By DAN KARELL
Earning his first start since the first of of September, New York Cosmos midfielder Diomar Diaz made sure take advantage of his opportunity.
Diaz scored two goals in the first half to put the Cosmos up for good as they picked up a 2-0 victory against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on Saturday evening at Lockhart Stadium. The win was the Cosmos first road victory of the season.
Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese has been rotating his squad pretty regularly from match to match, and Saturday was no different as Savarese made three changes, bringing in Diaz, Stefan Dimitrov, and Paulo Mendez. In addition, with Hunter Freeman suspended, Savarese moved Hunter Gorskie to right back and placed attacking midfielder Ayoze at left back, a move that paid dividends early.
A long run by Ayoze down the left wing in the 9th minute lead to a terrific cross towards the back post. Diaz timed his late run to perfection and sent a diving header across the line for a goal and an early lead for the Cosmos.
The Cosmos continued to press high up the field and play with more pressure, and a quick counter helped spark the visitors second goal of the match. Sebastian Guenzatti advanced on goal and though Strikers goalkeeper Richard Sanchez came off his line quick and blocked Guenzatti’s shot, the rebound fell into the path of Diaz, who finished with aplomb in the 33rd minute to give the Cosmos a two-goal advantage. Diaz’s goals give him three on the season.
The visitors nearly added to their total just before the half but some frantic defending helped save the Strikers blushes. The second half was much kinder to the Strikers as they settled into the match, but they were unable to break open the Cosmos central defense pairing of Carlos Mendes and Roversio.
Strikers substitute Carlos Salazar had the hosts’ best chance of the night with a free kick that forced Cosmos goalkeeper Kyle Reynish to make a clutch save.
The night wasn’t a total success for the Cosmos however as Guenzatti was shown a second yellow card for a silly yellow card in 90th minute stoppage time, meaning that for the second match in a row, the Cosmos would finish the game with ten men.
The victory means that the Cosmos remain in first place in the NASL standings with 15 points from eight games, with a match against second-placed Tampa Bay Rowdies next Sunday.