Cosmos celebrate one of their second-half goals. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The New York Cosmos rallied back from a 3-1 halftime deficit to earn a point in a thrilling 4-4 draw at Jacksonville Armada FC at Hodges Stadium Sunday afternoon.
The Cosmos still control their own destiny ahead of their match against Puerto Rico FC Saturday at MCU Park in Brooklyn, N.Y.
New York sits fourth in the North American Soccer League combined standings with 42 points, while Jacksonville is fifth with 40 points.
“The team showed character in the second half. The guys came convinced that we were going to get back into the game,” Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said. “Not only we got back into the game, but we were able to score four goals.”
A physical first half saw both teams waste little time in getting on the board.
Four minutes in, Zach Steinberger put the home side ahead with a low strike from the middle the box off an assist from Derek Gebhard.
Three minutes later, off a through ball from Emmanuel Ledesma, David Ochieng made a run, found space in the box and scored past the diving keeper to level the score at 1-1. The goal was Ochieng’s first with the Cosmos.
However, the tie wouldn’t last long as free kicks propelled Jacksonville ahead.
In the 22nd minute, Kaylen Ryden’s header off a free kick hit the post, but Drew Beckie was there to head in the rebound and give the Armada the lead.
Off a similar free kick minutes later, Jack Blake served it in for Ryden, who got a foot on the ball to sneak it past Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer to make it 3-1 Jacksonville at halftime.
“I’m not pleased with some of the things we did in the first half,” Savarese said. “There’s no reason for us to have given those goals away so easily.”
In the second half, the Cosmos came out attacking and they were rewarded.
In the 58th minute, Ledesma and Andrés Flores combined to find Eugene Starikov open in the box, and the Ukrainian scored his second goal in as many games to get the visitors within a goal.
Less than 10 minutes later, the Cosmos drew level. Flores played a through ball to Lucky Mkosana, and the substitute scored eight minutes after entering the game to even the score at 3-3. The goal was Mkosana’s first of the season.
The Cosmos took the lead in the 77th minute, as Jimmy Mulligan’s long strike eluded Jacksonville keeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell to give New York a 4-3 lead. The goal was Mulligan’s first as a professional.
But the Cosmos’ lead wouldn’t last long as less than two minutes later, Charles Eloundou blasted a high shot past Maurer to even the score at 4-4.
Needing a win to improve their postseason chances, Jacksonville pressed for a fifth goal late. With a free kick in stoppage time, Blake hit the wall of Cosmos defenders. Seconds later, Armada captain, Aaron Pitchkolan’s blast from outside the box was stopped by a diving Maurer.
On the ensuing corner, Jacksonville brought its keeper up for the attack to look for the winner. However, the Cosmos emerged with the ball. With a three on one rush against an empty net, the referee blew the final whistle, bringing an end to the match before the Cosmos could score a potential playoff-clinching goal, leaving New York players and coaching staff frustrated at the end.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. A breakaway to score a goal and the referee actually took the goal away,” Savarese said of the final sequence. “It’s a goal that could have defined an entire season. I can’t believe that he called it away. It was insane.”
The eight combined goals are the most in a Cosmos game this season.