The Cosmos on Sunday got their first league win since May 23 and put their fall campaign back on track as they continue their pursuit of the league's top seed.
Hunter Freeman and Leo Fernandes scored in the Cosmos' 2-0 win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in front of 4,503 fans at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.
The win marked the Cosmos' first victory of the North American Soccer League fall season, improving their record to 1-2-1 (five points). More importantly, it moved them to within two points of the top spot in the league's overall standings, in which they are 6-7-1 (25 points).
"It's very important for us to get three points at home," Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese said. "It moves us up in the table, so it's a good feeling."
The Cosmos went undefeated to win the spring season title, clinching a playoff berth in the process. They look to clinch the top seed in the four-team league playoffs in the fall season, which runs through October. Ottawa is in first place in both the fall season (16 points) and overall standings (27 points).
The Cosmos had two chances to go up in the first minute: Raul's header in the box hit the crossbar and Andres Flores' shot off the rebound went wide. They took the lead in the 27th minute after Ayoze's diagonal ball found Freeman, who lofted the ball over the keeper and into the net.
The goal may have been the product of a wayward cross rather than an attempted shot, but Savarese said the club was due some good fortune.
"So many times, it doesn't go your way," Savarese said. "These past three games, we've had chances. We've hit the post, the crossbar so many times, and you think, 'When is it going to turn around and go in the goal?' . . . But no good thing comes without hard work."
Fernandes doubled the lead two minutes before halftime, receiving a through-ball from Raul and slotting the shot past Fort Lauderdale goalkeeper Josh Ford.
"I saw some space in between the back four," Fernandes said. "Me and Raul made eye contact and I made the run and he played a great ball and I was able to finish it."
It was the Cosmos' sixth shutout of the 2015 season. Only Ottawa has allowed fewer goals per game than the Cosmos, who have allowed an average of 0.86.