By DAN KARELL
For the first time all season, the New York Cosmos took a lead and never let it go.
Despite going down to ten-men late, a second-half header goal from Sebastian Guenzatti gave the Cosmos a 1-0 victory over Minnesota United on Saturday evening at James Shuart Stadium. Cosmos goalkeeper Kyle Reynish earned his second shutout of the season in the win.
With the 2-2 draw between the Carolina RailHawks and the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday, the Cosmos moved two points clear at the top of the NASL table.
Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese made three changes to his starting lineup from the week before, bringing back Ayoze and Peri Marosevic, while starting Japanese youth international Satoru Kashiwase as the lone forward up top.
The continuity in the rest of the lineup seemed to make a difference for the hosts in the first half, as they possessed better than in previous matches. However, the visiting Minnesota United did very well, through on-loan midfielder Calum Mallace, to cut out the Cosmos rhythm in the middle of the park.
Without many good chances, the teams moved into the second half with an emphasis on using the wings. Minnesota created opportunities through Miguel Ibarra and Lucas Rodriguez, though Ibarra’s best chance came to nothing after a heavy touch.
The Cosmos finally took advantage of the spaces out wide with the overlapping run of Hunter Freeman down the right side in the 78th minute.
Freeman whipped in a great cross into the middle of the box, and the 22-year-old Guenzatti met the ball with a flying header that went in for a goal, the forward’s first of the season. The goal ended a streak of 258 minutes for the Cosmos without a goal from open play.
Two minutes later, the Cosmos were given a stunning blow. A studs up tackle from Freeman resulted in the right back being shown a straight red card, reducing the Cosmos to ten men. However, the hosts were able to defend well and outlast the late opportunities from Minnesota United.
Ayoze nearly gave the Cosmos a two-goal lead in stoppage time but his effort went wide of goal.