A year ago Tuesday, Ottawa Fury defender Ryan Richter walked out of Shuart Stadium a disappointed player after losing to the Cosmos for the North American Soccer League championship.
On Sunday night, the 27-year-old walked up to the penalty spot and found himself with the chance to lift those same Cosmos to the title at St. John’s Belson Stadium. This time he didn’t walk away disappointed, converting the game-winning penalty kick as the Cosmos earned their second straight Soccer Bowl crown and third in four years.
Richter smashed his attempt into the lower left corner, giving the Cosmos a 4-2 shootout win over the Indy Eleven. The hosts won their eighth NASL title after playing 120 scoreless minutes before 2,150 fans.
“It’s funny how life works because this whole year, I probably didn’t think I would be here to win a championship with the New York Cosmos,” he said.
Richter played this season with Bethlehem Steel FC (United Soccer League). He wanted to remain close to his hometown of Philadelphia because his wife was pregnant. After Hunter Freeman was sold to Miami FC, the Cosmos needed a veteran right back and Richter signed Sept. 20.
Richter’s heroics were possible because two Indy players missed their penalties. Nicki Paterson and Nemanja Vukovic converted theirs, but Eamon Zayed hit both posts and goalkeeper Jonathan Busch skied his try into the stands.
Jairo Arrieta, Adam Moffat and Ayoze put their shots away, leaving it to Richter.
“I had a dream that it was going to end like that because of the year that I had,” he said. “For me to end up here with the Cosmos to take that penalty, I knew that the plan was for me to make it.
“Honestly, I was not really nervous because there was not much pressure. The next guy would score. I knew that.”
Richter also helped a Cosmos defense that did not give Indy much room or many opportunities. Meanwhile, the visitors shut down the league’s highest-scoring team (59 goals), including MVP Juan Arango.
“The Cosmos are a very experienced squad in knowing how to win,” Indy coach Tim Hankinson said. “They have that level of confidence because they’ve done it.”
Cosmos captain Carlos Mendes is one of seven players who have played on all three championship sides.
“Every year is a challenge,” he said. “It’s just as sweet as the first one. It’s been an unbelievable year.”
The game might have been the swan song for coach Giovanni Savarese, who reportedly has spurred interest from MLS expansion team Minnesota United for the 2017 season.
“Right now we’re enjoying the moment,” Mendes said. “There is nothing we can do about it. It’s been an honor to play for him.”