The New York Cosmos opened the defense of their North American Soccer League title with a convincing 4-0 home victory over the Atlanta Silverbacks on Sunday evening.
Captain Carlos Mendes, who lifted the NASL Soccer Bowl trophy after a 1-0 win over Atlanta back in November, scored two goals having not found the net during the past ten years of his professional career. The defender struck after 23 minutes and again seven minutes before halftime. Spanish defender Ayoze and Norwegian striker Mads Stokkelien also scored for the Cosmos.
“It was a team effort and there was great service and I’m just happy we scored four goals,” said Mendes. “It was a great atmosphere and I hope the fans enjoyed our first game.”
Expansion club Indy Eleven made its North American Soccer League debut in front of a sellout crowd of 11,048 at Michael A. Carroll Stadium in a 1-1 draw against the Carolina RailHawks.
Mike Ambersley scored the historic first goal in Indy Eleven history, applying a quick finish to a perfect through ball just before halftime of the ESPN3 NASL Match of the Week. Carolina adjusted immediately and only five minutes after the break, Zach Schilawski earned the visitors a share of the points with an equalizer.
Minnesota United opened with a 2-0 win away to the San Antonio Scorpions. Striker Christian Ramirez controlled the ball with his back to goal and then on a half-turn, volleyed the ball into the top corner after 17 minutes and the hosts were soon reduced to ten men when Julius James was sent off. Kevin Venegas drilled a perfect free kick over the wall and past keeper David Bingham to make it 2-0.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” said Minnesota coach Manny Lagos. “I thought they worked really hard. The three points are very big for us tonight, but we’ve got to get better. I thought it was a great physical game and we didn’t back down and we saw the game out.”
Striker Christian Ramirez controlled the ball with his back to goal and then on a half-turn, volleyed the ball into the top corner after 17 minutes and the hosts were soon reduced to ten men when Julius James was sent off. Kevin Venegas drilled a perfect free kick over the wall and past keeper David Bingham to make it 2-0.
Joining New York and Minnesota on three points at the top are the Fort Lauderdale Strikers also won 2-0, spoiling the NASL debut of Ottawa Fury FC at Lockhart Stadium. Rafael Alves scored the first goal of the new NASL season after 13 minutes as he put the Strikers ahead, then a Darnell King goal late in the game made the points safe for the Strikers.
A crowd of 7,003 saw the Tampa Bay Rowdies lead through a 32nd minute own goal by Kareem Moses and they looked to be destined to collect the win when keeper Matt Pickens saved a second half Neil Hlavaty penalty. But two minutes from time, new signing Tomi Ameobi salvaged a draw for FC Edmonton.
“The players were magnificent in the second half and minimum for us we deserve in this game was a draw,” said FC Edmonton coach, Colin Miller. “I thought we were the better team tonight and it was a great atmosphere here for this home opener and I am so proud of my players tonight.”
Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said: “I felt that we worked hard and dug in. The second half opened a little bit more and I felt that half was a lot better. We managed to string a few passes together and make a few moves. We still have to be a little bit braver collectively in terms of keeping possession of the ball.”