It didn’t take New York Cosmos B long to get on the scoreboard on Saturday night, as they coasted to a 4-2 victory over a young Rhode Island Reds squad at Mayor Joseph M. Polise Stadium.
A distinctly more experienced Cosmos team dominated possession, and set the tone early by creating multiple opportunities that kept the Reds on their heels. The Reds seemed resigned to pack the center of the field on defense in an attempt to play a bend-don’t-break style. This was evident as the Cosmo’s John Neeskens and Darwin Espinal remained alone on the flanks all night long.
The scoring began after a fifth minute go-for-broke effort by goalkeeper Tony Billeri led to a Cosmos penalty kick, which was subsequently converted by Danny Szetela. Less than eight minutes later the Cosmos doubled their lead when an open Bljedi Bardic was allowed to collect a centering pass, drop it onto his right foot, and put it away from six yards out.
The Reds struggled to respond. In the 16th minute, midfielder Ronaldinho Diniz had a one-on-one breakaway that was skillfully turned away by Cosmos keeper Kevin Tenjo. It would be, perhaps, their best opportunity of the first half, but he couldn’t capitalize. The New York squad, on the other hand, was making the most of its chances. They added another goal in the 17th minute when Espinal delivered a worm-burner off his right foot from about 18 yards out, and into the bottom left, just beyond the reach of Billeri. The Cosmos took a 3-0 lead into the half.
The second had started just as the first half ended, with the Cosmos dominating possession. Only eight minutes into the second half, the visitors would score when Alejandro Penzini would get his head on a corner kick, putting it over Billeri’s fingertips and giving New York an insurmountable 4-0 lead.
The Reds would eventually find the back of the net, which, after a 4-0 deficit, would seem like a consolation prize. On the bright side, however, was second-half substitution Stavros Zarakostas. His relentless efforts put constant pressure on the Cosmos defense. The work Zarakostas put in almost single handedly turned the Red’s outlook in a positive direction. His pressure on Tenjo in the 84th minute resulted in a deflection that was shot on goal by Austin Lynn, putting the Reds on the board. Down 4-1, the Reds would get a gift own-goal header in the 90th minute on a Zarakostas shot from 20 yards out. That’s how it would end, with the Cosmos getting the win, 4-2.
Despite the outcome, the Reds had two positive takeaways. The first was the aforementioned play of Zarakostas, who changed the tempo the minute he stepped on the field. The other was the play, intensity, and composure of Goalkeeper Tony Billeri. He continuously threw himself into harm’s way under nonstop pressure throughout the game. Despite the pounding he took, and the score, he managed to maintain his concentration, make 11 non-routine saves, and led his team by example. For his efforts, Billeri was named the March of Dime’s Man of the Match. Szetela was Man of the Match for the Cosmos.
Contributor: Rhode Island Reds
Photo Credit: Hayden James Photography