Commentary

NASL Final: Deltas shrug off uncertainty to beat Cosmos

Expansion team San Francisco Deltas wrapped up a memorable season that might be its last by beating the New York Cosmos, 2-0, Sunday night in the NASL final.

Here are three takeaways from the match that could be the last ever played by the Deltas, who have lost millions of dollars in their first season and are not expected to return in 2018.

1. Third time is a charm for Dos Santos
 
With his third team in three years, Deltas head coach Marc Dos Santos steered his team to a third final and this time he won it.

Dos Santos and his players ignored speculation and then confirmation that the team was probably going to fold due to losses in the millions of dollars to battle its way into second place during the fall season, and then knocked off North Carolina FC, 1-0, to reach and host the NASL final at Kezar Stadium.

As coach of the Ottawa Fury, Dos Santos had lost to the Cosmos in the 2015 final, but a penalty kick in the 19th minute converted by Tommy Heinemann gave San Francisco the lead, and the Deltas’ rugged defense and some heroic stops by keeper Romauld Peiser held off the Cosmos until Kyle Bekker dummied a through ball that Devon Sandoval steered into the net in the final seconds.

Dos Santos reached the USL Cup final last year with Swope Park Rangers, which he left to build an expansion team that rode through turmoil on and off the field to win it all.

“It’s been quite an experience this year and we’ve had to overcome a lot of adversity,” said Sandoval, a former Real Salt Lake player who joined the NASL expansion team after receiving a phone from Dos Santos in January. “Marc is somebody who knows how to win and he understands the game very well. There’s a reason he’s been as successful as he has. It’s been fun, a good learning experience, and we ended the year with a trophy.”
 
2. Field, early goal impaired Cosmos.
 
The match looked dead-even based on head-to-head results between the teams. Since the Deltas lost, 1-0, to the Cosmos in late April, the teams had tied 0-0 and 2-2 at MCU Park, and the Deltas had prevailed, 2-1, at Kezar in early August.

A match between two well-prepared teams that know each other well was likely to be decided on a great play or a mistake, and in the 19th minute Cosmos keeper Jimmy Maurer lunged for a ricocheted ball and tripped Jackson. Referee Rubio Vazquez ignored fierce protests and signaled for a penalty kick that Heinemann slammed down the middle as Maurer lunged to his left.

The Cosmos forced a few anxious moments in the Deltas goalmouth, but the home team did press forward on occasion and finished with a 17-14 advantage in shots. Cosmos head coach Giovani Savarese said it took some time for his players to a surface slickened by recent rains that forced more long balls and direct attacks than he prefers.

“They did play their style; they are a tough team, especially when they score one goal they’re a little bit more difficult to play against,” said Savarese. “In the second half, I thought we did very well to open the spaces. We found spaces, we went at them. I think we created opportunities but unfortunately we couldn’t put those opportunities away.

“I thought our guys played a very good match starting from minute 10 in the first half. The beginning we were struggling because the field is not good. We were trying to play from the back but we had to play direct balls because the field didn’t allow us to play our way. I think my guys played a good game and it could have gone either way today.”
 
3. ‘One More Year’

Faced with pending extinction, team management sharply reduced admission and concession prices for its final games of the season, and finally the local soccer community responded in droves.

A sellout crowd of 9,691 packed the downsized, former home of the San Francisco 49ers and rose to its feet in the final seconds. Once the final whistle went and league officials scurried onto the field to set up a stage for the medal and trophy presentations, fans started streaming onto the field from both sets of stands and by the time the Deltas assembled on the platform, they were surrounded on all sides by thousands of exuberant supporters, many of them decked out in the team colors of red, white, and black.

A chant of “One more year! One more year!” broke out as first a massive spray of champagne and then a blast of confetti rose into the night sky. But possibilities of the team’s return are remote -- the club has lost too much of an initial $10 million investment to continue unless new investors step forward.

For the Deltas, the NASL title game could be a final in more ways than one.

Nov. 12 in San Francisco
SF Deltas 2 New York Cosmos 0. Goals: Heinemann 19, Sandoval (Bekker) 90+5.
SF Deltas -- Peiser, Attakora (Hopkins 66), Ouimette, Ferreira, Stephens (Dyego 76), Tissot, Jordan, Jackson, Gibson, Bekker, Heinemann (Sandoval 90+2).
New York -- Maurer, Mulligan, Ayoze, Jakovic, Mendes, Calvillo (Mkosana 69), Flores, Guerra, Marquez, Starikov (Moyal 90+3), Ledesma (Vranjican 88).
Att.: 9,691.

7 comments about "NASL Final: Deltas shrug off uncertainty to beat Cosmos".
  1. R2 Dad, November 13, 2017 at 8:30 a.m.

    The Deltas have been a very good grass-roots soccer project, and has helped inject some life into a local SF neighborhood. It would be unfortunatle to lose this community endeavor on account of intransigence on the part of USSF. Dos Santos and the players did their part. Once the ownership group started offering reduced ticket prices at the playoffs the fans started coming out in droves and provided good support, the concessions made some bank--it was a good time all around. The Deltas suceeded, but the US Soccer landscape has failed them.

  2. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, November 13, 2017 at 5:15 p.m.

    It's the USSF's fault no one shows up to these games?  Sounds more like NASL's failed business model has resulted in its teams, including the Deltas, losing millions and, shortly, going out of business.

  3. R2 Dad replied, November 13, 2017 at 11:45 p.m.

    I believe it is US Soccer's responsibility to have developed a soccer pyramid and contiguous league structure. Sunil has done little over the past 15 years to address this; it's been all MLS, and the MLS business model, all the time. People at the grass roots level have been asking for more from our governing body for ages now. Sunil has been unable to do anything at the local level to enable this other than foster new and competing leagues that further dilute attention/skills/funding. I don't have the answers, but then I'm not running for president. Gans and Wynalda, though, would be a competent pairing for the business and sporting sides. If we paid for co-presidents, and demanded they have a fiduciary responsibility to the US--not SUM, not MLS--perhaps the office jointly held by two guys could get the job done properly.

  4. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, November 14, 2017 at 10 a.m.

    First, MLS has gone from 10 teams to 22 and will reach 28 in the medium terms.  That's an important part of growing the pyramid.  The USL is a growing lower level league that is doing just fine.  And adding MLS reserve teams to USL has helped address a gap in the developmental system.  Sure, there's still work to do but I don't see NASL as being an important part of that work.  When it goes bust, the remaining healthy teams can just join USL (or the Canadian sides can join the CPL).

  5. R2 Dad replied, November 14, 2017 at 10:37 a.m.

    Pulisic is laughing at our pathetic "developmental system". Doing just fine for whom? : http://www.espnfc.us/united-states/story/3268402/christian-pulisic-says-us-must-better-develop-top-players-from-ages-16-18

  6. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, November 14, 2017 at 2:03 p.m.

    Yes, I read that story.  Sure, it would be great for US kids to have the option to go to Europe at age 16 but most don't have that option due to FIFA restrictions.  That's all the more reason to improve our developmental system.  It's far better than in past years.  For instance, Weston McKinnie developed at an MLS academy and a few months later is playing in the Bundesliga.  Hopefully Josh Sargant (developed in DA) will follow.  

    Incidentally, I never hear a defense of NASL from anyone.  Most just start attacking MLS like you've done.  

  7. Glenn Maddock, November 15, 2017 at 12:25 a.m.

    it would be a shame if nobody can buy this club and run it properly.  you have a great product, there just arent many soccer fans in SF.  its a city full of rich people and poor college students, neither have interest in pro soccer.  The real soccer fans are in the suburbs of the Bay area.  If they moved east bay or north bay, they might work

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