Gaston Cellerino scored all three goals to lead the New York Cosmos to a 3-2 win over Ottawa Fury FC in the 2015 NASL Soccer Bowl. It was the second title in three years for the Cosmos.
The match was also the last in the illustrious careers of Raul and Marcos Senna who are retiring at the conclusion of the season.
“We’re going to miss them tremendously, most importantly, two great people,” said Cosmos Captain Carlos Mendes after the match. “I think they are top professionals who came in and trained hard every day and their experience has rubbed off on the guys. You can’t replace Marcos and Raul and obviously the locker room will be different next year.”
The Cosmos scored early as Cellerino’s first goal came in the 8th minute. The play was set up by a strong run by Danny Szetela down the left side. Szetela made a header that Cellerino controlled with his chest and then kicked past Fury goalie Romuald Peiser to give New York an early 1-0 lead.
“Scoring early was important for us,” Cosmos Coach Giovanni Savarese said. “We talked about an early goal being important for us because it would change the dynamics of the match.”
It certainly did change the dynamics. After taking the lead, the Cosmos took control of the first half and limited Ottawa to just one shot while New York took six. The home team controlled the middle of the field and prevented Ottawa from establishing a consistent attack. When the Fury did get the ball, goalie Jimmy Maurer was active in intercepting crosses and snuffing out chances.
The home team held a 1-0 lead at halftime, although they had several other chances to add to their lead throughout the first 45 minutes.
The game picked up pace in the second half. Defender Mason Trafford of Ottawa was given a red card in the 68th minute which gave the Cosmos an 11-10 manpower advantage for the remainder of the match.
Still, Ottawa did not quit, as Tom Heinemann scored the first of his two goals in the 70th minute to even the score at 1-1.
The Cosmos answered quickly as Cellerino tapped in a perfect pass from Walter Restrepo and New York led 2-1 in the 72nd minute.
Cellerino scored again in the 85th minute off a pass from Raul that made the score 3-1 and gave the Cosmos breathing room. The Fury kept fighting as Heinemann scored again in stoppage time to make the final score 3-2.
The celebration was on and the NASL post-season record-setting crowd of 10,166 at Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University joined in the festivities.
Raul was very pleased to have his career end with another title. “I’m very happy,” Raul told reporters. “I’m very proud for everything I did and thank you to the club, my teammates and the fans for this amazing year. For me now, I start a new life with another project. I’m happy, but I’m also very sad…It is like a dream…I have one part of my heart for the Cosmos.”
For Senna, this was his second title with the Cosmos. He will continue working with the Cosmos organization now that his playing career is over.
“To win next to Raul was an ideal situation,” Senna said through an interpreter. “I’m thankful for him being here throughout the year as he made the difference many times and scored many goals. In addition, today, he didn’t get the goal, but he got the assists. He’s a player that is a game-changer.”
So the Cosmos season ended with a championship and the careers of two greats of the game ended with another championship.
Savarese was proud of his team and of Raul and Senna. “We feel very lucky, our organization, to have these two great players retire with us. [They] make a coach’s life easier because of the quality when they play. They were important all year to push everybody to higher standards. The way they finished their careers today couldn’t be any other way because they’ve been successful.”
New York will now head into the offseason hoping to build on that success. The franchise has now won seven NASL titles and this one was particularly sweet as two star players saw their careers end on a fitting note.
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