With the score tied at 3 and the Cosmos lining up for a vital 22-yard kick in the 82nd minute, veteran midfielder Marcos Senna figured he could do some damage.
He told his teammate, Ayoze, who wanted to take the spot kick, "Leave it for me . . . I was pretty sure that I could get a goal."
And he did, curling his shot over a five-man defensive wall and into the net to boost the Cosmos to a remarkable 4-3 comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Hofstra University Sunday night.
The Cosmos (5-1-3, 18 points), who overcame a 3-1 halftime deficit before a crowd of 6,518, extended their NASL fall-season lead to four points over the Rowdies (3-1-5, 14) with five games remaining in the regular season. The fall champion will play in the Soccer Bowl against the Atlanta Silverbacks, the spring-season winners.
"It gives us definitely breathing space," Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese said, "but we can't fall asleep."
After Senna sent his kick past goalkeeper Diego Restrepo, he and the rest of his teammates bolted to the Cosmos' bench to celebrate.
"Actually, I am glad that it was a very important goal, more so than a beautiful goal," Senna said through a translator.
Senna's spectacular score culminated a comeback that included three goals in the final 27 minutes. Paulo Mendes scored from 7 yards in the 63rd minute and Diomar Diaz ran through the defense and equalized from 12 yards in the 80th minute. He was so excited, he took off his shirt in celebration and incurred a yellow card.
"We never put our heads down," Diaz said through a translator. "We knew we were capable of scoring goals."
Due to defensive errors in the first half, the Cosmos gave little indication they would walk out of Shuart Stadium with three points. The Rowdies grabbed a 3-1 lead with scoring by Luke Mullholland (20th minute), Georgi Hristov (34th minute) and Lucky Mkosana (one minute into stoppage time). The Cosmos' Peri Marosevic scored in the 23rd minute.
Cosmos goalkeeper Kyle Reynish came well out of his net to the left and right corners of the penalty area on the last two Rowdies goals.
"Our communication needed to be better," said Savarese, who told his team at halftime not to panic. "[Coaches] believed the team would come back. We gave them calmness."
And Senna gave the Cosmos a victory.