Garrett Halfhill: “We still think we can play better. You’re always trying to make that statement that the rest of the league is looking at you.” (Photo courtesy of Cosmos B)
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — With a win over Kingston Stockade FC Saturday night, Cosmos B will finish the National Premier Soccer League regular season with a perfect record.
A victory at Commisso Stadium in Manhattan — kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. — will mean the team will enter the playoffs atop the North Atlantic Conference at 10-0-0, securing 30 out of a possible 30 points.
“After our Open Cup loss, we knew then we needed to step it up another notch and hit another gear,” center back Garrett Halfhill said, alluding to the 3-2 defeat at the Brooklyn Italians in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in May. “Obviously it’s good that we’re in the position that we’re in. We still think we can play better. You’re always trying to make that statement that the rest of the league is looking at you. You want to be the team that people are chasing. We definitely have a target on our backs, but it’s a good spot to be in.”
Striker Wojciech Wojcik agreed and elaborated.
“To be able to find ways to win games is very important for us,” he said. “To be able to do that the last regular season game, to finish out undefeated, that would be making a big statement for us and across the league. It’s more about focusing on the task at hand and being prepared.”
Though Cosmos B has acquitted itself well in the regular season, head coach Carlos Mendes warned the team’s perfect season would be meaningless if it did not play up to its level in the postseason..
“In the playoffs, you can be done. We just have to get that winning mentality, have the right mindset,” he said. If that means you go in 10-0 and undefeated, I think it definitely helps the confidence of the group. we have to … realize that on any given night, especially in the playoffs, if you don’t bring your A game, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done. you could be out.”
Cosmos B’s opponents in the conference semifinals won’t be determined until this weekend. By virtue of winning the conference crown, the team has home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, as long as it keeps winning. It will host a conference semifinal at Hofstra Soccer Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y. Wednesday night.
Kingston (3-4-2, 11) is still mathematically alive in the playoff hunt, although a lot of scenarios would have to fall its way to reach the postseason. That includes defeating Cosmos B.
Mendes won’t take his foes lightly.
“We tell the guys every game you have to bring your best, you have to be ready,” he said. “We expect Kingston to come in and fight, give us everything they have. We need to be prepared. We’re not taking this game lightly. We want to be in rhythm. We want to win the game. We’re at home, we have to take advantage of that. We’re expecting a good matchup, a difficult one, a good test for our group.”
There will be no scoreboard watching by Cosmos B.
“I don’t really pay attention to any of that,” Wojcik said. “The next game for myself and for the team is the next important one. Whoever we end up playing, it won’t matter because it’s a playoff game. We’ve got to take care of business regardless who our opposition is. I have trust in myself and I have trust in my teammates that we’re doing the right things every day in practice and we’re setting ourselves up prepare for Saturday and for things that come down the line.”
Added Halfhill: “I don’t think we’re looking for a specific opponent, but more of just making sure we do the right things and we show up and we play the way we’re capable of playing.”
Mendes will begin preparing for his semifinal opponent as soon as he knows who it will be
“Being in the playoffs, we don’t have to do much scoreboard watching,” he said. “But then we immediately we have to start thinking about OK, once this is done, who are we playing and thinking about our opponent and how we want to approach the game. That’ll be key. The good part is when you’re in control and you know you’re already in the playoffs. So, the mindset is to wait and see who we’re going to play and then doing our homework and preparing for the game.”