Give the Cosmos a lot of credit in their 1-1 home draw against Minnesota United on Saturday night.
Playing a man down for virtually the entire match while chasing the game, they could have self-destructed. Instead, they showed grit and salvaged what could have been another devastating home loss before 3,928 spectators at Shuart Stadium.
Second-half sub Mads Stokkelein ended not one, but two scoring droughts as he connected in the 74th minute after the Cosmos were forced to play the final 84 minutes a man down after goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer was red-carded.
"If we have this effort with 11 men, the next matches I think nobody can beat us," Stokkelein said. "Playing  minutes with one man down is tough."
"We were the better team with 10 men," Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese said. "They deserved three points."
Despite the come-from-behind tie, the result did not help the Cosmos as much as a victory would have in their pursuit of United in the North American Soccer League fall standings. With 10 matches remaining, the Cosmos (2-3-3, nine points) made up no ground on first-place and spring champion Minnesota (6-0-1, 19), which has a game in hand.
Off a Jemal Johnson feed from the right side, Stokkelien slid a 6-yard shot past keeper Matt Van Oekel, snapping a personal, eight-game scoring drought and the Cosmos' home scoreless streak at 287 minutes with his fourth goal this season.
"It meant a lot, obviously," Stokkelien said. "When a striker doesn't score in a while, you're starting to doubt yourself."
Savarese added: "When you're a striker and you don't score, it's like you don't have water."
Maurer was sent off by referee Mark Allatin in the sixth minute after he tripped Daniel Mendes in the penalty area. Backup keeper Kyle Zobeck, who hadn't played a minute this season, was forced to come in cold and defend a penalty kick. He never had a chance as he dove to his left while Christian Ramirez powered his shot into the opposite corner for his league-leading 13th goal in the eighth minute.
In the 79th minute, Cosmos midfielder Andres Flores was taken down in the penalty area by defender Justin Davis on a breakaway, but no call was made.
"Playing against 11, we could do," Savarese said. "Playing against 12 is tough.
"The ref wasn't at the level of the match. Tonight was a big game for both teams. We should have had a better referee tonight."