Carlos Mendes: “I’m very proud of the group. Very good performance. We came with a game plan and the guys kept to it. The right mentality.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
NEW YORK — Carlos Mendes said it best in only a handful of words.
“Tonight, we definitely were the most complete we’ve been,” the New York Cosmos head coach stated after his team rolled to a 4-1 triumph over the Brooklyn Italians at the Metropolitan Oval on Saturday night.
Mendes certainly was not talking in hyperbole. The Cosmos dominated the match from virtually the opening kickoff, striking four times in the first 30 minutes as they won their eighth game against no defeats or draws in the National Premier Soccer League.
“Overall, great from the group,” he said.
He could not have asked for a better start by the North Atlantic Conference leaders. They have won 18 successive regular-season matches, an impressive streak.
“I’m very proud of the group,” Mendes said. “Very good performance. We came with a game plan and the guys kept to it. The right mentality.”
For most of the season, the Cosmos, despite all their firepower and talent across the board, have been slow starters. Sometimes it took them as long as the second half to find themselves and their rhythm.
Not Saturday night.
Striker Bledi Bardic connected on the first of his three goals in fourth minute. Linemate Aly Hassan doubled the lead 10 minutes later before Bardic found the net again in the 17th and 30th minutes to complete one impressive hat-trick Bardic has eight goals this year, six in the NPSL and two in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Mendes said that Bardic’s early goal “opens the game a little bit. It put them on their heels, and we grew confidence. It builds the team. We’ve been in situations this year where we’ve gotten chances and haven’t finished them. Today we finished chances, which was the difference.”
Mendes called the Italians “a difficult team to play.”
“The pitch is a smaller pitch and both teams battled,” he added. “It was a very good victory against a good team.”
The Cosmos accomplished that against a team that had played them tough in 2018. The Italians eliminated New York from the Lamar Hunt Open Cup before the Cosmos rebounded with an 11th-hour goal to win their regular season encounter and then by shootout in the North Atlantic Conference final in the playoffs.
“In the past it was difficult against them but that’s the past,” Bardic said. “Yesterday’s games don’t mean anything today. We went in with right attitude. We worked hard, we fought and battle. We knew wasn’t going to be easy.”
With so many players acquitting themselves well on defense, Mendes used Albanian international captain Ansi Agolli at left midfield rather than his customary left back position for most of the match.
“I think he did well,” Mendes said. “He gets up and down the field for us. We have confidence in our defenders, whether it’s [Pedro] Galvao or Kevin [Venegas], Matt Lewis, and whoever steps in can do the job. Tonight, they showed the level.”
Mendes was impressed with his back four, which performed quite well. He noted that center backs Matt Lewis and Emmanuele Sembroni had strong games.
“Matty and Sembro were solid,” he said. “I feel like they’re the key for us keeping everything locked down, keeping organized. Credit to them. [Kevin] Venegas on the right gave us a lot, too, getting forward. So, he was a key in the buildup.”
The Cosmos next will play back-to-back games on the road, first at Boston City FC on Saturday, June 15 and then at the Rhode Island Reds FC on Sunday, June 16.
They return to Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y. to start a four-game homestand against the Greater Lowell Rough Diamonds on Sunday, June 23 at 8 p.m.