The Cosmos have won 20 co)nsecutive regular-season games. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
NEW YORK — The Cosmos find themselves alone not only at the top of the North Atlantic Conference, but among all 91 National Premier Soccer League teams.
They are the only unbeaten and untied team in the league with a perfect 10-0-0 mark and sit No. 1 in the NPSL power rankings.
The club returned home from a successful weekend in New England, winning back-to-back matches to clinch a spot in July’s playoffs with four games remaining in the regular season schedule.
“I’m proud of the group,” said head coach Carlos Mendes, who added the squad “worked hard to get to this point. It’s the first step. We’ve got to continue to grow and develop and improve in certain areas, but it’s a good accomplishment. We’ll continue to gain confidence and improve from here.”
What made the feat even more rewarding was that the team accomplished it on the road. The Cosmos defeated Boston City FC on Saturday night, 3-1, before blanking Rhode Island Reds FC, 2-0, on Sunday night.
They finished their regular-season away schedule at 7-0-0, an impressive record in any league. The team also has won 12 successive road matches since the start of the 2018 season.
“It’s really good for the team,” said center back Matt Lewis, who started both games and scored the insurance goal on Sunday. “It’s important for us. It’s our first step achieving our goal of winning the championship. For us to do that on a road is good. We’re perfect on the road in the NSPL, which is huge. So, we’re glad we can seal it on the road.”
While the Cosmos attack has received much publicity for scoring 34 goals in 10 games, the team’s defense also has been a major factor in the team’s successful. The Cosmos have conceded only four goals this season while their four goalkeepers have combined for six clean sheets. Paul Blanchette backstopped the victory on Sunday.
“We share the same ideas as a backline,” Lewis said. It’s very important to us as our job. We try to do that on a daily basis. Every game we try to keep them off the score line. So, that’s big for us. It’s always good when we do it. We expect it almost out of ourselves. We hold a high standard.”
No one had to remind Mendes about how well his backline and goalkeepers have performed and contributed to the team’s success.
“For me, that’s key,” he said. “I think you have to be solid as a unit; tactically, defensively is very, very important. In games that we’re moving on, not that we’re looking ahead, when you get to these knockout games in the playoffs, you have to be tight defensively. That’s something that if we are going to be successful or try to win the championship, it’s something that we have to continue to do.”
On Saturday night, Lewis was replaced at halftime by Garrett Halfhill before playing the entire way on Sunday. He even scored his first goal of the season, a header off a corner kick in the 30th minute to give New York a two-goal advantage.
“It’s a long time coming for me,” Lewis said. “I’m always up there on set pieces and hopefully that can open the flood gates a little bit for me. Bledi [Bardic] put me in a great spot. He takes the credit for that goal in my eyes. Thanks to him.”
Of course, Lewis’ “day job” is to deny goals, not necessarily score them. The former Fordham University standout has been vital in the middle of the defense.
“He’s been excellent all year,” Mendes said. “He’s a smart player tactically. Reads the game. He’s very comfortable on the ball. So, he helps us building out and [he’s] very solid defensively. Always puts himself in good spots. He is very important for us. Very happy to have him and he’s a big part of our success so far.”
The Cosmos have four games remaining in the NPSL regular season and all are at home at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y.
They welcome the Greater Lowell Rough Diamonds on June 23 at 8 p.m., Rhode Island on June 30 at 5 p.m., Brooklyn Italians on July 3 at 8 p.m. and Kingston Stockade FC on July 6 at 7 p.m.
The playoffs most likely would begin the second weekend in July.