Three points or a victory – that was all the Cosmos needed from their home game against FC Edmonton to secure their ticket for the 2013 Soccer Bowl. Coach Savarese dubbed it as another final in his pre-match talk and stubbornly refused to talk about Championship dreams.
In their last two home games The Cosmos scored four goals against both the Tampa bay Rowdies and the Carolina Railhawks to cement their place at the top of the NASL, but their goal-scoring prowess took a slump against FC Edmonton.
In a league known for its physicality, the Cosmos stand out for their possession play and fluent ground passing with Senna a driving force in midfield, but against Edmonton the New York outfit failed to impose their all-conquering style. The Eddies stifled the home side with their trademark hard-nosed and disciplined defending.
The Cosmos battled away on the midfield, but had a hard time finding space in the final third of the field. Paulo Mendes threatened in the opening minute with an attempt from the edge of the box. Szetela came close in the 16th minute when Paulo Mendes played him in, but his little chip flew over the crossbar. Just before the half-hour mark Marcos Senna unleashed a fierce shot, which FC Edmonton goalkeeper Lance Parker tipped over.
Edmonton, the least prolific XI scoring-wise in the NASL, had little to show for it at the other end: striker Corey Hertzog´s shot was saved by Kyle Reynish after four minutes. While the Cosmos had eight attempts on target at the end of the half, the bulk of the action had taken place in the middle of the field, with Stefan Dimitrov, picked by Savarese over Alessandro Noselli, only playing a peripheral role in the game.
Edmonton´s shut-down mentality continued after the break to the Cosmos´ despair with Diomar Diaz volleying wildly over the bar eight minutes into the second half. Hertzog tested Reynish with a shot from the left channel. The Cosmos´slow ball circulation allowed the visitors to regroup each time as the home side lacked inspiration to unlock the game.
Coach Savarese decided to bring on Noselli for Paulo Mendes in the 61th minute and switch his formation to a 4-4-2. It almost paid dividends straightaway as Noselli´s first attempt flew just wide. But the Cosmos showed more urgency and purpose with their Italian striker on the pitch. Noselli was in the thick of the action, providing body in the box. Robert Garett forced a fine save from Reynish to keep the game on a knife-edge.
In the 70th minute Noselli tried an ambitious overhead kick. The Cosmos´ exerted pressure as Noselli´s presence in the box weighed on the Canadian defence. Noselli finally broke FC Edmonton´s staunch resistance in the 78th minute as he pounced in the box on Dimitrov’s nudge. From close range he left Parker with no chance.
The Cosmos kept dominating, having the majority of possession, but lacked offensive penetration. And the visitors proved to be party-poopers in the end at the Cosmos´last home game of the season. In the last minute of regular time, Lance Laing´s corner from the right seemed to mystify the Cosmos´defence, allowing David Proctor to put a free header past Reynish into the back of the net. A moment of sloppy defending cost the Cosmos, lulled into a false sense of security in the closing stages of the game, dearly.
The Cosmos now have two away games – at San Antonio Scorpions and Atlanta Silverbacks – to clinch their spot in the 2013 Soccer Bowl.