By DAN KARELL
Stefan Dimitrov’s first ever professional goal could be the most important goal of the New York Cosmos 2013 season.
After teammate Marcos Senna tied the match in the 52nd minute, Dimitrov received a pass from winger Diomar Diaz and curled in a beautiful shot two minutes later that completed a stunning turnaround. The second goal was enough for the Cosmos to defeat the San Antonio Scorpions on the road, 2-1, and clinch a place in NASL Soccer Bowl as the Fall Season champions.
“I’m just very proud of the guys and excited for them,” Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese told reporters after the match. “They deserve it. You were there every single day you see them working and they’ve done very well. For a team that was built together very quick, they have been able to do amazing things.”
The three points didn’t come easy for the Cosmos as they finished the match with ten-men and lost Senna to an ankle knock and Savarese was sent to the stands mid-way through the second half by the referee.
Just over two minutes into the match, the Cosmos found themselves on the wrong side of the scoring column. On-loan Scorpions forward Dennis Chin found teammate Tomasz Zahorski at the top of the box, and the Polish forward’s quick strike found it’s way past Cosmos goalkeeper Kyle Reynish for the opener.
Both teams created opportunities in the remainder of the first half but it wasn’t until the opening of the second half when the Cosmos would find their response. First, Savarese brought on youngster Sebastian Guenzatti for Joseph Nane in the 50th minute and two minutes later, Senna tied it up when he slammed into the roof of the net.
“One of the things we tried to change (in the second half) was to pressure them even harder in their defensive areas, we tried to be a little more offensive minded with (Guenzatti) coming in on the left side, and we were able to cause them a lot more problems,” Savarese said. “The guys responded very well and I feel in the second half we definitely dominated. I felt that we could have scored one or two more if we had a little more luck in those situations that we had.”
Then came Dimitrov’s goal, a terrific piece of skill to curl the ball around the outstretched reach of Scorpions goalkeeper Jeremy Vuolo for the sudden 2-1 lead to the Cosmos in the 54th minute.
“(Diomar and I) were on the left side of the flank, the ball just came and the defenders didn’t step up,” Dimitrov said after the match. “I just told Diomar to let me have the ball and I saw the goalkeeper a little bit to (his) right side. I curled it to the far corner and it just went in. Beautiful.”
The Scorpions were handed a lifeline midway through the second half when in the 68th minute, Senna limped off with an ankle knock and six minutes later, Cosmos substitute Dane Murphy was shown a straight red for a foul, a decision that seemed very harsh. Minutes later, Savarese was sent to the stands for his complaints against the red card, leaving the Cosmos down a man, coach, and star player in Senna.
“The reason why I got thrown out is because of the poor judgement of the referee on a red card that shouldn’t have been given,” Savarese said. “Because of a call that was completely out of place, it limits one of (our) players to play next week and it put us in a difficult situation at the end of the game.”
Despite the man advantage, the Scorpions couldn’t break down the resolute defending from the Cosmos and more often than not sent long balls into the awaiting gloves of Reynish.
The win clinches the Cosmos a trip to Atlanta for the NASL Soccer Bowl on November 9, 2013. Ironically for the Cosmos, it means that they play in Atlanta two weeks in a row, as they’re set to finish the regular season at Silverbacks Park next Saturday.
“I think it was the character of the team that was able to (help us win),” Savarese said. “These guys wanted to win the (fall) title and qualify for the Soccer Bowl.”