Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York It was a common refrain made by Long Islanders as the final moments ticked away on the Islanders’ season this year: The Island was losing its sole professional sports team.New York Cosmos fans would likely disagree.After trailing by two goals Wednesday night in its inaugural match against Major League Soccer’s New York City FC, the underdog Cosmos battled back to tie the score seconds before the end of regulation and capped a dramatic, 2-2 game by winning on penalty kicks (4-3)—prompting players, and a spattering of fans, to run onto the field, their faces beaming with child-like joy as they embraced anyone who reciprocated their hard-earned moment of sheer jubilance.The circus-like atmosphere was noticeable hours before the game, with a group of Cosmos fans nonchalantly kicking a soccer ball across the pavement while rhythmic pop music blared from James H. Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University, the home of the Cosmos.Always cognizant of their team’s long history, fans draped a flag emblazoned with the face of legendary Brazilian Pelé over a nearby wrought-iron fence, a reminder of the club’s glory days.NYCFC fans have no such history to boast about or look back on in tough times, though you wouldn’t know it by the way they were whaling and gesticulating for the upstart team, albeit one with an outsized budget.Cosmos fans had been waiting for this matchup for a long time—at least since the expansion NYCFC made their long-awaited debut this spring.Because the two clubs are in different leagues—Cosmos in the North American Soccer League and NYFC in Major League Soccer, the more high-profile of the two leagues—they wouldn’t typically play one another. But the US Open Cup brought them together for a fourth-round match, with the winner advancing to the Round of 16. Up until Wednesday, all the teams that had advanced resided in MLS.For one night, Long Island was the center of the soccer universe in New York.Both teams had been on top of their game coming into the match. NYCFC notched consecutive wins for the first time in its brief history and the Cosmos this past Saturday had been crowned NASL Spring Champions.“N-Y-C-F-C! N-Y-C-F-C! N-Y-C-F-C!” fans of the Bronx-based club chanted in succession as they found their bleacher seats.As warmups progressed, NYCFC fans—a group known as “The Third Rail”—yelled and swung their arms. They defiantly raised their blue scarves toward the overcast sky, gyrating and hopping around as though they were back home at Yankee Stadium.The upbeat Cosmos contingent seated on the opposite side of the pitch waved green and white Cosmos flags. Not to be outdone by vocal rivals, the home team’s supporters sprung into action, their fists smacking the air and voices crackling across the stadium.The Cosmos had been seeking back-to-back US Open Cup wins against its New York rivals; last year, the Long Island-based club defeated the favored New York Red Bulls, which played without international star Thierry Henry and several other key starters.In front of more than 11,000 fans, the clubs walked onto the field, NYCFC in their powder blues and Cosmos in royal blue. A much-anticipated match-up between Spanish legends David Villa of NYCFC and Cosmos’ Raúl didn’t materialize, with NYCFC coach David Kreiss choosing to rest the injury-plagued captain. But NYCFC did play most of its starters, including Mix Diskerud, a member of the US national team.The opening whistle blew and the Cosmos appeared to be the more spirited side, navigating congested lanes with deft passing and opportunistic runs. The home club dominated the early moments and had a chance to break the scoreless tie with a Raúl header in the 13th minute, but the Spanish star was called offsides.Cosmos forward Luckymore “Lucky” Mkosana gave NYCFC’s defensive back line fits all game, making strong runs up the middle of the field, at times outpacing defenders.“We started the game very well; we created chances,” Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said after the game. “I think we had the better of the play.”Goaltender James Maurer was named Cosmos Man of the Match after making three superb saves during the shootout. (Photo credit: New York Cosmos)But it was NYCFC who struck first with an acrobatic goal in the 24th minute from forward Kwadwo Poku.Poku raced toward the net and signaled for the ball as he approached the box. RJ Allen lofted a nifty ball into the center of the box for a streaking Poku, who guided the ball down with his chest and calmly directed it over his head before twisting and striking it into the net with an overhead kick as he landed on his back. NYCFC fans erupted into cheers, dozens in blue thumping like a pulsating river.The Cosmos had several opportunities to tie the score early on.An unmarked Raul missed a chance for an equalizer in the 35th minute, overrunning a pass from Mkosana that appeared destined for the back of the net.After going into the halftime down one, the Cosmos came out with the same energy as they did to open the game.But Poku struck again.The striker beat his defender and controlled a pass from Pablo Alvarez that slipped passed goaltender James Maurer, who made three saves during regulation and extra time. He was impressive in the shootout. Poku appeared to be several yards offsides but the apparent violation was never called. NYCFC led by two goals to none.The Cosmos finally responded in the 64th minute when reserve Leonardo Fernandes, barely in the game for two minutes, calmly directed a deflected header from Mkosana into the net, cutting NYCFC’s lead in half.NYCFC had a chance to extend the lead with roughly 10 minutes left in the game, but Maurer made a tough save on a Mehdi Ballouchy shot to keep his club within striking distance.With time winding down on the Cosmos’ US Open Cup run, the Cosmos in dramatic fashion knotted the game at two seconds before the 90th minute when Hunter Freeman floated a cross into the middle of the box, which Mkosana converted for a score. The home crowd went delirious, chanting and waving as one.The Cosmos carried their late second-half momentum into extra time with Mkosana nearly breaking the tie, but his shot smacked off the right post.NYCFC had a gift-wrapped opportunity to take the lead in extra time when the Cosmos were called for a penalty in the box. But Pablo Alvarez’s penalty kick hit the crossbar and the rebound sailed wildly over the net.Thirty minutes of extra time expired, and both teams headed to a shootout.Babylon-native Chris Wingert started off the scoring by beating Maurer for the first goal of the shootout, but he was matched immediately by the Cosmos’ Mads Stokkelien.Both goaltenders made impressive stops in the second round of the shootout, but after four rounds NYCFC had a 3-2 lead.Maurer made a game-saving goal on Patrick Mullins, setting up do-or-die opportunity for the Cosmos’ Adam Moffat. Moffat struck, and the ball passed the goaltender’s outstretched arms, sending the shootout into sudden death.Mauer made yet another clutch save on Shay Facey’s attempt, his third of the shootout.Hunter Gorskie stepped up for what turned out to be the game-clinching goal, burying his shot into the net. A celebration ensued.After the game, Savarese, the Cosmos coach, credited his team for having a tough mentality.“We have a very strong group now,” he said.Despite beating the Red Bulls and NYCFC in consecutive years, Savarese demurred when asked about being the best team in New York. Such comparisons, he said, are for fans to make.“I think the most important thing is that they take us seriously,” Savarese said. “They know that we are capable of big things, and that we can compete with anyone.”It’s been a whirlwind month for the Cosmos, traveling to Cuba, where they beat its national team and then securing the Spring Championship weeks later. On Wednesday they came out ahead of the favored MLS club.Long Island may not have the Islanders anymore, but the Cosmos are doing all they can to inject much-needed energy into a sports-obsessed region constantly lamenting the exodus of its hockey team.And all they do is win.
Press Association The Blues are winless in four matches after their worst start to a Barclays Premier League campaign in 10 years and on Wednesday night were beaten 2-1 by Basle in their Champions League Group E opener. Saturday’s west London derby with Fulham is an opportunity to make amends as Mourinho’s men bid for a first victory since the defeats of Hull and Aston Villa at the start of the season. “It’s not a disaster but it’s not ideal,” said Cahill, on chelseafc.com, of the Basle loss. “A club like this wants to win the majority of games it plays. “That’s the expectation. It’s a blow but it’s not the be all and end all. “We need to win our next game now, as simple as that. The manager will stress that. “We’ve got the squad to do it, we need to go on now and get back to winning ways on Saturday.” Following a draw at Manchester United, the penalty shootout loss to Bayern Munich in the European Super Cup and last Saturday’s defeat at Everton, Chelsea were expected to dispatch Basle, whom they beat en route to winning the Europa League last term. However, the Blues are now playing catch-up in a group which also features Steaua Bucharest and Schalke, 3-0 victors over the Romanians on Wednesday night. Next the Blues play in Bucharest on October 1. That Basle ended Chelsea’s near 10-year, 29-match unbeaten run in the Champions League group stages made the result all the more remarkable, but Mourinho’s side did not deserve their half-time lead courtesy of Oscar’s goal and the Swiss side’s first win in England at the 11th attempt was only fair. “It’s a big shock really,” added England defender Cahill, who was culpable for loose marking which led to Marco Streller’s headed winner nine minutes from time. Gary Cahill has acknowledged Chelsea must improve swiftly after a less than ideal beginning to Jose Mourinho’s second spell in charge at Stamford Bridge. “We gave them a bit too much room all over the pitch but first half, we looked like we were in control of the game. “In the second half we didn’t quite step it up that level and we paid the price for it. “We played against them twice last year and they’re a very good side. “The onus was on us to step it up and we didn’t quite do that. At this sort of level we get punished and we’re obviously disappointed. “We were in control at 1-0 up, we knew we could go up a level. I’m repeating myself but we didn’t do that and that’s what cost us the game.” Cahill accepted Chelsea’s defensive performance should be assessed closely. “You can always do better, you can always analyse goals and have a look, definitely,” he said. “The back four, goalkeepers, individuals. We’ll have a look at that.” Also to be scrutinised will be Mourinho’s methods, with John Terry left on the bench for a second successive continental clash and Juan Mata brought on only for the final quarter of the fixture, despite the Blues lacking the guile to unlock the Basle defence for a second time. Mourinho’s 62-match unbeaten home record in the Premier League will be at stake when the Cottagers visit this weekend. Fulham have one top-flight win this term and should not be too much of a concern, but Mourinho must find a way to rediscover the scintillating football on show in his first competitive fixture, at home to Hull – and, at times, against European champions Bayern Munich in Prague – if Chelsea are to challenge for major honours this term. Mourinho has emphasised the youth in his side, but the likes of Marco van Ginkel, Oscar and Eden Hazard have been recruited at great expense, and there is still an experienced core including Frank Lampard, Terry, Ashley Cole and Petr Cech, survivors of the Portuguese’s hugely successful first spell in charge. Samuel Eto’o, a Champions League winner with Barcelona and Mourinho’s Inter Milan, has also started slowly and was at times invisible against Basle on his second appearance, while debutant Willian lacks match practice. Despite lacking a cutting edge up front, Mourinho insisted he is happy with his strike options, which also include Fernando Torres and Demba Ba. The trio, and Chelsea, will be bidding for a boost of confidence against their neighbours this weekend.
It’s like a nightmare you want to end. The investigations concerning high-level drug test ‘bandooloo’ mar our collective memory of competitions past. Yet, the fallout from the Russian scandal had produced one positive outcome and that is the opportunity to bid to host the 2016 World Junior Championships. With Russia banned from hosting International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) events, the memories of the 2002 World Juniors have come rushing back. One writer on Facebook, Donovan White, says his recollections give him goose pimples. Like everyone else who was there during the Kingston staging of those memorable days in July 2002, White recalled the sea of yellow shirts filling the National Stadium night after night, heightened goodwill and the rise of patriotism that were part and parcel of that event. By the time the World Juniors came to Kingston, attendance had gone flat since the meet’s inception in 1986. Before and since, this flagship Under-20 championship has been contested in front of empty seats instead of cheering fans. By contrast, Kingston roared when super Swede Carolina Kluft and Croatia’s Blanka Vlasic did victory laps carrying their own national flags and the black-green-and-gold. When 15 year-old Usain Bolt saluted fans after his 200-metre victory, they engulfed the young titan with love. Understandably, Ethiopian Meseret Defar was applauded for her 3000/5000 double. Housed at the University of the West Indies and the University of Technology, competing teams travelled with ease to the stadium for their events. The warm-up track at Stadium East brought Jamaica in line with international regulations and made hosting the event a breeze. Those elements are still in place and if a bid were made to host the 2016 Championships, The Mico University College could make its student accommodations available too. By the same token, the UWI/Usain Bolt Track could be an additional practice venue for all the teams. The National Stadium has hosted international events since it opened in 1962 for the CAC Games. The Commonwealth Games followed in 1966. With Boys and Girls’ Championships and the 12-year-old Jamaica Invitational run to international standards, Jamaica can claim to be among the world leaders in staging high-calibre athletics. One major expense would be avoided this time. In 2002, the National Stadium track was relaid for the World Juniors. Today’s blue surface was laid in 2011 and is in good condition. For a point of comparison, one set of figures pinpoints the 2015 resurfacing of the G.C. Foster College track at J$171 million. POSSIBLE JUNIOR TEAM Athletically, the 2016 Jamaican team would likely be led by reigning World Junior 400 hurdles champion Jaheel Hyde and Youth Olympic 200 champion Natalliah Whyte. Medal hopes extend to Akeem Bloomfield, the winner of the 2015 Champs Class One 400 in 44.96 seconds. To see them against young American hopes like Candace Hill, Kaylin Whitney and Sydney McLaughlin, the Japanese World Youth 100/200 champion Sani Brown and Caribbean sprint gems Mario Burke of Barbados and Khalifa St Fort of Trinidad and Tobago is a dream for every sports fan. The key question is where will the money come from. Given that our Bahamian friends reportedly lost money on the 2014 World Relays and with our exchange rate at J$120 to US$1, that question will have to be answered before the green light goes on. If staging the World Juniors passes the financial test, then the world can come back to Kingston. – Hubert Lawrence attended the 2002 World Juniors and the 2003 Netball World Cup, both held at Independence Park.