NEW YORK — In what very well could be a preview of the North Atlantic Conference arm of the National Premier Soccer League playoffs, the Cosmos will host the Brooklyn Italians in their penultimate game of their regular season Wednesday night.
The 8 p.m. game at the Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y. feature the top two teams in the conference. The first-place Cosmos (12-0-0, 36 points), who have clinched the conference crown and home-field advantage through the conference portion of the playoffs.
The Cosmos defeated the second-place Italians (9-1-2, 29), 4-1, at the Metropolitan Oval in Queens, N.Y. on June 8 and head coach Carlos Mendes indicated that he doesn’t expect to change much for this encounter.
“The mentality hasn’t changed,” he said. “Every time you step on the field you want to win. You want to get the three points. We’re still playing to try to make sure we secure home-field throughout the playoffs. Nothing changes. We want to play our best game and make sure we come out and play at a high tempo with mentality because this is part of the season now in a week we’ll be in the playoffs.
“You want to make sure that everyone’s in tune and ready to play. Against Brooklyn it will be no different. They’re a good team, a big challenge.”
The Cosmos enter the game with the NPSL’s longest regular season winning streak. They have won 22 successive matches dating back to the beginning of the 2018 season. If they run the table this year, they would finish 14-0-0 and earn home-field advantage throughout the entire post season.
Newcomer Isaac Acuna continued to find the net in his first start and second game on Sunday night, striking twice in a 2-0 home win over Rhode Island Reds FC. He has three goals in 123 minutes, scoring at a pace of once every 41 minutes.
“He brings a lot to us,” Mendes said. “He’s a goal-scorer, gets himself in good spots. Good to see him start to get into rhythm and obviously into the system, understanding what we want from him. It’s very good. I’m happy for him. It’s building confidence.”
Acuna’s addition gives the Cosmos two scoring threats with striker Bledi Bardic already having established himself as a go-to guy the past two seasons.
“The more guys you have in form, the more ways you can hurt teams,” Mendes said. “The better for us. He is a big piece. We have guys coming back from injury. We’re getting them back into the rotation, that have been good all year, getting us goals. That’s going to be important. We’re going to need everybody playing, firing 100 percent and firing on all cylinders if we’re going to win the playoffs because there is no room for error.”
It there was a downside to Sunday night’s win, it’s that the Cosmos missed two penalty kicks in the second half. Ricardo Bocanegra rammed his attempt off the post and Acuna had his try saved by the Rhode Island goalkeeper.
“You hope it’s one of those weird things that the guys have the confidence to step up,” Mendes said. “You don’t see it often. It’s a little strange for that to happen. We believe in the guys. If they get another opportunity, they’ll make sure they’ll bury it.
“It’s something we have to be aware and prepared for because of the playoffs. For me, it’s more of the guys who step up and who want to take the PKs and have the confidence to do it.”
After Wednesday’s match, the Cosmos have one game remaining in the regular season, against Kingston Stockade FC at Mitchel on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The NPSL playoffs are scheduled to begin the following weekend.