The Cosmos’ quest for the North American Soccer League spring title remains alive and kicking after they posted a 1-0 victory over eight-man Rayo OKC at Shuart Stadium Saturday night.
Danny Szetela’s first goal of the season lifted the Cosmos to the win, which solidified their hold on first place with one game remaining in the 10-game spring season.
The Cosmos (6-3-0, 18 points) completed their home spring campaign at a 5-0, while outscoring the opposition, 12-1. They play their spring-season finale at the Fort Lauderdale Strikers Saturday, a win securing the title and one of four berths in November’s playoffs.
“It was a very important win for us,” Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese. “It was deserved.”
Rayo (2-4-2, 8) finished the game with only eight men on the field as three players were red-carded by referee Jose Carlos Rivero.
The most damaging red was to forward Michel, the league’s leading goal-scorer, who was sent off in the 36th minute. Cosmos center back Carlos Mendes rolled a back pass to goalkeeper Jimmy Mauer as Michel rushed toward the ball. He clipped Maurer on the left ankle and was dismissed by Rivero, giving the Cosmos a man advantage.
Billy Forbes also was issued a red card for knocking down Cosmos defender Hunter Freeman in the 89th minute and Georgis Samaras was given his second yellow card in the 90th minute for stopping Ruben Bover, who was rushing toward the goal.
Savarese wasn’t surprised by the red cards.
“It was what they showed us in the game,” he said. “It was what they put in.”
Savarese said that Maurer had suffered a contusion on his ankle that was black and blue.
“It was a big challenge,” he said. “We’re going to have to do a little therapy.”
Szetela, in his second start after recovering from an ankle injury, broke the ice in the 54th minute as he latched onto Sebastian Guenzatti’s feed from the right side and beat goalkeeper Daniel Fernandes from three yards.
“They packed it in, but we found a very important goal,” Savarese said. “I’m very happy for Szetela because he’s been working very hard.”
The match was the start of a busy week for the Cosmos, who will face the Jersey Express in the third round of the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup at St. John’s University Wednesday night. The winner of that game will meet New York City FC on June 15.
Savarese admitted he did not know immediately who would be available for that game. Usually, the Cosmos have 18 players.
“Right now, we have to see how the guys are feeling,” he said. “We don’t have that many players available. We only had 16 available tonight because of injuries. We’ll see who’s available.”