With home-field advantage already secured throughout the NASL playoffs, the Cosmos prepared for the postseason by putting on a clinic last night.
Paced by Yohandry Orozco’s two goals, the Cosmos did all their damage in the opening half, rolling to a 4-0 triumph over Miami FC before 5,852 at Shuart Stadium while eliminating their foes from playoff contention.
“I saw a team that was hungry, even though we won the fall and combined seasons,” coach Giovanni Savarese said.
Playing with confidence and flair, the Cosmos (19-7-5, 62 points) encountered few problems as they finished their regular season unbeaten at home (14-0-2) while extending their home unbeaten streak to 21 games (18-0-3), including last year’s playoffs. Their last home defeat was to Ottawa Fury FC, 4-1, Sept. 22, 2015.
“This is a fortress,” Savarese said. “Teams coming in, they have to have a difficult time playing against us.”
Added Juan Arango, who scored a goal and assisted on another: “We’ve done great as a team because we have been united. But it’s still not enough.”
That attitude should bode well for the postseason. After next week’s regular-season finale at Minnesota, the Cosmos will host a semifinal match at Shuart Nov. 5. If they win, they would play for the championship somewhere in the area, but not at Hofstra since the stadium is not available the weekend of Nov. 12-13.
“It’s massive, not having to travel five-six hours and staying in a hotel,” midfielder Ruben Bover said of the home-field advantage. “Hopefully, we can take advantage of it.”
Savarese took no delight in eliminating a team from playoff contention that added three former Cosmos on its roster. Defender Gabriel Farfan and midfielder Michael Lahoud wound up the club after they were loan players during the spring season. Defender Hunter Freeman was sold to Miami in August after the team contacted him directly, which raised eyebrows.
“The only extra motivation is that they’re a good team,” Savarese said. “When you play a good team, their intensity goes higher.”
Goalkeeper Brian Holt was rarely tested, although he denied Jaime Chavez’s point-blank header in the 57th minute to preserve the shutout.
The Cosmos struck quickly and often. With the game but 69 seconds old, Jairo Arrieta headed home Arango’s feed from point-blank range past goalkeeper Mario Daniel Vega for his seventh goal.
Ozorco took advantage of confusion on the Miami backline to double the advantage in the seventh minute by chipping Vega.
The goals just kept on coming. After Freeman fouled David Diosa some 22 yards out on the left side, Arango pulled off a rarity as he converted his third consecutive free kick over two games past the near post for a three-goal lead in the 30th minute.
“The free kick was fantastic,” Savarese said.
Orozco closed out the scoring, drilling a low, 35-yard bullet into the lower right corner for his sixth goal in the 36th minute.