Few Clouds 23° Good Afternoon
Few Clouds 23° Good Afternoon

Cosmos beat Tampa Bay to get home-field advantage in playoffs

New York Cosmos forward Raul #7 reacts after

New York Cosmos forward Raul #7 reacts after scoring a goal against the Tampa Bay Rowdies during the second half of a game at James M. Shuart Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. Photo Credit: Brad Penner

The Cosmos threaded the needle perfectly Saturday night.

Needing to defeat the Tampa Bay Rowdies by at least two goals to secure home-field advantage in the North American Soccer League playoffs, the Cosmos did just that, recording a 2-0 victory at Shuart Stadium.

Raul, in the last regular-season home game of his career, and Sebastian Guenzatti scored four minutes apart early in the second half before 5,171 spectators.

The Cosmos (15-4-11, 56 points) will host either the Rowdies (10-10-9, 39) or the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (10-11-8, 38) in the semifinals a MCU Park in Brooklyn next Saturday at 2 p.m. Their fates will be determined when the Strikers face the Jacksonville Armada in their season finale Sunday.

The Ottawa Fury (15-4-11, 56) squandered an opportunity to secure the top seed, but played the Atlanta Silverbacks to a 1-1 draw earlier in the day. The Cosmos and Ottawa were tied in goal differential, but New York was awarded the top seed by scoring more goals (47 to 42).

The Cosmos, who won for the fourth consecutive time, are in a position to host Soccer Bowl on Nov. 14 if they win their semifinal.

"To be able to finish first is a very good feeling," Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese said. "It's been a long year. Being able to finish first gives us good motivation.

"We have only achieved one goal."

Raul and Guenzatti took care of matters during a four-minute span.

The Spanish legend latched onto a long feed from Ruben Bover, beat his marker and then drilled a shot from the left side past goalkeeper Matt Pickens in the 54th minute for his eighth goal this season.

Guenzatti, who had three close encounters in the first half, doubled the score in the 58th minute when he tallied from close range off Walter Restrepo's feed for his fourth goal.

"It happened at a very good time for us," Savarese said of the second goal.

The Cosmos' domination was so great that goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer did not have to make any saves even as he recorded his 10th shutout. They outshot the Rowdies, 14-2.

New York Sports