So, just how tight are the North American Soccer League standings?
The Cosmos began their game with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in fifth place Sunday night.
They wound up atop the spring season table after posting a 2-1 win at James M. Shuart Stadium in Hempstead.
With only two games remaining in the 10-game spring season, five teams are within two points, vying for the spring title to secure an early spot in November’s playoffs.
“That’s the crazy thing about this league,” midfielder Danny Szetela said. “One weekend things can shift very quickly.”
Minnesota United (4-2-1, 13 points) began the day in first, but was pushed to second when FC Edmonton (4-2-2, 14), on the strength of its 1-0 home win over the fifth-place Carolina RailHawks (4-3-1, 13), moved atop the table for two hours. Then the Cosmos (5-3-0, 15) assumed the lead. Indy Eleven (3-0-4, 13) is in fourth.
“We had to win 100 percent if we wanted to be part of the spring season,” said midfielder Ruben Bover, whose spectacular volley proved to be the winning goal. “We just have to win these two games left and put the pressure on the other teams and see what happens.”
The game did not start well for the Cosmos, who lost standout midfielder Niko Kranjcar to a groin injury in the fourth minute.
“It looks like it’s a little more serious than we expected,” coach Giovanni Savarese said, fearing a pulled or torn groin.
The Rowdies (2-2-3, 9) scored against the run of play by Tom Heinemann, who tallied his fifth goal in three years against the Cosmos in the 17th minute. It was the first goal they conceded in four home matches.
The Cosmos grabbed a 2-1 halftime lead. Juan Arango’s square left-wing pass across the goalmouth set up Yasmani Duk with an easy tap-in in the 32nd minute. His feed from the right side allowed Bover to strike his volley from eight yards in the 40th minute.
Duk, who played only 19 minutes prior to the match, will leave to join Bolivia for Copa America Centenario this week.
“It’s basically like starting from scratch again,” he said. “I worked very hard even though I didn’t play some of the games. When I came back today I felt I had Giovanni’s trust. It’s very important looking forward going to Copa America to build my confidence and to be able to support my national team.”