Raul leads New York Cosmos to 3-1 win over Sacramento Republic FC
Raúl scores as Cosmos defeat USL PRO Champions in preseason game
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (February 28, 2015) - Propelled by striker Raúl’s first goal for the Cosmos in North America, the New York Cosmos defeated the Sacramento Republic FC 3-1 on February 28 in front of 20,231 fans at a sold-out Hughes Stadium in Sacramento, California.
"It was a great atmosphere and a good game," said Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese after the match. "Two teams that tried to play with the ball and build up from the back ... I think it was an enjoyable match for every body that was here.
"A lot of people came. It was a great night and a good result for us in the preseason again. We keep on growing. We had better things to offer, but as I always say, there are things we can still work on."
It was Sacramento who created a handful of quality scoring chances in the first half, but goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer and the Cosmos back line were able to keep a clean sheet. In the seventh minute Republic FC defender Emrah Klimenta made a darting run up the right sideline and fired in a cross that earned his side a corner kick. Cosmos midfielder Marcos Senna cleared the ensuing attempt, but just four minutes later Sacramento was threatening again through midfielder Gabe Gonzalez, who shuffled past Maurer before having his ball narrowly cleared off its line.
The opportunities continued for Sacramento. In the 25th minute forward Justin Braun had a headed attempt near the left corner of Maurer’s goal, but the Cosmos goalkeeper was able to hold on for a save. In the 37th minute Republic FC midfielder Octavio Guzman blasted a shot barely high of the crossbar, and two minutes later another narrow miss came from Sacramento forward Adnan Gabeljic.
"They're a great team and this is a great environment," said Cosmos winger Leo Fernandes after the match. "We really enjoyed being in Sacramento and playing this game."
The Cosmos’ best look at goal in the first half came when forward Lucky Mkosana found himself alone and onside just before stoppage time. His run was stopped short of payoff by Republic FC goalkeeper Pat McLain, who made an important one-on-one save to keep the match level heading into the half.
Sacramento would make wholesale changes out of the gate in the second half. Braun, Gabeljic, Guzman, Gonzalez, defender Bilal Duckett, midfielder Rodrigo Lopez and midfielder Ivan Mirkovic gave way to forward Richie Cardozo, midfielder Gabe Gissie, defender Chad Bartlome, forward Joaquin Rivas, midfielder Ahmad Hatifie, defender Alfonzo Motogalvan and midfielder Agustin Cazarez.
Tempo slowed in the opening quarter hour of the second half as both sides looked to probe holes in the opposing defense. Cosmos midfielder Sebastián Guenzatti replaced Mkosana in the 63rd minute, and five minutes later Raúl broke the deadlock and opened his account in earnest with New York. Former Spain international teammate Marcos Senna started it off with a free kick to the far post, which center back Samuel Cáceres directed toward Raúl for a headed finish.
"I think it was a very difficult match, in the first half we had some problems defensively and they had chances to score," said Raúl. "But we improved a lot offensively in the second half and were much more compact on defense."
From there the Cosmos kicked up the pace. Raúl had another attempt saved by McLain in the 73rd minute, and winger Leo Fernandes tallied his first Cosmos goal three minutes later to open a 2-0 lead.
“In the locker room after the first half, [coach Savarese] told us to come out and pressure them higher up the field," Fernandes said. "We did that and were able to create a few turnovers. I got a nice ball from Seba on the outside, and I was just able to get a hold of it. It felt really good to score my first goal with the Cosmos.”
In the 77th minute Raúl, midfielder Danny Szetela and winger Walter Restrepo came off for Adam Moffat, Andrés Flores and Mads Stokkelien. Flores scored his second goal in three preseason matches, making it 3-0 Cosmos in the 81st minute. Both goals for the El Salvadoran international have come as a substitute – his first was an 88th-minute strike against South China FC that forced penalties in the Lunar New Year Cup.
A foul from Sacramento defender Sola Abolaji in his side’s box created a penalty kick opportunity for Stokkelien in the 87th minute, but McLain was up to the challenge. He made a diving save from Stokkelien to keep the match at 3-0.
Rivas put Republic FC on the board just before second-half stoppage time with an unassisted effort, but the hosts were unable to rally further in the final three minutes tacked on. The Cosmos left Hughes Stadium with a 3-1 victory.
New York finished its preseason California tour unbeaten. The Cosmos earned a 1-0 win over Ventura County Fusion on February 25 via an Adam Moffat score in the 15th minute. Next up will be a trip to El Salvador for a friendly against C.D. FAS at Estadio Cuscatlán on March 14.