Blog Written by Alessandro Pugliese (@sandro_pugliese):
The New York Cosmos lost in heartbreaking fashion to the New England Revolution in the fifth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. It was a similar script for the Cosmos, who have now lost in the fifth round of the competition to an MLS club for the third consecutive year. This year the NASL club was selected to host and the match took place at Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John’s University.
A well-worked team goal finished off by Ruben Bover in the 38th minute put the Cosmos in front. But the Revs responded just five minutes later when Teal Bunbury blew by Ayoze and roofed a shot into the top of the net at the near post. The Cosmos regained the lead in the 56th minute as Sebastian Guenzatti took down a pass in the air onto his left foot inside the box and placed the ball into the far corner. The NASL club had two opportunities to double their advantage but could not convert their chances, which would come back to haunt them. Kei Kamara found his first goal for the Revs, with some luck as Roversio’s block gave him an open net, 14 minutes after coming off the bench. Following the dispossession of Adam Moffat by Zachary Herivaux, which looked like foul, Kei Kamara played in Teal Bunbury who scored his second of the night and seal the comeback for the Revs. The Cosmos pushed forward in the remaining seven minutes and change but couldn’t find a late equalizer.
Kei Kamara and Lee Nyguen coming off the bench brought the Revs to a level of play that is just above this Cosmos team. Meanwhile, when Adam Moffat came into the match he was far too slow and simply not up to the pace that was needed. When MLS clubs play their top talent in Open Cup matches, it’s very hard for any NASL club to keep up to par.
The New York Cosmos have once again lost in the fifth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the third straight year. Two years ago it was to the Philadelphia Union after Extra Time and last year to the NY Red Bulls in Harrison, New Jersey. Each loss gave Cosmos supporters hope of the possibility to make history and advance to the quarterfinals of the Open Cup. Each loss has also come with mistakes from Cosmos players that have directly resulted in opponents scoring. Last year, Hunter Gorskie lost the ball right outside his box and then gave up a penalty trying to win the ball back. While last night, a dreadful punt from Jimmy Maurer allowed the Revs to quickly find Kamara for the tying goal. Then, as Adam Moffat was too slow with the ball at his feet in his own defensive third, a crunching tackle won the ball for the Revs, which allowed Kamara to play Bunbury in on goal.
So, the Cosmos have yet to been able to get over the fifth round hump of the U.S. Open Cup. Both the players and fans really felt this was the year to make the deepest run in club history in the competition. This loss will sting especially being only 15 minutes away from glory but coach Giovanni Savarese after the match said it best, “We are ready to continue to go forward. We cannot stay hanging on the result tonight. We analyze, we look at it, we learn from it, we grow from it.”
It was evident by the player’s reactions and emotions at the end of the match how much this game meant to the club. I even saw a little kid crying in the stands after the final whistle. Supporters chanted, “We’ve got Jimmy Maurer!” as the Cosmos goalkeeper came over to greet and acknowledge the 5 Points (Cosmos supporters clubs). Also, the 5 Points deserve tons of credit for singing and cheering on their team for 90 minutes even after falling behind.
The Cosmos will have to rebound quickly as they kick off their Fall Season on Saturday night against the Ottawa Fury at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium. Jimmy Maurer put it nicely in his post-match comments, “Tonight is a tough one to swallow, it hurts a lot but tomorrow we’ll wake up and get back to work.” It was an immense missed opportunity for the New York Cosmos but sometimes the beautiful game can be painful. The storied club will definitely be looking to break their fifth round curse next year in the U.S. Open Cup.
Below is some footage of clips I took of the match.
Blog Written by Alessandro Pugliese (@Sandro_Pugliese):
All stats via FourFourTwo and WhoScored
A world-class performance from Antonio Conte and his squad conquered two-time Euro Cup defending champions, Spain. I think it’s more than fair to say Conte has perfected the 3-5-2 formation and is outstanding at preparing his squad for a single must-win match. This Italian performance was quite similar to the one against Belgium but even better.
The Italians may have surprised some folks with how they approached this match. They did not sit back, allowing Spain to possess the ball while playing catenaccio. Instead, Italy started the match on the front foot as Conte had his team attacking wisely and efficiently. If it was not for some brilliance from Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea, Italy could’ve easily ran away with the game in the first half. Granted, De Gea gave up the rebound, which lead to Chiellini’s goal but he still played very well and kept Spain in the match.
Italy dropped a forward, usually Graziano Pellè, to mark Sergio Busquets, making it difficult for Spain to build up play from out of the back, as they love to do. In the first half, David Silva, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas didn’t find the ball in dangerous areas and had very little impact on the match.
Even when they played long and over the top, Morata struggled to win the ball against his former teammates. Spain played 41 long passes, nine more than Italy, exemplifying how Italy’s tactics worked, not allowing the Spanish to develop their typical tiki-taka rhythm. Two attackers, Nolito and Morata, who were both substituted, combined to complete only 33 passes, just one more than Gigi Buffon. Spain may have had the edge in possession but Italy proved what matters most is what you do with the ball and not how much you have it.
While Spain did have their fair share of chances, Buffon was up to the task each time and the Italian defense held firm. Buffon showed us once again, at the age of 38, why he’s considered one of the all-time greats. As the leader of Gli Azzurri, Gigi stepped up when his number was called upon, especially in the 90th minute on a Pique shot from eight yards out. This Spanish side just did not seem up to the task while Italy played impeccably as a team in unison. The Italians played as a compact unit showing true desire and a will to win, which Spain was lacking.
It really can’t be said enough how remarkable the Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini partnership is. They’ve all played together for the past five years and have formed an impeccable chemistry. Each of them are standout defenders while also possessing the ability to comfortably play the ball around the back and build the attack. Barzagli and Bonucci, in particular, are phenomenal at finding diagonal passes into the midfield. The leadership characteristics of these three along with Buffon are the backbone for this Italian side. As long as this defense plays up to their high standards, Italy will have a chance in this tournament.
Conte has formed a well-oiled machine with the squad he’s brought to France. Everyone who steps on the field gives 110% and works hard on both sides of the ball. Italy do a fine job of playing out of the back, utilizing the wingbacks, finding the central midfielders and then linking up between the two strikers. This Italian team has done a superb job of utilizing the wide areas, working the ball out wide and then whipping in crosses or cutting in to shoot.
Graziano Pellè’s stoppage time goal was splendidly orchestrated. As Giaccherini laid the ball off to Lorenzo Insigne in the attacking third, the Napoli winger exchanged a give-and-go with Tiago Motta. Instead of just heading towards the corner to waste time, Insigne then picked out an exquisite ball to switch the play to the right side, allowing Matteo Darmian to find Pellè inside the box and finish off the game; a lesson that you can finish off a match with skill and intelligence rather than just time wasting.
Italy performed brilliantly and thoroughly deserved the victory against Spain. Conte outcoached Del Bosque, who never made any significant changes to his team’s approach when it was needed. Pellè and Eder created all sorts of problems for Pique and Ramos; Spain’s midfield was largely ineffective while BBC shut down Morata and the rest of Spain’s attack. Conte has earned all the praise he is now receiving, being hailed as the coach of the tournament thus far.
Next up for Conte and his warriors are the defending World Cup champions, Germany on Saturday July 2 at 3:00 p.m. EST. Interestingly enough, most Germans preferred to face Spain in the quarterfinals as Germany have never beaten Italy at a major tournament (four wins for Italy and four draws). Antonio Conte will be cooking up his next tactical setup in hopes to keep Italy marching on at Euro 2016.
Blog Written by Alessandro Pugliese (@sandro_pugliese):
They say history repeats itself. It certainly did in the East River Derby on Wednesday night. The New York Cosmos defeated New York City Football Club in the Fourth Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Jack Coffey Field on Fordham University’s Bronx campus. The location and score line were different last year on June 17, 2015 but the final outcome was the same. Before the match I overheard an NYCFC fan saying, “It’s finally time to beat a New York team” but the Manchester City affiliate is still winless against New York teams (0-4 vs. Red Bulls, 0-2 Cosmos).
Both sides eased into the match, seemingly stuck in first gear for the majority of the first half, which might be understandable considering NYCFC’s much-filtered starting lineup. The Cosmos had the better chances in the first 45 minutes, testing NYCFC goalkeeper Eirik Johansen twice in the early going with shots on target from Jairo Arrieta and Yohandry Orozco.
NYCFC started playing higher up the field in the second half, putting more pressure on the Cosmos. Left-back Diego Martinez’s strike from 25 yards out had power and swerve, forcing goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer to parry it away. NYCFC continued to control most of the play, leading to a Patrick Mullins shot from inside the box that Maurer was able to save without too much trouble. The MLS side’s best chance came in the 73rd minute when Mullins nipped the ball between Roversio and Mullins, giving him an open goal. But in heroic fashion, Hunter Freeman was able to recover and make a goal-saving sliding tackle. A huge play which was a key moment in the match.
Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese made his first substitution, bringing on Adam Moffat for Ruben Bover in the 79th minute. With extra time looming, the Cosmos broke the deadlock through a fantastic build up of play. Ayoze played a ball into the middle as Moffat opened up his body to let the ball run by his defender. The Scottish midfielder then dribbled into the final third, spraying the ball out wide left to Orozco whose cross was headed home by an open Danny Szetela. The 88th minute strike saw the Cosmos supporters celebrating deliriously and singing passionately well after the final whistle.
“I am very proud of the guys, the way they were organized tactically,” said Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese after the match. “There was a moment in the second half where we struggled a little bit, but then we readjusted and at the end we were able to find the goal at a critical moment and important moment for us to win the game.”
This is the third year in a row that the New York Cosmos have defeated an MLS club in the Fourth Round of the U.S. Open Cup. The other North American Soccer League (NASL) club to advance was the Fort Lauderdale Strikers who beat D.C. United in a penalty shootout.
“The win against NYCFC yesterday was symbolic of everything the Cosmos and their fans stand for,” Cosmos supporter Franco Zagari said. “True heart, true passion that transcends any divisional status within the landscape of US Soccer. It was a truly memorable victory. That’s what makes the US Open Cup a very important tournament for all of us.”
The New York Cosmos will host the Fifth Round matchup against the New England Revolution at St. John's Belson Stadium on Wednesday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Blog Written by Alessandro Pugliese (@sandro_pugliese)
There were many skeptics of the Italian National Team heading into UEFA Euro 2016. Injuries leading to the absence of star-midfielders Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio certainly made matters even more difficult for Antonio Conte, who already announced he is joining Chelsea after the tournament. Some of his call-ups were questionable and received criticism from the Italian media. Expectations for the four-time World Cup winners are probably at an all-time low. ESPN commentator Ian Darke even mentioned before the match kicked off that, “Some critics say this is the worst Italy team they can remember.” But with a stout defense and exceptional organizational ability maybe this Italian side shouldn’t be written off.
Antonio Conte lined up with his well-known 3-5-2 formation utilizing wing backs on the flanks. Personally, I was disappointed to see Eder in the starting XI as his form has been quite poor since his January move to Inter, having scored one goal in the last six months. I did like the inclusion of Marco Parolo who offered a different dynamic in the center of pitch. I would hope to see Alessandro Florenzi inserted into the midfielder probably for Parolo or Emanuele Giaccherini but the Roma man was possibly left out since he became a father the day before. Matteo Darmian was given a start at the left wingback spot and did a solid job going up against Kevin De Bruyne. With more ability to hold possession and be more attack-minded in the next two group stage matches, you could see Conte play Federico Bernardeschi or Stephan El Sharaawy there. Lazio winger Antonio Candreva put in a very solid 90 minutes on the right flank, looking dangerous in attack while also contributing well defensively. Graziano Pellé offers a big body up front who can play well enough with his feet and also be a dangerous threat in the air. Playing off of the Southampton striker as a seconda punta ("second striker" - someone who plays alongside a central striker or targetman but is comfortable dropping deep or wide), Eder wasn’t too effective going forward but worked hard and made a defensive contribution.
Importance of Juve Trio
The formidable BBC (Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini) partnership has been exceptional in Serie A over the last three to four years. The chemistry and understanding the three defenders have together is something special. In playing this 3-5-2 formation it is important to have central defenders who are comfortable on the ball and can play out of the back. While Chiellini is certainly the weakest in this department, he’s still serviceable despite the fact he might look a bit awkward on the ball at times. However, Bonucci and Barzagli’s world-class talent make up for what Giorgio might lack. Playing in the center of the back three, Bonucci was spraying the ball all around the field, drawing comparisons to Andrea Pirlo. His sublime 40-yard ball to the foot of Giaccherini in the 32nd minute propelled Italy into the lead.
Leo’s long ball passing has improved dramatically from a couple of years ago. I recall when most of his long balls in the air would hardly ever reach the target and would be a poor waste of possession but now those balls are a real threat. Meanwhile, Andrea Barzagli played some terrific diagonal passes out of the back to start the attack. Italy broke through Belgium’s midfield line with vertical and diagonal passes and then used quick one & two touch lay-offs. While it was the first match, the touches and passes in the final third need to be sharper and more effective for Italy as this tournament progresses. Not only will Chiellini, Barzagli and Bonucci be vital for the Azzurri defensively but also in building the attack with their passing.
Defensively, Conte’s side remained very disciplined and compact giving the Belgians little time and space in the middle of the field. The Italians did a commendable job of shutting down passing lanes and forcing Belgium to play the ball around the back only going side-to-side. Both the defensive and midfield units were always on the same page, pushing and squeezing up together in unison.
When not in possession, the wing backs essentially drop in and become full backs, essentially having five defenders across the back. It was quite impressive how De Bruyne and Eden Hazard never really had opportunities to dribble into space and take a defender on 1v1. Dries Mertens did look dangerous when he came on, running at defenders but his threat was handled well enough. Romelu Lukaku struggled to find space with Bonucci doing a great job on him defensively. Lukaku did have a golden chance created by a counter attack but the Everton man sent it just high and wide of the post. Daniele De Rossi played well in the holding-mid position, anchoring in front of the back three, clogging lanes and closing down space. While Belgium was certainly disappointing in attack, Italy deserves credit for executing their structured game plan to perfection. As Belgium looked more like a collection of individuals on the field, Italy played like a cohesive team, which was evident after their second goal when everyone, including the bench, celebrated together on the pitch.
It was just about as perfect a start to Euro 2016 as Gli Azzurri could’ve asked for; out-playing, out-working and out-coaching a Belgium side ranked 2nd in the world by FIFA, who are amongst the favorites to win the tournament. Conte and his squad have deservedly received much praise for their performance and it’s important to build upon this match going forward. The Italians will travel to Toulouse on Friday, June 17 to face Sweden, where a win would just about guarantee them to advance past the group stage.
Extra Video Clips of the Match