The Cosmos had been knocking on the door for most of the second half. Whether it was a brilliant stop by Minnesota FC goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt or a shot that sailed just wide, the 3,607 in attendance at Hofstra squirmed and gasped with every close encounter. Finally, in the 76th minute, defender Hunter Freeman converted.
A deflection in the box came right to Freeman, positioned five yards behind the 18-yard line. He corralled it with one touch before firing a laser into the top right corner past a fully extended Hildebrandt for a 2-1 victory.
Coach Giovanni Savarese tossed around adjectives such as amazing, excellent and beautiful to describe the game-winner.
"As a defender," Freeman said. "You'll take goals any way you can get them. It's a great feeling. One of those that you know it's a goal the moment you hit it."
Freeman said he thought about volleying the ball while it was still in the air, but opted for one touch.
"I guess all of my years of experience, and age, paid off in making the right decision," Freeman, 30, said with a laugh.
After going undefeated in the North American Soccer League spring season, the Cosmos have now pieced together consecutive wins and are 2-2-1 in the fall season.
Last night's win leapfrogged them over Ottawa for first place in the overall standings (28 points). With their title in the spring, the Cosmos are already guaranteed a spot in the four-team league playoffs as they vie for the top seed.
Minnesota's Christian Ramirez entered the game with goals in each of his last four matches. Eight minutes into the game, off a Minnesota corner kick, Daniel Mendes deflected a ball in front to Ramirez, who was cutting in from the left side. He tapped it in to put United up 1-0.
The Cosmos then took an aggressive approach that produced a goal in the 13th minute.
Andres Flores controlled the ball down the left side before threading a cross between two defenders to Walter Restrepo at the top of the box.
The midfielder came back for the pass, using his left foot to power a low shot into the left corner.
"In the second half, we battled every ball, created a lot of chances," Savarese said.