Carlos Mendes: “You’ve got to be at your best. If we don’t show up, we’ll be out.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
The Cosmos enjoyed the best regular season of any of the 91 teams in the National Premier Soccer League, but to one person that doesn’t count at all as the club looks toward the playoffs.
“Now everything is wiped clean,” head coach Carlos Mendes said. “You’ve got to be at your best. If we don’t show up, we’ll be out.”
The Cosmos (13-0-1, 40 points) host the Brooklyn Italians (10-1-3, 33) in the North Atlantic Conference Final at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y., on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
“Very proud the group, a good regular season,” Mendes said. “Now we have to be ready for the playoffs. Last year we fell short in the playoffs and we don’t want to repeat that.”
Last year the Cosmos went a perfect 10-0-0 before losing to FC Motown, 3-2, in essentially what was the NPSL quarterfinals.
The players and coaching staff are confident.
“We believe in ourselves,” Mendes said. “We believe in the locker room with the talent we have. We realize there is a lot of work to do, that it’s not going to be easy. We’ve been successful during the regular season. We’ve had a target on our back. But I think the guys are up for the challenge.”
During the regular season, the Cosmos went 1-0-1 against the Italians, winning the first encounter at the Met Oval on June 8, 4-1, before playing to a scoreless draw at Mitchel on July 3.
Sembroni liked the Cosmos’ chances, as long as they continue to do the little things off the field.
“Everything, everything that you do,” he said. “Private life, the eating, the hydration, the sleeping. When you come to the field, injury prevention, the work out in the field. That’s how you make the step. That’s how you become champions. If you have all these things together, you are a professional player who can win. That’s why we have a group, always improving in every single way in life and in sport.”
On Saturday night, the Cosmos prepped for the postseason by recording a 6-0 home win over Kingston Stockade FC.
“That was key,” Sembroni said. “I think that winning helps winning. So, we’ll be ready on Wednesday. It’s going to be hard work, a hard battle.”
Sembroni scored twice via headers within a two-minute span in the opening half turn a scoreless draw into a 2-0 advantage.
“Sembroni’s obviously a threat in the air,” Mendes said. “He’s gotten on the end of a lot of things throughout the year, has been a little bit unlucky. So happy to see him get two goals and help the team. It was in a moment the game was a little bit open. It could have gone either way. Those goals changed the game.”
Let’s face it. It’s not every day a defender scores twice in a match, let alone two minutes apart.
“It’s a rarity,” Sembroni said. “Scoring two goals in the final game in front our fans and our president [Rocco B. Commisso], this is something special, something special that i have been building in time with the team itself. I just want to say thanks to them for their great work. If we have a defender score, it means that everybody is doing something even more.”
The Cosmos, who have allowed only four goals in 14 matches, recorded their 10th shutout of the season.
Asked if he got more joy out of scoring goals or recording a clean sheet, Sembroni replied, “I think it’s two different emotions. When you get a clean sheet, that’s fantastic. Also, you give a lot to confidence to people that they can trust you. Of course, when you score, it/s completely different. It’s different, another emotion.”