Danny Szetela: “We have to go out and match the intensity and continue what we do — create chances and finish our opportunities.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
By Michael Lewis
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Danny Szetela put the Cosmos B’s first playoff game and the team’s entire postseason into proper perspective.
“Everybody knows that a 10-0 season means nothing if we can into the first playoff and lose the game,” the team captain said. “Our goal is to win the whole NPSL championship.”
In many respects, that has become the squad’s mantra as it prepares to host the defending National Premier Soccer League champions Elm City Express in the North Atlantic Conference semifinals at Hofstra Soccer Stadium Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
The winner advances to Sunday’s conference final to play the survivor of the Brooklyn Italians-Hartford City FC encounter Wednesday, the loser goes home.
After running the table and scoring the first goal in each of its 10 regular-season matches, Cosmos B doesn’t want to go home.
“Every game is going to be more difficult because now if you lose, you’re out,” Szetela said after training at the team’s training complex at Mitchel Athletic Complex. “So we expect them to come here and play a tough physical match against us. We have to go out and match the intensity and continue what we do — create chances and finish our opportunities.”
Cosmos B did plenty of that during the regular season, outscoring its foes, 40-8 and finishing second in the league’s power rankings to the Laredo Heat by a one-goal differential.
On June 23, Cosmos B defeated fourth-place Elm City (5-3-2), 5-0, but that’s the past.
“We jumped ahead and took control of the game,” head coach Carlos Mendes said. “We expect a different game, a tighter game. They’re a dangerous team that can hurt you on the counter. We have to be aware, we have to make sure we’re balanced. That’s a key for the game.”
Szetela, a member of three Cosmos sides that won North American Soccer League titles, said he expected Elm City to try to make life difficult for the hosts by playing a physical game.
“It always comes down to a physical game,” he said. “We had a lot of games during the season [where] it came down to being very physical. You have to match the physicality and that’s going to be the most difficult.”
In many of their matches this season, Cosmos B grabbed mutli-goal leads by halftime and recorded relatively easy wins. Mendes felt the team could not rest of its laurels in this or any other playoff match, for that matter.
“You have to come into this game ready to battle and to play a good team and respect your opponent,” he said. “We’re not looking past this first game. We’re at home, we’re playing in front of our own fans. We want to come out to a good start and impose the way we want to play, our game plan. That’s important. Hopefully, that will be enough. We expect to battle a very good team.”