On Nov. 12, the San Francisco Deltas denied the New York Cosmos their third consecutive North American Soccer League Championship trophy to become the first NASL club to win the league in its inaugural season. The final was played in front of a crowd of 9,691 at a sold-out Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, once the home of the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers football teams. Deltas’ goalkeeper Romuald Peiser kept a clean sheet for the Championship final with the Deltas winning 2-0.
Although every professional soccer team in the New York area made its league playoffs this season, the Cosmos were the only club to reach their respective league final. The Cosmos are one of two professional soccer clubs playing within New York City alongside New York City FC, which plays its home matches at Yankee Stadium. Both the New York Red Bulls and New York Red Bulls II play their matches in New Jersey. The 2017 season marked the first for the Cosmos at MCU Park in Brooklyn after moving from the James M. Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. The Cosmos share their current home with the Brooklyn Cyclones, a Minor League Baseball affiliate of the New York Mets that plays in the New York-Penn League.
Despite the Miami FC’s dominance of the NASL season, finishing 15 points clear of the second-place Deltas, the Miami FC was knocked out of the playoffs in the semifinals by the Cosmos on Nov. 5 after going into a penalty shootout. The Cosmos scraped a playoff berth after finishing the season 2 points higher on the table than the Jacksonville Armada FC. The Deltas clinched their spot in the playoff final after defeating the North Carolina FC on Nov. 5 as well.
The first goal of the Championship final came in the 19th minute on a penalty kick converted by Tom Heinemann. The penalty kick was awarded after Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer fouled the mononymous Deltas wingback Jackson in the penalty area. The second goal came as an insurance goal five minutes into stoppage time, off the final touch of the game by Devon Sandoval, assisted by Kyle Bekker.
Many of Deltas’ supporters stormed onto the pitch at Kezar Stadium to congratulate their club after the final whistle was blown.
The Cosmos failed to convert chances across both halves. After Peiser appeared to be in pain throughout the final after sustaining a lower back injury early on, the Cosmos only needed a single goal to equalize the match and force overtime. Despite dominating possession at 69.1 percent, the Cosmos managed only 4 shots on target.
Of the massive 37 crosses attempted by the Cosmos, only 10 were successful. The frustrated Cosmos conceded 14 fouls and 18 interceptions, failing to keep their cool and connect on key passes. Despite five yellow cards being issued over the course of the final, the match ended with two full teams of 11, each on the pitch.
With the ending of the NASL Championship series comes the retirement of Cosmos captain Carlos Mendes, who scored 5 goals as a defender since joining the Cosmos from the Columbus Crew SC of Major League Soccer in 2013. Mendes was a staple of the Cosmos’ defensive line and managed a 100 percent pass accuracy rate in the Championship final, connecting on all 40 pass attempts.
The future of the Cosmos, Deltas and the entire league remains in question after the U.S. Soccer Federation denied the NASL renewal of its second division status. Fielding only eight clubs across three different countries including Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, the USSF determined that the NASL did not meet its standards for second division sanctioning.
The NASL filed a lawsuit against the USSF in September claiming that the USSF broke antitrust laws and has a clear financial interest in seeing the success of the first-division MLS and second-division United Soccer League, the direct competitor of the NASL in the U.S. soccer pyramid. An injunction to maintain second-division status was denied by Second Circuit judge Margo Brodie in November. Although the NASL has appealed the decision, popular wisdom holds that the NASL will likely fold if denied second-division status.
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