Cosmos Clinch a Spot in The Championship, After Defeating Puerto Rico FC 5-2

Emmanuel Ledesma’s hat trick leads New York in home finale
Published Oct 29, 2017

The New York Cosmos scored five goals in the second half to defeat Puerto Rico FC 5-2 in their home finale on Saturday night at MCU Park, as they clinched a spot in The Championship for the fifth straight season.

Emmanuel Ledesma led the way with a hat trick and an assist, while captain, Carlos Mendes, playing in his final Regular Season home game, scored his first goal of the season. Lucky Mkosana scored his second consecutive goal of the season.  

“The attitude today was fantastic. Our second half was one of the best we’ve had all season,” said Cosmos Head Coach and Sporting Director, Giovanni Savarese. “The spirit of the team was great and we couldn’t have done better to help Carlos Mendes retire at home on this beautiful night.”

While the game ended as a shootout, strong defense on both ends was the theme of the first half, as both teams’ attack could only put one shot on goal over the opening 45 minutes.

Eugene Starikov recorded the Cosmos’ first opportunity in the 20th minute from just inside the box, but Puerto Rico FC goalkeeper, Austin Pack, made the save.

Just five minutes later, Puerto Rico FC nearly took the early lead as Mario Martinez Rubio was alone in the box, but Mendes’ last ditch sliding tackle stripped the ball from him and kept the game scoreless heading into halftime.

The second half provided all of the offense on both ends.

First, it was the visitors who got on the board as Emery Welshman got the ball off a New York turnover and chipped a shot past Cosmos goalkeeper, Jimmy Maurer, to make it 1-0 Puerto Rico.

New York answered less than three minutes later as an Emmanuel Ledesmaa rocket from outside the box went into the top corner of the goal past Pack to even the score off an assist from Andrés Flores.

Less than five minutes later, Jimmy Mulligan chipped a perfect pass into the box to lead Ledesma toward the goal. With Puerto Rico defender, Jake Stovall, on his back, Ledesma calmly finished with his left foot to give the Cosmos a 2-1 lead in the 56th minute.

The Argentinian was not done. In the 67th minute, he beat Stovall to a loose ball outside the box. After fighting to get free, he completed his hat trick by chipping the ball past Pack, who came off his line to challenge the attack, but to no avail.

“We saw his class in the three goals that he scored,” Savarese said of Ledesma. “He was there in the moments that we needed him.”

Mendes showed a flair for the dramatic in the 75th minute. Off a cross from Ledesma, Mendes charged to the near post and got his foot on the ball to send it past Pack, giving the Cosmos a 4-1 lead. The goal was Mendes’ first of the season.

“I saw it in his face; He wanted a goal badly,” Savarese said of his retiring captain. “He attacked like a center forward, the cross from [Ledesma] was fantastic, and at the end he scored a fantastic goal to close this night in a perfect way.”

Welshman pulled one back for Puerto Rico FC with his second of the night in the 84th minute, but it did little to change the outcome of the match.

Just as stoppage time was beginning, Mendes was subbed out of the game to a standing ovation from the fans at MCU Park, brining an end to his home tenure with the Cosmos.

Shortly after, Lucky Mkosana put the icing on the cake for the Cosmos by scoring off a cross from Flores to increase the lead to 5-2 Cosmos.

The five goals the Cosmos scored are the most they have scored in a game this season, with all five coming in the second half.

Ledesma recorded the first hat trick by a Cosmos player this season. He finishes the Regular Season with 10 goals, leading the club. Flores’ two assists give him a team-high eight on the season. Mkosana’s goal was his second in as many games as a substitute for New York. Maurer made two saves in net to get the win.

“I’m very pleased that in a difficult year we were able to make the playoffs,” said Cosmos Head Coach and Sporting Director, Giovanni Savarese.”

With the win, the Cosmos finish the Regular Season with 45 points. In The Championship semifinals, New York will hit the road to play either Miami FC or the San Francisco Deltas on Sunday, November 5.