Cosmos Post 4-1 Win Over Cuba in Havana

Mkosana’s brace gives Cosmos a comfortable win in historic friendly.
Published Jun 3, 2015

HAVANA, Cuba (June 2, 2015) - The New York Cosmos struck early and often, and with a pair of first-half goals from forward Lucky Mkosana defeated the Cuban national team 4-1 in a friendly at Pedro Marrero Stadium Tuesday night in Havana. 

International goodwill was on display before the game in Cuba as the U.S. flag was unfurled on the pitch and the U.S. national anthem also being played before the match. The Cosmos became the first U.S. professional sports team to visit Cuban soil since U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced they would seek to restore diplomatic relations that were severed in 1961.

“We were able to find good spaces wide, get good crosses in, and the guys were able to make runs inside the box and finish with quality,” said Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese. “We had a lot of patience. Sometimes the headers didn’t go to goal, and we pulled it back and found more open players to score.”

New York capitalized on a mistake from Cuba’s back line in the ninth minute to take a quick lead. Midfielder Leo Fernandes intercepted an errant pass outside Cuba’s 18-yard box and found Raúl. The legendary Spanish forward chipped a pass towards Mkosana, who pivoted and fired a shot into the lower left corner of the net past diving Cuba goalkeeper Sandy Sánchez.

The next two Cosmos goals came under four minutes apart. First it was Raúl and winger Sebastián Guenzatti linking up in the 33rd minute. Danny Szetela’s ball sent in from the right side reached Raúl, who drew two defenders in the penalty area and headed right to an open Guenzatti. Guenzatti had time and space in front of goal to slide the ball past Sánchez.

In the 36th minute, midfielder Hagop Chirishian got on the scoresheet for New York. Right back Hunter Freeman fired a deep cross to the far post, finding midfielder David Diosa and drawing the attention of Sánchez. Diosa headed the ball onto Chirishian’s feet, and he tapped in for an easy score inside the six-yard box.

Mkosana’s second goal was a volley in the middle of the penalty area three minutes before halftime. Another cross from the right wing, this time by Guenzatti, found the 27-year-old Zimbabwean who connected to give his side a four-goal advantage at the half.

“Getting our early goals in the beginning was huge for us,” Mkosana said. “I felt like the atmosphere from the [Cuban] fans was phenomenal. Everyone was just trying to support us wherever we went and I think that was big for us today.”

While the Cosmos were able to capitalize on their chances, Cuba created a few of its own in the first half but couldn’t find the back of the net. Before Mkosana’s first goal, the hosts enjoyed a nice bit of possession that ended in a shot from the top-right corner of the box from forward Maikel Reyes that Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer watched sail over the net.

Cuba finally broke through in the 51st minute, scoring the only goal of the second half for either side. Midfielder Andy Vaquero finished low past Maurer from the top-left corner of the penalty area after Reinier Cerdeira won the ball in a dangerous area and found his open teammate. That would be the final goal of the evening.

Both sides elected to substitute in fresh goalkeepers during the second half. Brian Holt relieved Maurer for the Cosmos in the 61st minute, and Diosvelis Guerra spelled Sánchez three minutes later.

U.S. U-17 youth international Haji Wright also appeared as a substitute for New York, replacing Mkosana in the 65th minute.

At the final whistle fans at the stadium stood and cheered loudly for both sides.

The Cosmos’ next game is their final one of the NASL Spring Season. On Saturday, June 13 they host Jacksonville Armada FC at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium at 7 p.m. ET with a chance to clinch the NASL Spring Championship.

The club also hosts New York City FC in the U.S. Open Cup on June 17 at Shuart Stadium with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.