By IVES GALARCEP
The New York Cosmos picked up right where they left off after winning last year’s NASL Soccer Bowl, opening the 2014 season with a resounding victory over the Atlanta Silverbacks on Sunday.
Captain and defender Carlos Mendes led the charge for the Cosmos, scoring the first two goals of his professional career in New York’s 4-0 mauling of the Silverbacks. Mendes earned NASL Player of the Week honors for his role in the victory.
The Cosmos were one of three teams to post opening-week victories in the opening week of NASL. Minnesota United delivered an early statement victory over the San Antonio Scorpions, while the Fort Lauderdale Strikers gave a rough welcome to NASL to expansion side Ottawa Fury, beating the Canadian club 2-0.
The league’s other expansion team, Indiana Eleven FC, enjoyed a better start to life in the NASL, recording a 1-1 tie against the Carolina Railhawks in front of a sold-out crowd of 11,048.
Here is a recap of the weekend’s action in NASL:
STRIKERS 2, FURY 0
Ottawa’s inaugural match didn’t quite go according to plan, with Rafael Alves scoring early in the first half and Darnell King providing the 80th minute insurance goal for Fort Lauderdale. German goalkeeper Oka Nikolov made four saves in posting the shutout.
Alves’ goal came in the 13th minute off a feed from Mark Anderson. Ottawa put some chances together, but could not find a way past Nikolov, who enjoyed a solid match in goal.
SCORPIONS 0, MINNESOTA UNITED 2
The only team to post a road win in Week One was Minnesota United, which went to Texas and shut out the Scorpions behind the solid defensive work of Brazilians Tiago Calvano and Cristiano Dias.
A Julius James red card in the 27th minute forced the Scorpions to play with 10 men, making a comeback that much more difficult. A Kevin Venegas free kick in the 71st minute capped the victory for Minnesota.
Here are the match highlights:
INDY ELEVEN 1, RAILHAWKS 1
Perhaps it was fitting that a pair of Indiana University products combined on Indy’s first goal, with A.J. Corrado setting up Mike Ambersley with a 43rd minute strike.
Carolina responded in the second half, with Zach Schilawski heading home a Ty Shipalane cross in the 50th minute for the tying goal.
ROWDIES 1, FC EDMONTON 1
An early own goal from Kareem Moses put FC Edmonton in a hole, but an 88th-minute equalizer from Tomi Ameobi helped the Eddies escape Florida with a precious road point.
The late goal spoiled the Rowdies debut of goalkeeper Matt Pickens, who saved a second-half penalty kick to keep the score 1-0 in the 54th minute.
COSMOS 4, SILVERBACKS 0
This rematch of the 2013 Soccer Bowl was nowhere near as competitive as last year’s title game, with the Cosmos dominating proceedings at home. Ayoze and Mendes were the catalysts in the rout, with Mendes scoring a pair of first-half goals, and Ayoze providing a goal and assist.
Newly-acquired Norwegian striker Mads Stokkelien enjoyed an impressive debut, scoring in his first match for the defending NASL champions. Goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer recorded 12 saves for the shutout.