Wojciech Wojcik, celebrating his game-winning goal vs. Elm City, facing Brooklyn: “It’s definitely going to be entertaining for sure. I’m confident in our group and we’re going to bring it.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
By Michael Lewis
One of the best, if not the best rivalry in the National Premier Soccer League, resumes Saturday night when Cosmos B takes on the Brooklyn Italians in the North Atlantic Conference final.
At stake is a chance to reach the Northeast Region semifinals next week. Cosmos B has a path there because it has the most points of any team in the region (30 points), according to region regulations.
The Italians (22) need to win or their season could be finished, if FC Motown (27) defeats West Chester United Soccer Club in the Keystone Conference final.
Regardless of the outcome, it is expected to be a hotly contested match because the teams have split the two times they have met this year and will play for pride as well.
In a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play-in match at the LIU Brooklyn Athletic Complex in Brooklyn, N.Y. the Italians stunned favored Cosmos B, 3-2.
In an NPSL encounter at Hofstra Soccer Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y. May 15, Cosmos B recorded a 2-1 victory.
The latest confrontation will be at a new venue — Commisso Stadium, which is part of the Baker Atheltic Complex at Columbia University in Manhattan. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
“We expect the same type of match we’ve had against them twice,” said Cosmos B midfielder Rafa Garcia, who scored twice in the 2-1 league victory over Brooklyn, including a 55-yard wonder goal that decided the game in the 82nd minute. “They’re a team that is organized, has a game plan and they try to stick with it. That being said, I’m confident in the abilities of our team and the way we play. So we expect a tough match, but certainly we’ll be ready and expect to get a win.”
Cosmos B, which recorded a 4-2 extratime win over defending champion Elm City Express in Wednesday’s semifinal, has used the Open Cup defeat to Brooklyn as a rallying cry for the NPSL season. It did not want to lose another game and finished the regular season at 10-0-0.
“The most important game of the year they took away from us,” right back Jonathan Borrajo said. “So I think that we now will regroup from this win. We’ll take away the things we need to take away, the learning lessons that we need to learn. Brooklyn’s a good side. We respect them. We respect every opponent. But I think if we can play our best soccer, we should have no problem against them.”
The Italians (7-2-1), who finished second to Cosmos B in the conference, blanked Hartford City FC in their semifinal Wednesday night, 3-0, and should be better rested because New York had to play an extra 30 minutes. James Thristino finished with a hat-trick for Brooklyn.
“It’s definitely going to be entertaining for sure,” said Cosmos B forward Wojciech Wojcik, who scored the game-winner in the semifinal. “It’s going to be good for us. It’s a playoff game. I’m confident in our group and we’re going to bring it.”
Cosmos B head coach Carlos Mendes expected the same from the Italians.
“They’re a very good team,” he said after Wednesday’s game. “They’re well coached. They’re organized. They’ve always given us trouble. They’re very good on the counter, so we have to be ready, have to be ready to play. It’s not going to be easier than tonight.”
Regardless who the opponent is, Borrajo realized every team will give Cosmos B a run for its money in the post-season.
“It’s the playoffs. It’s exciting,” he said. “Every game is going to be a battle. Everyone is going to play their best game against us. Tonight we faced a team that punished us on a couple of mistakes and if we’re not firing on all cylinders from the get-go, then teams might be able to hurt us. We’ve just got to make sure we learn from tonight and going into the Brooklyn Italians we’re tuned in and firing from minute one.”