Second-half goal leads Cosmos to Soccer Bowl victory over Silverbacks

ATLANTA — With a quick turnaround shot, Marcos Senna put the Cosmos back where they’ve been five times before.

Both Atlanta and New York played a game worthy of the championship, but the midfielder’s strike in the 50th minute was a world-class goal and gave the Cosmos a 1-0 win Saturday in the NASL’s 2013 Soccer Bowl.

After a free kick was awarded to the Cosmos about 25 yards out on the left wing, Senna collected the cleared ball just outside the box. He quickly put a targeted strike from the right side over the head of Silverbacks keeper Joe Nasco and into the upper 90 on the far post for the lone goal of the contest.

“(The shot) really was (unstoppable),” Nasco said. “Hats off to Marcos Senna. It was a great touch and great finish. I would’ve had to have been standing in that corner to make the save. It was just a great shot.”

The score sent the Cosmos’ faithful into a frenzy, including a display of fireworks from the supporters group that made the long trek from the Big Apple. They were a small but loud part of the 7,211 fans at the game, the best title game crowd since the league’s first incarnation three decades ago.

Silverbacks coach Brian Haynes, who Friday was named the league’s coach of the year, was obviously upset to come out the loser of the game but seemed proud of his team’s effort.

“It was a tough game for me because I felt we did enough things to win the game,” Haynes said. “We didn’t take our chances, but they took theirs. They beat my hot keeper who’s been great for me all season long. Hat’s off to them.”

The final started with both teams feeling each other out, neither making much offense. Then 12 minutes into the game, Atlanta’s Pedro Mendes make the first dangerous attack of the contest. After a yellow card to New York’s Danny Szetela for a foul on Central grad Borfor Carr, Danny Barrera drove a 40-yard free kick into the box. After bouncing off a couple of heads, Lucas Paulini chipped the ball to Mendes. The forward took a poke shot, but Cosmos goalkeeper Kyle Reynish deflected the shot back.

Atlanta controlled the attack for the next few minutes, but Stefan Dimitrov gave them a little jolt in the 17th minute. The Cosmos’ forward took a long pass and quickly turned around in the box with an open shot that Nasco plucked out of the air.

After a couple more attacking possessions, New York had the best chance of the first half. Paulo Mendes passed the ball to a wide-open Diomar Diaz at the penalty spot in the 21st minute. Diaz turned and fired, but his shot was parried by Nasco, who stuck his legs out to get wide and kept the game level.

Szetela also missed a chance on a corner that glanced off his head in the 25th minute, and three minutes later his teammate Sebastian Guenzatti badly mishit a shot from the penalty area and sent it sailing over the crossbar.

Nasco made a diving save on a quality free kick taken by Marcos Senna from about 22 yards out in the 29th minute, stopping a ball that sailed just over the Atlanta wall.

Atlanta made a number of attempts to equalize in the second half. Barrera was a workaholic in the midfield, winning a lot of balls and chasing many more. He put a nice free kick in the box in the 60th minute, but the Silverbacks’ attackers fell down and the ball was collected by Reynish.

The best opportunity to tie the game came in the 63rd minute. Mike Randolph came up from his left back spot to serve in a cross. He put the ball in the air and it had nearly perfect placement. Pedro Mendes was lined up for a header on goal near the six-yard box, but New York’s Ayoze was marking him and forced a bad header that sailed over the crossbar.