Atlanta (GA) – New York Cosmos claimed their seventh NASL title and their first since 1982, defeating the Atlanta Silverbacks 1-0 in the Soccer Bowl in front of a sellout crowd at Silverbacks Park.
The difference in the game was Marcos Senna’s goal in the 50th minute of play, coming on a rocket shot from 18-yards out. Senna took possession on the play after a free kick from Ayoze was cleared out of the box by the Silverbacks’ defense, but right to Senna, who wasted little time converting the shot for a score. It was the sixth goal of the season for the Spanish international.
The NASL’s championship game pitted two teams against each other headed in opposite directions. While the Cosmos claimed the Fall Championship on the back of an 11-game undefeated streak heading into the Soccer Bowl, the Silverbacks, winners of the Spring campaign, had dropped four of their previous five games entering Saturday.
Looking to turn around the team’s fortunes of late, Silverbacks Head Coach Brian Haynes, named NASL Coach of the Year on Friday, changed up his lineup for the Soccer Bowl, inserting Bobby Reiss at center back and Brad Stisser at forward for the game.
The ball remained in the middle third for the majority of the first 10 minutes of action, as both teams adjusted to the pace of play in the championship match. However, Atlanta began to swing momentum in its favor, starting with a corner kick in the 10th minute of play. After the attempt was cleared away by the Cosmos, a hard foul from Daniel Szetela resulted in an early yellow card for the midfielder, and a free kick opportunity for Danny Barrera that was saved by New York’s Kyle Reynish.
The Cosmos would begin to go on the attack from that point forward, registering their first shot on goal in the 17th minute, when Stefan Dimitrov launched a shot from the near side that was saved cleanly by Joe Nasco, a NASL Best XI selection.
Nasco would prove to be the star of the first for Atlanta, thwarting the Cosmos’ attack on numerous occasions. In the 21st minute, New York’s Diomar Diaz drove past the defense and into the six-yard box, setting up a one-on-one with Nasco. However, the keeper was able to win the battle, diving and deflecting Diaz’s shot away from goal for the save.
In the 28th minute, a foul committed by the Silverbacks just outside the 18-yard box setup another chance for the Cosmos, but Marcos Senna’s free kick was saved again by Nasco. Eight minutes later, a short free kick deflected to Dimitrov in the box, who took a shot that Nasco was able to secure.
The physicality of the match picked up as play went on, with Atlanta’s Borfor Carr being issued a yellow card in the 42nd minute, and New York’s Hunter Freeman claiming one in 45th minute, both for hard fouls. The Cosmos ended the first half with a 6-3 advantage in shots, including a 4-2 edge in shots on goal.
After Senna’s goal put New York on top early in the second half, the Silverbacks had an opportunity to even the score in the 78th minute when Shane Moroney took a pass from Barrera, launching a breakaway into the box. However, Reynish was able to come out of the goal challenge the attack, deflecting the ball away from danger.
The opportunity would prove to be the best chance for the Silverbacks for the remainder of the game, as the Cosmos defense would hold tight for the remainder of the game, recording the clean sheet, en route to the league title.
New York finished the game with nine shots, including six on goal, while Atlanta took eight shots during the contest, with three on target. Despite the loss, Saturday’s game capped off a banner year for the Silverbacks that saw the team rise from a second-to-last finish in the standings in 2012 to the spring season winners in 2013. Atlanta finished the year with a 10-7-10 record overall in NASL play in 2013, including Saturday’s result.
SILVERBACKS XI: GK Nasco, D Randolph, D Navarro, D Reiss, D Moroney (James – 88’), M Paulini, M Menjivar, M Barrera, M Carr (Cruz – 57’), F Stisser (Luna – 83’), F Mendes
COSMOS XI: GK Reynish, D Freeman, D C. Mendes, D Roversio, M Ayoze, M Guenzatti (Nane – 86’), M Szetela, M Senna, F Dias, F Dimitrov (Noselli – 77’), F P. Mendes (Murphy – 90’)
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