Carlos Mendes: “It’s not something you will be probably playing your best as a group the first week of the season. You’ve got to find a way to win.” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
BROOKVILLE, N.Y. — With the start of their National Premier Soccer League season only a week away, Cosmos B players and coaches say they are ready for the real thing.
“Every game we’re getting better,” captain Danny Szetela said.
Given the progression of the team’s scrimmage results, you certainly can’t argue about that.
Cosmos B started with a 3-1 loss to Long Island University Brooklyn and rebounded with a 1-1 draw with Hofstra University April 13. It continued with a 3-0 win at Columbia University Wednesday and was punctuated with a 5-1 triumph at LIU Post Saturday.
The team is 2-1-1 over the past 10 days.
“From the first game that we played against Hofstra and LIU we looked a little disorganized,” Szetela said after Saturday’s scrimmage. “Guys were still getting to know each other. Every game, we progress, looking more and more a team that has been together for a while. Guys are starting to understand the roles they have to play on the team. They’re getting better.”
Szetela said there might be another game this coming week, against St. John’s University perhaps Tuesday before Cosmos B visits Boston City FC next Sunday. The game originally was scheduled for May 5, but it was pushed up a week due to Cosmos B’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open play-in match against the Brooklyn Italians at LIU Brooklyn May 6.
Whether the NPSL side plays another preseason affair, players said the team was ready. They looked sharp Saturday, overcoming an early 1-0 deficit to grab a 2-1 halftime advantage behind the first team with another 11 rattling off three second-half goals.
“We’re very happy with the progress,” head coach Carlos Mendes said. “We’ll continue to work and grow week by week. It’s not something you will be probably playing your best as a group the first week of the season. You’ve got to find a way to win. We’re going to play a good team. It’s been pushed up a week, but I think we’re ready.”
Szetela, who played the opening half Saturday, agreed.
“The way the team looked Wednesday and today, I think we will be ready,” he said. “We’re playing real good soccer in the short time that we had. Carlos and Luis Gutierrez [strength and conditioning coach] and the rest of the staff has been doing a great job putting us together and explaining the way things have to be on the field. Guys are listening and taking it in and understanding. I think we’ll be ready in a week’s time.”
Mendes noted the team could wind up having a busy May if it is successful in the Open Cup.
“I think the scheduling helps us out a bit,” said forward Wojciech Wojcik, who scored two goals against Post. “It would be good for us to get the Open Cup game in first. There’s always not necessary unexpected things that happen, but it’s always good for us to get that league game in first before we go see some Open Cup action. With the scheduling change, it helps us to our advantage a week out from our first NPSL game. I think we’re ready. We just got to stay healthy and keep ourselves fit.”
Mendes has liked what he has seen, but he admitted there is still much room for improvement.
“We need to be better as a group defensively,” he said. “We’ve been working on that in training.”
Post is one of the top Division II teams in the nation. The Pioneers (18-1-2) reached the NCAA D-II East Region final last season and finished seventh in the last United Soccer Coaches poll.
“They made it hard on us, especially the first half. They sat in,” Mendes said. “They had a lot of numbers behind the ball and they complicated things for us. We need to find a way to do a little bit better of a job, just getting in the final third and finishing things out.”
For Szetela, the season can’t start soon enough.
“We’re excited to go out and start playing,” he said.