Aaron Dennis: “That’s a habit. I know where I’m going. I know I’m going to my locker. I know I’m going to get a massage before the game. I just have my routine.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — There is no place like home, especially during the postseason.
The Cosmos certainly will second that notion.
They have made Mitchel Athletic Complex their own personal fortress this National Premier Soccer League season with a 7-0-1 record and surrendering only two goals entering Sunday’s 6 p.m. Northeast Region final against FC Baltimore Christos.
“For us, it’s huge,” center back Garrett Halfhill said. “That was something that was a goal of ours for the entire year was to go ahead and clinch that. It makes a difference, when you’re sleeping in your own bed, every has their own routines.”
It’s all about keeping your routine during the most important part of the season.
“I’m sure everybody’s different, but I prefer 15-20 minutes to me is the same ride,” forward Aaron Dennis said. “That’s a habit. I know where I’m going. I know I’m going to my locker. I know I’m going to get a massage before the game. I just have my routine. The routine is the same, mentally prepared.”
Goalkeeper Paul Blanchette agreed.
“I get to keep my routine, eat my food and stay in my bed,” he said. “It’s priceless. We set that goal and we got it and it’s giving us an advantage and we need to take advantage of it.”
During the regular season, the Cosmos traveled to their North Atlantic Conference foes by bus, for the most part. There are many variables when you hit the road. Buses have been known to get snarled in traffic, especially around the New York City area, and they even have been known to break down. Nothing like that has happened to the Cosmos, but there’s always the first time.
“It’s really important because we don’t have to travel,” center back Matt Lewis said. “We don’t have to go through any of that, those kind of difficulties. Anything can arise when you go on the road. You want to eliminate all factors you can’t control. So being at home, you can do that.”
And then there are the fans. There’s nothing like playing in front of your adoring, cheering supporters.
“We get to put on a show for our fans hopefully, give them something to cheer about, given them some excitement, and that’s always big for the club, too,” Lewis said. “It’s what you play for.”
Of course, the Cosmos can’t throw their soccer boots on the artificial pitch even though they are virtually perfect there, as star striker Bledi Bardic reminded us.
“On the day, we have to play, we have to perform on the field away or home,” he said. “It’s a big difference, but we have to play and show up to every game.”
If Sunday’s match is tied after 90 minutes, two 15-minute extratime periods will be played. If the game is still deadlocked, a penalty-kick shootout will determine the winner.
The winner will qualify for the NPSL semifinals. If the Cosmos prevail, they will host the fourth-seeded team in the semis at Mitchel on Saturday, July 27. The national final is set for Saturday, Aug. 3.