Darwin Espinal scored for the Cosmos. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – There are two ways to look at the Cosmos’ season-ending 2-2 draw with FC Baltimore Christos.

If you’re an optimist, you have to be encouraged by the performances of several of the younger players, including 17-year-old Leo Guarino and trialist Wolfgang Prentice.

If you’re a pessimist, you have to be shaking your head that the team could not hold onto a lead again en route to the team’s seventh tie in 11 matches.

Now, that is so un-Cosmoslike for so many reasons, considering the team has won eight league championships over the decades.

In the long run, the NISA Independent Cup make-up match really did not matter because Cosmos head coach Carlos Mendes was looking ahead to the 2021 National Independent Soccer Association season and not behind.

He used one of the team’s youngest lineups in years, perhaps its youngest one, as it was dominated by reserve players and trialists.

He had to be encouraged by forwards Isaac Acuna and Darwin Espinal, who had endured injury-plagued years. They scored the Cosmos’ goals at Mitchel Athletic Complex.

He also had to be encouraged by a pair of Cosmos players who made their debuts and acquitted themselves well. That would be midfielder Guarino, a 17-year-old East Rockaway High School standout, and defender CJ Weinstein, the son of former Long Island Rough Riders standout Cordt Weinstein.

He also had to like what he saw from Prentice, a Cal State Northridge midfielder, who was in the starting lineup. Defender Daniel Field (Rollins College), another trialist, came on as a second-half substitute.

Jacob Bender and Jamie Merriam scored for FC Baltimore Christos, which equalized on an 81st-minute penalty kick by the latter player.

Both teams finished with 10 men as the Cosmos defender Pedro Galvao and FC Baltimore Christos midfielder Khalid Balogun were red carded deep into second-half stoppage time

The match was a make-up game from the Independent Cup that was postponed due to severe weather in Leesburg, Va. on Aug. 10.

While the game was billed as a closed-door match, several fans watched from outside the Cosmos grass training field at the complex. The club’s supporters’ group, The 5 Points, also attended the game, adding atmosphere with its members singing.

The four regulars in the Starting XI included defenders Konrad Plewa and Galvao, midfielder Vincenzo Candela and Acuna. Other Cosmos players on the field at kickoff were goalkeeper Stewart Ceus, defender Armando Guarnera and midfielders Giuseppe Barone and John Denis. Regulars Mattia Cella and Espinal came on as halftime substitutes.

The Cosmos enjoyed the majority of the possession in the opening half but could not solve the Baltimore Christos defense in the early going.

Baltimore against the run of play in the 12th minute. David Harris penetrated deep in the right-wing corner and sent a cross to Jacob Bender at the far post as the midfielder headed it past Ceus.

Prentice, who received a yellow card in the 11th minute, made his presence felt in a much more positive way in the 42nd minute. He lofted a left-wing cross to Acuna. Between two defenders, Acuna headed it home past goalkeeper Brad Benzing for his second goal this year and a 1-1 tie.

 

Espinal, a halftime sub, tallied in the 66th minute, putting home his own rebound off a FC Baltimore Christos defender past Benzing from close range.

Three minutes later, Acuna had an opportunity to give the Cosmos some breathing room but Benzing saved his 20-yard attempt off a counterattack.

FC Baltimore equalized in the 81st minute after a foul in the box. Merriam converted the penalty kick against halftime sub Gianfranco Barone, drilling his attempt into the upper left corner.