The match was built up to be a huge one, and it surely didn’t disappoint. While there were highs and lows for both sides, the New York Cosmos prevailed on penalties, securing themselves a spot in the Fifth Round, as well as $15,000 for being the North American Soccer League (NASL) team to advance the furthest in the competition.
Even though the match ended on penalties, the way it got there was dramatic and entertaining for the announced attendance of 11,446 at Hofstra University. The scoring started off in the 24th minute when Kwadwo Poku of NYCFC scored on a spectacular run of play. The ball was crossed into the box from the left wing. Poku ran on to the ball, chipped the ball straight up in the air and with a defender on him, turned, and hit an over-the-head kick into the back of the net.
Poku wasn’t done, though, as he scored his second of the game in the 59th minute as Pablo Alvarez sent a ball over the top and Poku beat the goalkeeper to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.
Poku is a great example of a player who has used the Open Cup as a vehicle for advancing his career. He was discovered after scoring four goals for the Georgia Revolution of the NPSL in 2013. After playing against the Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL) that year, Atlanta signed him, which then caught the eye of New York City FC who signed him before this season.
After Poku gave NYCFC a 2-0 lead, the Cosmos brought on Leo Fernandes, one of their top performers from the club’s 3-0 Third Round win over the PDL’s Jersey Express. Only minutes after he came onto the pitch, Fernandes scored and brought the game back in to arms reach for the Cosmos with 25 minutes to go. After that goal, the momentum completely swung around. Just as it started to seem that NYCFC would escape with a win, Lucky Mkosana received a low cross from Hunter Freeman on the right wing, Mkosana took a soft touch and fired it past the goalkeeper to level the match and send the inaugural East River Derby into extra time.
In extra time, both teams had multiple chances to seal a goal, but none was bigger than the 98th minute when Hunter Freeman pulled down NYCFC captain Andrew Jacobson in the penalty area. Alvarez stepped up to take the penalty and the Cosmos’ Jimmy Maurer guessed wrong and dove to his right as Alvarez went down the middle and rattled the ball off the middle of the crossbar.
Nothing separated the two squads as the game had to be decided by penalty kicks. Entering penalties, there was an electric atmosphere, both supporters and staff and players alike all knew it was coming down to this. NYCFC found themselves leading 3-2 heading into the fifth round of penalty kicks and Patrick Mullins had a chance to send City to Round 5 but Maurer made a diving save. After Adam Moffat converted for the Cosmos, Maurer came up big again, saving Shay Facey’s attempt with a diving save to his right. The game-winning kick fell to Cosmos defender Hunter Gorskie who shot low and to the right. NYCFC’s Eirik Johansen guessed correctly and got a hand to hit, but it snuck just inside the post to send the Cosmos into celebration mode and their fans into a frenzy.