Isaac Acuna scored for the Cosmos in the fifth minute. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Ansi Agolli and Junior Burgos scored in the second half to lift the New York Cosmos to a 3-1 victory over FC Baltimore in the Northeast Region final of the National Premier Soccer League playoffs at Mitchel Athletic Complex on Sunday night.
The top-seeded Cosmos, who were awarded the Northeast Region trophy after the game, will host an NPSL semifinal match against the fourth-seeded side at Mitchel on Saturday, July 27 at 7 p.m.
Agolli connected for the game-winning goal for the second consecutive match after tallying the lone goal in the 1-0 North Atlantic Conference final win over the Brooklyn Italians. The Albanian national team captain produced his heroics, firing home a shot from atop the left side of the box past goalkeeper Casey Beyers.
Burgos added an insurance goal in the 82nd minute, drilling in a shot from the left side for a 3-1 margin.
Baltimore was forced to play the final half hour at a man disadvantage after defender Joseph Glos was assessed a red card in the 60th minute. Both teams had players ejected as Cosmos forward Aaron Dennis, a second-half substitute, and Baltimore’s Khalid Balogun were given their marching orders for fighting in the 90th minute.
The Cosmos enjoyed a distinct possession and shot advantage in the opening half in a game that kicked off with a temperatures at kickoff at 97 degrees and a heat index at 100 degrees. That, however, did not translate to the scoreboard as the teams went into the locker room at halftime tied at 1-1.
Five minutes into the match, the Cosmos struck. Junior Burgos found space some 20 yards out and fired a shot that goalkeeper Beyers stopped as he left the rebound. Isaac Acuna motored in on the left side and slipped the ball home at the near post to give the hosts a 1-0 advantage.
FC Baltimore equalized on a counterattack in the 45th minute as Nicholas Gumbs found himself 1 v 1 with a Cosmos defender before beating goalkeeper Paul Blanchette from nine yards for a 1-1 deadlock. The score snapped the Cosmos’ shutout streak at 678 minutes as the visitors tallied the first goal since the 3-1 win at Boston City FC on June 15.
Beyers had a busy first half, making four saves. He caught Burgos’ 24-yard free kick in the 41st minute and then denied Ricardo Bocanegra in stoppage time.
Due to the high temperatures and humidity, water breaks were needed in each half.