Rasmus Hansen of the Brooklyn Italians celebrates what would be the game-winning goal against the New York Cosmos B in the 2018 US Open Cup. Photo: Bob Larson | TheCup.us
National Premier Soccer League foes met for a rare Preliminary Round match in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on Sunday night, as the Brooklyn Italians played host to New York Cosmos B at LIU Brooklyn for the right to face Lansdowne Bhoys in Round 1 on Wednesday night.
Despite only training together for a couple days before the match, the Italians were the ones with the winning strategy in the match and rode two second-half goals from Rasmus Hansen to end the Cosmos’ cup aspirations with a 3-2 win.
“In games like this, you get one, maybe two chances. Today I was lucky to get two and I was fortunate to score on both of them,” said Hansen. “We’d been looking at video all week and we wanted to target the space behind their backs because, they’re very offensive but we saw there was an opportunity to get in behind them. I just tried my best to get in these pockets and it worked for us today.”
For Hansen, he was right at home. The Danish-born striker is a star on the Long Island University Brooklyn men’s soccer team, so scoring goals on that field was nothing new for the reigning Northeast Conference Player of the Year.
Head Coach Carlos Mendes’ Cosmos squad enjoyed the bulk of possession throughout the first half hour, though it failed to produce any meaningful chances on net with the advantage.
Brooklyn’s Giuseppe Barone, son of Cosmos vice president Joe Barone, made the visitors pay for their failure to
capitalize with a brilliant individual effort in the 31st minute. Defender Dominik Falanga’s hopeful long ball took a couple fortunate bounces inside the final third, where Barone swopped past the defender and poked the bouncing ball past keeper Macklin Robinson and into the net from a tight angle.
Rasmus Hansen of the Brooklyn Italians scores what would be the game-winning goal against the New York Cosmos B in the 2018 US Open Cup. Photo: Bob Larson | TheCup.us
“The Cosmos were working at it a month before us and we were actually just getting it together this week, all the college guys,” Barone said. “Some guys were just getting released from school. We tried our best to get together and make it look as good as possible. Sometimes it wasn’t the prettiest, but we got the job done.”
Falling behind seemed to put some urgency into the Cosmos as their cup dreams were put on the line. Bledi Bardic helped the Cosmos respond just five minutes after Barone’s strike with a decent connection on a long ball, as well. MLS veteran Chris Wingert offered the assist, sending in a pass that Bardic pushed past keeper Michael Bernardi at the top of the box before calmly depositing it into the empty net.
For Wingert, it was his first Open Cup assist since he was helped out on a Frankie Hejduk goal as a member of the Columbus Crew during the 2004 tournament. In an obscure piece of Open Cup statistical trivia, that 14-year gap is the longest gap in between assists of any player in the Modern Era (1995-present).
The pace of the match picked up after the two sides traded goals, but the roughly 300 fans in attendance at LIU Brooklyn had to wait until the 58th minute to see another tally.
“I think the first half we tried to press up high and then we quickly realized we’d only trained together two days. So the tactics we’d worked on, it wasn’t working for us on the field,” Italians Coach Dominic Casciato said. “We decided to sit off a bit deeper in the wide areas, because we knew the full backs were gonna go forward. We know their center backs are good players, but obviously these guys are getting older. We knew our young, quick guys could play into the space behind them on the counter attack and thankfully it worked.”
A well-won tackle near the halfway line by James Thirstino quickly launched a lethal counter for the Italians. Thirstino swiftly distributed the ball to Collyns Laokandi, who played a perfectly-weighted ball into space for Hansen to race onto and bury into the goal.
Before the celebration had even waned on Brooklyn’s second goal of the night, though, the Cosmos clawed their way right back into the match with a nifty goal. Less than a minute after the restart following Hansen’s goal, Darwin Espinal penetrated Brooklyn’s box with a dangerous run toward the endline and then smoothly played the ball to the center of the box for a one-touch finish from Wojciech Wojcik.
The two sides continued to trade counter attacking jabs until the Italians dealt the fatal blow in the 85th minute. Again, it was Hansen latching onto a long ball. It was Laokandi again spotting Hansen all alone on the right wing and springing him with a tremendous pass. Hansen cut inside as the defender attempted to recover and close him down, but the Danish attacker and LIU student got a shot off that whizzed over Robinson’s head.
“This means a great deal to us,” Hansen said of the win. “We’ve been playing the Cosmos for years now, and today we beat the first team. I think we go out there we have a game plan that we follow and. We were believing that we were probably underdogs going into the game, but we play with our hearts, we play for the club.”
Brooklyn now hosts the Cosmopolitan Soccer League’s Lansdowne Bhoys on Wednesday night.
“Hopefully tonight people will take notice of us,” Casciato said. “Because we have some very, very good players, who should be going into MLS. We have really good young players. I hope someone out there is watching and seeing these kids know what they’re doing and they deserve the opportunity.”
FULL MATCH REPLAY