Match Preview: The Championship Final

Cosmos head to San Francisco to play for third straight title
Published Nov 10, 2017

In March, eight teams began their quest to lift the Soccer Bowl trophy as Champions of the North American Soccer League. Now, just two remain. On Sunday night, the two-time defending Champion, New York Cosmos, travel west to battle the San Francisco Deltas, a team looking to finish off its inaugural season with a championship. 

If the Cosmos emerge victorious, it would be their ninth overall NASL title, giving them the record for most titles won by a United States Men’s Professional Outdoor Soccer Team in a single league. New York is currently tied with the Philadelphia German-Americans of the American Soccer League with eight titles.

The most successful club in the NASL’s Modern Era, the Cosmos started off the year unusually sluggish, finishing third in the Spring Season, behind San Francisco and Miami FC. But with many returning players and the steady hand of Giovanni Savarese at the helm, the Cosmos returned to the playoffs with a strong month of October. In the final month of the Regular Season, New York went undefeated in six matches (3W-3D) to clinch the fourth and final playoff spot in the NASL. 

The 2017 season saw the Cosmos post 22 points on the road, the highest total they have recorded in the Modern Era. In their last eight road games, the Cosmos have averaged 2.6 goals per game. Since September 2016, New York has the highest goals per road game average (1.7) and second fewest road losses (4) of any active NASL club. 

In the semifinals, the Cosmos went to Miami and knocked out top-seeded, Miami FC, 0(6)-0(5) in a penalty shootout. Jimmy Maurer led the way by making five saves over the first 120 minutes and two more in the shootout to get the win. Eugene Starikov converted the winning kick for New York in the seventh round of the shootout. 

On the other hand, the Deltas have been one of the most consistent clubs in the league over the course of the season, finishing second in both the Spring and Fall Seasons, to earn the right to host The Championship Final after Miami FC was eliminated.

In their 1-0 semifinal win over North Carolina FC, the Deltas did not allow a shot on target while Tyler Gibson’s strike in the 40th minute proved to be enough to send the Deltas through to the final.

One area the Cosmos will need to improve on is their ability to defend the air. In the semifinal win over Miami, the Cosmos won 39.2 percent (11 of 28) aerial duels. The Deltas lead the NASL in a variety of aerial stats, including headed goals (11), aerials won per game (13.5), and aerial success rate (53.6 percent). If New York can ground the Deltas, they look to have a shot at the title. 

Coach Savarese has shown he can get the Cosmos ready for any match against any opponent, and he is now one win away from becoming the first coach in NASL history to guide his club to three consecutive championships.

Sunday’s game also represents the end of an era for the Cosmos. Captain, Carlos Mendes, will be playing the final game of his professional career. The first player signed by the Modern Era Cosmos, Mendes has backstopped the New York defense to their fourth appearance in the final in five seasons.

The Cosmos will look to send their captain out on top on Sunday at 8:00 pm, ET at Kezar Stadium. 

The Championship Final will be televised nationally on beIN SPORTS (English), beIN SPORTS en Español (Spanish), beIN SPORTS CONNECT (Digital), and