By Michael Lewis
Cosmos B returned for a memorable season in 2018 and the Cosmos full team will be back in 2019.
The Cosmos, who took a year off after the demise of the North American Soccer League, will come back competing in the NPSL Founders Cup, the National Premier Soccer League’s foray into professional soccer.
The fledgling league, which was announced Nov. 15, will have 11 teams in 2019, with more planned for 2020 and beyond.
“We are very excited to bring a new brand of community-based soccer to the U.S. market,” said Joe Barone, the NPSL chairman at the time. “Beginning with the Founders Cup, fans will be able to enjoy watching authentic clubs compete with professional players and staff. This new venture will build upon the success and experience of NPSL and its nationwide network of local soccer club members.”
The tournament and competition will be played under the auspices of the United States Adult Soccer Association, as its president John Motta gave his support to the league.
“We support our members’ growth and expansion of their leagues,” he said. “This is another opportunity to develop players, coaches, administrators, and referees at the highest level of adult soccer. This is absolutely critical for player development, as it prepares players onto the next level and also for referee development, as this level of adult soccer is the best training ground for referees in this country.”
The cup, which will run from August to November, will lead to a full league schedule in the spring to fall of 2020. The clubs will play home and away matches in their regions for the inaugural Founder’s Cup.
The East Region will include: Chattanooga FC, Detroit City FC, Miami FC, Miami United FC, Milwaukee Torrent and Cosmos.
The West Region will be comprised of: ASC San Diego, Cal FC, California United Strikers FC, FC Arizona, and Oakland Roots.
In the NPSL in 2018, Cosmos B could not have asked for a better regular season. The team, which alternated its home games between Hofstra Soccer Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y. and Rocco B. Commisso Stadium at Columbia University in Manhattan, finished atop the North Atlantic Conference with a perfect 10-0-0 mark, leading the 11-team conference from start to finish. With rookie coach Carlos Mendes at the helm, Cosmos B outscored its opposition, 40-8, and finished second in the NPSL power rankings among 98 teams. Mendes was voted NPSL coach of the year.
“That’s one thing I noticed as a coach, it’s non-stop,” Mendes said. “As a player, you can turn off once the game is over. You reflect, of course. as a coach, your work starts immediately. We have to start thinking about our opponents, scouting them and how we’re going to go about the game.”
Striker Bledi Bardic established himself as one of the NPSL’s premier strikers, scoring at a goal-a-game pace. He finished with a team-high 10 goals — including a hat-trick in a 4-0 win over Kingston Stockade FC on July 7 — during the regular season before tallying twice in the team’s first playoff game, a 4-2 North Atlantic Conference win over the defending champion Elm City Express. That victory came at a great cost to Bardic and the team as he suffered a hamstring injury that sidelined the prolific forward for the rest of the playoffs.
Cosmos B was eliminated by FC Motown in the Northeast Region final (the NPSL quarterfinals) in Manhattan, 3-2, falling short of its goal of winning its second NPSL championship.
“You’re playing a good team and you have opportunities and you have to finish or else it’ll come back to bite you,” Mendes said. “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.”
Right now, the Cosmos are looking toward the new year, with team captain Danny Szetela signing Sunday and with the team in talks with Mendes about returning as coach.
Wednesday: Story No. 5