The Cosmos play in the North American Soccer League (NASL), which is currently the second tier (D2) of US Soccer between MLS (D1) and USL PRO (D3). The New York versus Philadelphia rivalry runs deep way beyond the sporting realm but in a wonderful two part series by New York Cosmos club historian Dr. David Kilpatrick, you can see that the NY vs Philadelphia rivalry runs deeper than most.
The Cosmos are coming to Philadelphia off a 3-0 win over cross town rivals New York Red Bull, with a serious point to prove. The Red Bulls fielded a less than full strength team that while missing Cahill and Henry, still included the likes of Steele, Sam, Maera, Luyindula and Wright-Phillips. Hardly a second string for the MLS side that the NY'ers with an axe to grind dispatched with relative ease.
The Union, on the other hand, will be facing this Cosmos after what can only be described as a less than convincing win over USL PRO (and Union affiliate) side, Harrisburg City Islanders. New interim head coach Jim Curtin was just a few days into his tenure when he was tasked with advancing the Union to the next round of the US Open Cup and a further week to put his stamp on the full first team may be just enough to make a difference. With the Union floundering before the World Cup break and the removal of John Hackworth as head coach, the club can ill afford to view this years Cosmos as anything but a team of comparable quality. In the Union's favor the Cosmos again look likely to be without midfield playmaker Marcos Senna, whose fitness is being described as "less than 100%".
The former US prodigy has finally found a home in NY with the Cosmos, his play this season has been exceptional and he looked more than a match for Steele and Sam in the last round. He should keep Noggy and Mo very busy.
Match Ups to Watch
Mads Stokkelien v Amobi Okugo
While hardly prolific in front of goal with just 3 goals in 9 games, Stokkelien is tall (6'2") ,and likes to create as much as score, also leading the Cosmos in assists in the Spring Season. (Imagine a Norweigan Aaron Wheeler and you may be close to picturing Mads physically and stylistically. He's got a good touch, nice close control and a unselfish nature. He could cause fits for the diminutive Okugo
Nane v Maurice Edu
The two big men will likely spend much of their evening colliding. Nene and Szetela combined well versus the Red Bulls and he has made the loss of Senna bearable for the Cosmos, sharing the play maker role well while never giving up the enforcer role. I expect early sparks out of these two with both teams looking to the US Open Cup for salvation.
The Cosmos have made no secret that they view the US Open Cup as massively important to the club, both as a way to increase their domestic reputation and as a possible vehicle to claim a CONCACAF Champions League position that they feel the club is legitimately worthy of. Their victory versus Red Bull will have gone a long way to bolster that mentality and give them momentum heading into PPL.
The Union will look to last season's DC United for just how important a cup run can be for the image and mentality of a side in crisis. Curtin certainly knows what it takes to win the US Open Cup as a player and I am sure would be eager to make a deep run a his first real senior coaching assignment.
Ultimately this match may come down to who has the deeper desire, one of many things the Union have been accused of lacking this season.
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