Jonathan Borrajo was in the middle of the action for Cosmos B Saturday night. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
By Michael Lewis
NEW YORK — The last time Jonathan Borrajo attempted a penalty kick, he surmised he was a sophomore at George Mason University more than a decade ago.
But when head coach Carlos Mendes asked the veteran right back whether he could take a penalty during the shootout against the Brooklyn Italians in the North Atlantic Conference playoffs in the National Premier Soccer League postseason Saturday night.
Mendes said he chose Borrajo because he is “calm, cool and collected.”
So after goalkeeper Kevin Tenjo saved Thomas Suchecki’s penalty attempt on Brooklyn’s fifth attempt, the 31-year-old Borrajo stepped up to take his kick at Commisso Stadium.
“It’s funny. I haven’t taken a penalty since i was a sophomore in college,” the 31-year-old Borrajo said. “But Carlos asked me I wanted to take one and I said, ‘Of course.’ I’m really happy Kevin took some of the pressure off by stopping the one before. The guys were really great. As I was stepping up, they said hit it with confidence and I just went on and put it into the back of the net.”
That lifted Cosmos B to a 5-4 win in the tie-breaker.
“He’s been excellent for us. He was great tonight … came up big, came up big with the PK and another great game from him,” Mendes said.
Ditto for Tenjo, who made two vital saves, one in second-half stoppage time, denying an onrushing Shavon John Brown. He knocked his shot away before pouncing on the loose ball in the penalty area.
In the 104th minute, Tenjo made a one-handed save on Giuseppe Barone, the son of Cosmos vice president Joe Barone.
Then came his shootout save on Suchecki.
“He won the game for us,” Borrajo said. “You never get credit as a defender when you stop a goal or you’re a goalkeeper and you stop a goal. That was like him scoring a hat-trick, him stopping that goal was unbelievable for us. He was man of the match for doing that. Then obviously stopping the penalty for us. He won the game for us tonight.”
As in its semifinal win over the defending champion Elm City Express, Cosmos B started out slowly again. The hosts paid for it as James Thristino lifted Brooklyn into a 67th-minute lead.
“We dug our own hole tonight,” Borrajo said. “When we last spoke, I said we had to learn from our mistakes and we didn’t. We came out again slow. We didn’t dictate the pace of the game and Brooklyn gave us a really tough game tonight. Then we put ourselves in a bigger hole when we got the red card.”
That was when Rafa Garcia was given his marching orders in the 77th minutes, only minutes after Cosmos B equalized on Zaire Bartley’s score.
“What was great about tonight was that the team showed the true character,” Borrajo said. “The team really pulled together. Everyone who came in and got subbed in gave us really good minutes. So that was the positive stuff. At the end of the day we rallied together and fought through a really, really tough moment. Ten guys, overtime, two overtime games in three days, so credit to the group we were able to pull the result off.”