Danny Szetela: “These games are always tough. We’re playing young guys that can run and run and run. We’ve got to live and learn from it and prepare for our game Saturday and then prepare for Hartford.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
By Michael Lewis
NEW YORK — When soccer coaches usually say their team has learned a lesson or two, it probably means their side has lost.
After the Cosmos dodged a bullet named Black Rock FC Wednesday night, head coach Carlos Mendes talked about lessons his National Premier Soccer League squad could take moving forward in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
“A difficult game” Mendes said after Bledi Bardic’s injury-time goal lifted the Cosmos to a 2-1 first-round victory at Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium. “I’m proud of the guys for getting the win. That’s important. You learn a lesson. You build from these games.
“The good thing is that you learn from that. You learn and build character. You’re in tough game.”
So, what did Mendes exactly learn?
“We lost character,” he said. “I think we panicked a little bit. We needed to keep the ball, we needed to continue our game. We didn’t do that. We have to learn from that. When you’re playing a good team, a team with dangerous players, they can hurt you and obviously ended up going back to tie the game. You can learn from giving up a tough goal, giving up a tying goal late in the game, and coming back and finding a goal and a way to win is very positive.”
Mendes was talking about how the Cosmos grabbed a 1-0 halftime lead on an Aaron Dennis goal, but allowed Black Rock FC to equalize in the 87th minute before Bardic struck pay dirt with his header goal six minutes into stoppage time.
Cosmos captain Danny Szetela gave his assessment of the match in five words.
“A lucky one for us,” he said.
“The first 55-60 minutes we were by far the better team. You can see that on the field. We just switched off. We looked like we got tired. We missed a lot of opportunities in the first half. I missed a PK. Their goal, it hit off my chest, it went in, but we have to finish opportunities. These games are always tough. We’re playing young guys that can run and run and run. We’ve got to live and learn from it and prepare for our game Saturday and then prepare for Hartford.”
The Cosmos host Boston City FC at Mitchel Athletic Complex Saturday at 7 p.m. before traveling to Hartford, Conn. to take on Hartford Athletic in a second-round encounter in the Open Cup Tuesday night.
New York broke a three-game losing streak in the Open Cup, going back to a loss to the New England Revolution in 2016. The side was eliminated in the 2017 opening round and in a play-in match by the Brooklyn Italians last year.
“Last year was disappointing,” Szetela said. “A few years before that we got past MLS teams and then some games we had unsuccessful results. I think calls not going our way, which should have gone our way in the past. Last year was definitely the most disappointing. That feeling after losing in the first round really hurt myself, hurt the club and the fans. We got to the game, which i think was going to be the toughest going through the first few rounds. Now, we’ve just got to move on and prepare for the next game.”
Oh, and about that penalty kick in the 12th minute. Had Szetela converted it, the Cosmos would have taken a 1-0 lead and could have enjoyed a 2-0 halftime advantage thanks to Dennis’ score in the 28th minute. Black Rock FC goalkeeper Leland Gazo dove to his left to deny the veteran midfielder.
“Just hit it bad, I guess,” Szetela said. “I wanted it to go up. Playing here at Columbia [University], the turf is a lot different than Mitchel. There’s a lot more rubber and stuff. So, I just didn’t hit it the way I wanted to. I missed. It wasn’t the first, probably won’t be the last. You’ve just got to move on.”
Missed opportunities could have been the Cosmos’ theme of the match.
“After that, we still continued to play well, created many opportunities,” Szetela said. “And again, we didn’t finish our opportunities and that’s how we can get hurt.”