But the New York Cosmos made the most out of one of its chances, enough for a 1-0 win to spoil FC Edmonton’s home opener in front of 4,399 fans, the biggest crowd to ever see an NASL game at Clarke.
Despite the big crowd and an FC Edmonton attack that has been changed over from last season, there were some storylines that FCE supporters would find all too familiar. The Eddies, who boasted the worst offence and best defence in NASL last season, took until the 68th minute to actually place a shot on frame, an effort from striker Frank Jonke that was blocked by Cosmos keeper Jimmy Maurer.
After that, Maurer wasn’t forced to make another save, as the Cosmos had the bulk of possession and were able to protect the goal it got before halftime.
“I’m very proud of our players,” said Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese. “I knew it would be a battle. They were strong on the field and battled for every ball.”
The Eddies had one very good chance in the first half, but Jonke headed over the bar after right back Michael Nonni nade a mazy run into the box and delivered a great cross. But Jonke got under the ball and couldn’t get it on target.
But a couple of chances was a far cry from last week’s 1-1 draw at Tampa Bay, where the Eddies created a number of chances but were guilty of wasting them.
“One or two players didn’t play up to their capabilities on the night,” said FCE coach Colin Miller. While Miller didn’t fault the effort, he said that a few players having off nights was fatal against a Cosmos team that’s the defending Soccer Bowl champ.
And Miller was beside himself over what he called a “criminal” goal.
With very little between the two teams in the first half, and the Eddies’ five-man midfield able to crowd out the Cosmos’s playmakers, the goal stuck out like a sore thumb. It wasn’t as if the Cosmos had a great pressure surge and the goal felt like it was inevitable.
No, it started off when Maurer was able to get a long goal kick past a charging Jonke. The fact that Maurer was able to get the ball off and halfway into Edmonton territory led to a Cosmos throw-in. Off the throw, striker Mads Stokkelien was able to get away from FCE defender Kareem Moses and get to the end line. Stokkelien then pushed a low cross to the near post, where teammate Sebastian Guenzatti was left unmarked. Guenzatti flicked at it with his heel, and the ball went right through the legs of keeper John Smits. It was a comedy of FCE errors, and it was enough to cost them the game.
That’s the cruel thing about soccer — one poor play can erase 90 minutes of hard work. The Ottawa Fury found that out earlier, when their home opener was spoiled thanks to a mistake from keeper Devala Gorrick, who came charging off his line for a free kick. When he didn’t get the ball, he left his goal wide open for the Minnesota United to get the deciding goal in a 2-1 win.
A second of madness can wreck a day’s effort. And the goal FCE gave up, though it didn’t come on the last play of the game, was oh so similar to Ottawa — poor defensive decisions giving an opponents a chance that was oh so easy.
As for the lack of chances the other way, Miller said the team is still a work in progress.
“The easy part of the game is organizing the team and defending,” he said. But, he added it takes more than a “magic wand” to make the Eddies better in the final third.
“We have to be better in the final third,” he said. “And we gave up a criminal goal.”
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