SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – The Cosmos recorded their second consecutive clean sheet of the week, recording a 2-0 win over 2015 Dominican national champion Atletico Pantoj at Estadio Olimpico Félix Sanchez Friday night.
Eugene Starikov and Irvin Herrera scored late in the second half to propel the two-time defending North American Soccer League champions to victory.
The Cosmos had recorded a 1-0 victory over Atlántico FC in their preseason opener Tuesday night.
“We played a good match tonight against a tough opponent. We are satisfied because we had the opportunity to see a good number of players get playing time,” Cosmos head coach and sporting director Giovanni Savarese said in a statement. “We have one more match this week before we return to New York, so we will continue to prepare to be in the best shape possible.”
Both teams started the match with intensity and fought for early control through possession. Salvadoran international Andrés Flores had the Cosmos off on the front foot in the sixth minute, as he applied pressure on the defensive line, but was unable to connect with Amauri.
Javi Márquez, who made his preseason debut, set the Cosmos attack into motion in the 21st minute by finding captain and center back Carlos Mendes in the middle of the penalty area but Mendes was ruled offside. Five minutes later, the Catalonian combined with Ayoze, who also made his 2017 debut, for a shot over Miguel Báez’s goal.
As Márquez took ownership of the Cosmos midfield, it was Danny Szetela who quietly put the labor in to recover the ball for the visitors and enable the Spaniard to trigger the attack. Although Pantoja pushed its midfield towards the end of the first half, it was not successful reaching keeper Jimmy Maurer’s goal with imminent danger.
The second half began with attack-minded substitutions from Savarese. Amauri and midfielders Walter Restrepo and Szetela were replaced by Starikov, Marco Marchionni and Juan Guerra, respectively.
Pantoja started to generate danger at the beginning of the half. Walnes Innocent tested Maurer in the 48th minute, but the goalkeeper parried the ball away. Pantoja striker Armando Maita forced Maurer into action in the 71st minute with a point-blank shot, but he made the save.
The Cosmos broke through in the 77th minute. Guerra played a through ball to Starikov on the right side of the box and the midfielder finished low to the far post of Báez for a 1-0 lead.
Pantoja fought for the equalizer, but New York doubled the difference four minutes into stoppage time.
Emmanuel Ledesma, who replaced Ali Hassan, mimicked Guerra’s pass for the first goal by playing a through ball to Starikov. The Ukrainian-American outwitted Báez and two defenders that tried to protect Pantoja’s net and served the ball to Herrera, who tallied his first preseason goal by protecting the ball with his body and then turning right to finish with a classy touch.
The Cosmos will remain here until next Sunday to face the Dominican national team at Estadio Olimpico Félix Sanchez.