After clinching the fourth spot in the NASL Championship, the New York Cosmos traveled to Florida to take on Miami FC in hopes to reach their third straight final.
Miami FC nearly opened the games scoring with a well worked play in the 14th minute. A chipped pass from the midfield sent in by Richie Ryan found Vincenzo Rennella on his run towards goal. The forward immediately switched the ball over to Stéfano Pinho at the far post, who’s half volley flew just over the bar.
Cosmos goalkeeper, Jimmy Maurer, was put to the test just prior to halftime when Dylan Mares was through on goal. The midfielder’s shot was saved by Maurer, however Carlos Mendes was required to clear the ball from inside the eighteen.
Eight minutes into the second-half, the hosts nearly scored in phenomenal fashion. Forward Jamie Chávez found Renella with a spectacular rabona pass, however the Frenchman’s attempt went just wide of net.
From outside the box, Andres Flores had a go in the 58th minute. The El Salvadorian was given space, so he decided to shoot and forced Miami shot-stopper Daniel Vega to parry it and be eventually cleared out for a corner by Rhett Bernstein.
Jimmy Maurer made yet another crucial save in the 73rd minute, denying Stéfano Pinho’s left footed shot after the Brazilian was found via a wonderfully chipped pass from Hunter Freeman.
With neither side being able to find the back of the net, the Cosmos and Miami FC headed into extra time to find a winner.
The 98th minute saw the boys in green have their best scoring opportunity of the game. With his back to goal, second half substitute Lucky Mkosana, found Eugene Starikov with his first touch after receiving the ball from Eric Calvillo. The Ukrainian took a touch and fired with his left foot, only to see his attempt smash against the right post and be cleared by Hunter Freeman.
Yet again, Jimmy Maurer came up clutch for the Brooklyn boys, denying Blake Smith a game-winning goal. Smith received the ball from a chipped pass provided by Pinho, taking his first touch past Danny Szetela and fired at goal. Maurer charged Smith, blocked his shot and gathered the ball before he attempted a rebound shot.
After a total of 120 minutes played and no goals scored, penalties would determine the fate of the Cosmos and Miami FC.
Stepping up first for the hosts was experienced midfielder, Michel, who’s shot towards the bottom left of net was denied by a diving Jimmy Maurer.
Left-back, Ayoze, was up first for the Cosmos and confidently sent Vega the wrong way.
Kwadwo Poku was able to score the first penalty for Miami, firing a shot into the bottom left corner that was just too quick for Maurer.
A calmly taken penalty into the bottom right corner saw the visitors take a 2-1 lead via Danny Szetela.
Showing no signs of nervousness, Ariel Martinez sent Maurer the wrong way with a well taken penalty to the left side of goal.
Up next for the Cosmos was Eric Calvillo who left Vega flatfooted, firing a low driven shot into the bottom left corner.
Jamie Chavez also found the back of the net for the home side, sending his penalty into the left side of the goal.
Extra-time substitute, Pablo Vranjicán, slotted a calmly taken shot into the bottom left corner of goal.
Stéfano Pinho sent a wonderfully taken shot into the top right of goal, making the score 4-3.
With a chance to win the game for the Cosmos, midfielder Juan Guerra stepped up to the spot. The Venezuelan attempted a chipped shot which ended up in the arms of Daniel Vega, continuing the penalty shootout.
Former Cosmos player, Hunter Freeman was next for Miami FC, firing a bullet into the back of the net to level the shootout at 4-4.
Vega was sent the wrong way once again when forward Lucky Mkosana sent his shot into the right side of goal.
Mason Trafford stepped up next and wasn’t able to do the job. The defender watched his spot-kick be denied by a diving Jimmy Maurer, giving the boys in green a chance to win the game.
It was Eugene Starikov who stepped up to take the penalty kick, having a chance to send his team to The Championship final. Starikov stepped up and placed his penalty into the bottom right corner and celebrated with his team as they earned their third straight Championship final appearance.
With this result, the New York Cosmos will take on the San Francisco Deltas, who topped North Carolina FC 1-0 in their semi-final game. The chance for the Cosmos to earn their third straight title will be Sunday, November 12th at 8 pm at Kezar Stadium.