Cosmos captain Danny Szetela salutes 5 Points after the 2-0 victory. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The Cosmos’ 2-0 season-opening victory over the New York Athletic Club Saturday night featured several firsts.
It was the first win of the season in their new home at Mitchel Athletic Complex before 3,750 fans.
It was goalkeeper Santiago Castano’s first clean sheet of his Cosmos career.
It also featured two players with Long Island ties who found the back of the net for the first time for the National Premier Soccer League team — Elmont, N.Y.’s Aaron Dennis and former LIU Post standout Charlie Ledula.
Dennis tallied the first goal of the season. Ledula, who came off the bench in the second half, scored on his first touch. The Cosmos dominated the match, outshooting NYAC, 22-2.
“I thought it went well,” team captain Danny Szetela said. “I thought it was the best we played so far, including preseason games. But there’s still some areas we need to improve. We were the better team for most of the game. I think our score should have been higher, but at the end of the day, we got the three points and we’re happy.”
Perhaps no one was happier than the goalscorers.
Dennis, a former Cosmos Academy player and a member of the U.S. Virgin Island national team, converted a Joey Sanchez (Uniondale, N.Y.) feed past goalkeeper Laurence Girard in the 17th minute to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
The former Elmont High School star said he was “super happy” scoring.
“I thought about it all week,” he said. “I had a good week of training. I’m happy to get on the scoresheet, but more importantly, I am happy we got the three points. I was a little rusty. There’s a lot to improve on for me and the team, but we have a lot of time.”
Ledula, who replaced midfielder Ricardo Bocanegra, found the net only 68 seconds after entering the match. The Englishman trapped a ball sent in from center back Emmanuele Sembroni, turned and fired a 17-yard shot past Girard in the 77th minute.
“I was just ready,” Ledula said. “Carlos [Mendes, head coach] told me, ‘As soon as you get on, just try and be direct, try and score and try and take your chances.’ That’s the first opportunity and I just took it.”
Asked about his reaction Ledula replied, “I can’t even explain it. I was ecstatic, to be honest with you. I was happy with so much joy. Even to get an opportunity play for this club, is an opportunity. So, I’m pretty much over the moon for this opportunity.”
The enthusiastic certainly crowd gave the players a big boost.
“The atmosphere was great,” Szetela said. “This will be my seventh season with the Cosmos, and I’ve got to say that the crowd has been the best we’ve had in the last three to four years.
“It’s awesome, the 5 Points, it looks like they’re getting back together. I know over the past two years it’s been kind of difficult. There were definitely a lot more of them [5 Points] this year than we had last year. The ones that have been here every single year, thank you. Continue to support us and we’ll continue to perform on the field. For the rest of the fans, keep coming out. We’re just going to get better and better and play more exciting soccer.”
The Cosmos will meet Kingston Stockade FC in their first away match of the season in upstate New York on Saturday, May 4, at 6 p.m.
Their next home match will be against Black Rock FC in the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Rocco B. Commisso Stadium at Columbia University in New York City at 7:30 p.m.
They return to Mitchel to welcome Boston City FC for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, May 11.