Carlos Mendes: “You’re playing a good team and you have opportunities and you have to finish or else it’ll come back to bite you.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
By Michael Lewis
NEW YORK — For a minute, it looked like Cosmos B was going continue the tradition of the Cardiac Cosmos and pull off a magical comeback Saturday night, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Late-match substitute Ivan Berterame struck twice in stoppage time and Darwin Espinal’s last-ditch free kick saved by goalkeeper Abdoukarim Danso as Cosmos B walked out of Rocco B. Commisso Stadium on the short end of a 3-2 result to FC Motown in the Northeast Region final of the National Premier Soccer League playoffs.
“You’re playing a good team and you have opportunities and you have to finish or else it’ll come back to bite you,” head coach Carlos Mendes said Saturday night. “Tonight was one of those nights. Even the way we gave up the goals, too. It wasn’t our best night overall. Credit to them. Wish them the best. A disappointing end to the season. Still proud of the group. It’s a big honor to be coaching the group.”
The season was just about bookended by 3-2 results.
After defeating host Boston City in its league opener, Cosmos B was beaten by the Brooklyn Italians in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play-in match May 6.
The team then turned in a perfect North Atlantic Conference regular season, going 10-0-0. After its 3-2 loss to FC Motown, Cosmos B finished its NPSL slate at 12-1-1.
While the team was bolstered by several players with professional backgrounds, including defenders Jonathan Borrajo and John Neeskens, midfielders Danny Szetela and Rafa Garcia and forwards Bledi Bardic and Wojciech Wojcik, substitutes played a key role in the team’s success.
For example, Zaire Bartley stepped up big time to tally four goals in as many playoff games after Bardic went down with a hamstring injury. He didn’t find the net Saturday as it was Berterame’s turn to shine in added time.
“I thought the changes we made helped us tremendously,” Mendes said. “He scored two great goals and could have gotten a third. But we fall behind against a good team and it’s tough. We can’t leave it for the last five minutes and we paid for it.”
To his credit, Berterame performed his heroics in slightly over five minutes or regulation and injury time.
“You don’t see that too often,” Mendes said. “He gave us a spark. A brilliant first goal. We said it all year. The guys off the bench helped us. It made a difference in the game. We used everybody, and tonight was no different. We fell into a hole that we couldn’t get out of.”
Still, Mendes felt the season was a success, even with the frustrating ending.
“Overall a good season,” he said. “Just disappointed. We wanted to be champions. That’s what you play for. Learning to be more consistent, growing as a coach and hopefully maturing, rubbing off on the guys as a team. That was key. I felt like we did a lot of good things. We’ll see what the future holds. Hopefully, a lot of these guys find themselves in a good spot, whether it’s here or anywhere else that we could help them.”