NIONDALE, N.Y. — It’s crunch time for the Cosmos, so they could use all the help they can get this week.
They’re playing three games over eight days and the availability of veteran midfielder Junior Burgos has been welcomed by the National Premier Soccer League club.
The El Salvadoran international was suspended for the opening two games of the season. Burgos surmised it was due to his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) and a red card he had incurred in an international match.
“I am glad its in the past now and looking forward to being able to play,” he said.
The Cosmos will play two important matches this week. On Wednesday they host Black Rock FC (USL League Two) in a first-round game of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Rocco B. Commisso Stadium in New York City at 7:30 p.m. They then will welcome Boston City FC for a league encounter at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y. on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Needless to say, Burgos is raring to go to help the undefeated Cosmos (2-0-0, 6 points) continue their winning ways.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s been a long wait. I’ve been wanting to debut for a long time now.
It’s been good to see the boys, to see the team doing well. I hope I can add onto the momentum and the good soccer that we’ve been playing.”
Not being about to contribute was frustrating to Burgos “100 percent.”
“When I am not able to play my job mostly is pushing the guys who are able to play during the week. The boys are doing well.”
Head coach Carlos Mendes wouldn’t reveal his plans for Burgos publicly, but he expected the 30-year-old midfielder to see some action.
“He’s an important player,” Mendes said. “He’s got a lot of experience and will key for us. We’ll definitely be using him. On the field, there are decisions to make now, keep an eye on everyone’s fitness level and everything like that. He’s eligible and that’s important for us.”
Burgos has looked sharp in training.
“He’s been working hard,” Mendes said. “It’s tough when you can’t be in the lineup for two games. He’s a professional. He’s been working and pushing his fitness level. So, he’ll be ready, whether its Wednesday or Saturday. He’ll make a difference for us.”
Given the Cosmos’ history in the Open Cup as giant killers, upending the New York Red Bulls in 2014 and New York City FC in 2015 and 2016, Burgos has some high hopes for the team in this year’s competition.
“It’s a huge opportunity for the New York Cosmos because you want to prove we have a good level, a good roster,” he said.
“I had been lucky to be able to have a really good run in the past in the Open Cup, being able to eliminate two, three MLS teams, going far up the ladder. I know what it means. You play a game. You are the winner or go home. That mentality is what we need to face this team on Wednesday.”
Burgos’ most memorable Open Cup match was when he and the Atlanta Silverbacks (North American Soccer League) shocked the host Colorado Rapids in the fifth round of the 2015 tournament. Despite playing with eight players for …. minutes, the Silverbacks prevailed via a 2-1 victory over 10-man Colorado. There were seven red cards in that game, including the coaches of both teams.
“We were down to eight men and we were able to pull it together,” Burgos said. “I think that was one of the coolest moments.”
The Silverbacks, who had surprised Real Salt Lake in the fourth round, were eliminated in the sixth round by the Chicago Fire. But what a run Burgos, who had tallied three goals up until that point, and Atlanta had.
“It’s exciting to me,” he said. “You always want to prove that you can play at different levels. I’ve been lucky that I’ve played at different levels. We’re looking forward to getting a good run and being able to get as far as we can.”