very good,” Raúl said. “The last two, three weeks I can only do one training completely with the team because I have a problem with my hamstring. I hope next week to improve my performance for the team.”
Raúl is also adjusting to playing on artificial turf which he said takes some getting used to.
“It’s very difficult for me to play on this stuff,” Raúl addmitted. “Last week we did only one training in the stadium. I need a little bit of time to understand. It’s very different, the pass of the ball, the movements, its totally different than when you play on grass. I’m going to do my best in every training and every day.”
With the victory, the Cosmos now have two wins and a draw in three matches this season.
The Cosmos return to action next Saturday, April 25th when they head back on the road to face the Atlanta Silverbacks.
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Head Coach Giovanni Savarese and Raúl thoughts after the 2-0 victory:
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