Junior Burgos: “We have to mentally prepare for a hot day.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The Cosmos will have more than one opponent to worry about in their National Premier Soccer League playoff game Sunday night.
Not only will they have to tussle with FC Baltimore Christos in the Northeast Region final at Mitchel Athletic Complex, they also will have to deal with the weather.
An excessive heat warning will be in effect for the 6 p.m. kickoff with 93-degree temperatures being forecast. It will feel like 103 degrees.
“We have to mentally prepare for a hot day,” midfielder Junior Burgos said.
“Hopefully, it will cool off a little bit, which it won’t feel like it once we start running around,” captain Danny Szetela said.
One important way to battle the heat and humidity — the latter is expected to be around 52 percent — is to drink water, lots of water.
Szetela certainly plans to do that.
“We just have to stay very hydrated,” he said. “Hydration, diet is very important. You just got to drink a lot of water. That’s really the only thing you can do. During training, after training, before training. Just go to stay hydrated.”
“I drink a lot of water until I can’t drink anymore. That’s what you have to do in these conditions.”
That goes for Szetela’s teammates as well.
“Temperatures are going to be not normal,” midfielder Giuseppe Barone said. “At home, arriving at the training facility, water, water, water. They can’t stress it enough. The coaching staff told us don’t worry about the weight, get as much water as possible because it will be all drained out minutes into the game.
“I go through bottles at my house like it’s nothing, especially this weekend. You go out and purchase a gallon and start drinking from that.”
If temperatures are high enough, hydration breaks will be made in each half, which should help.
While watering Mitchel’s artificial turf field might sound like a good idea, its effects might not last more than a few minutes.
“Anything we can do to help,” head coach Carlos Mendes said. “The thing with the turf is you put water on it and it’s that hot and it’ll immediately pretty much evaporate. That’s not my decision to make, but it’s something for us to consider all things that it’s still a dangerous temperature to play on turf. The people in charge of that will make a decision.”
Don’t be surprised if the game is slow paced because both teams need to conserve their energy for a game that will go at least 90 minutes or perhaps 120 if extratime is needed.
“I think it will start out fast, but as the game goes on, we’re going to get tired in these conditions,” Szetela said. “We have to be smart with our game plan and go out there and win the game.”
Added Burgos: “We have to move the ball faster. We have to make the ball do the work instead of us and to manage and control the conditions in our way.”
The key, Mendes said, is to stick to the game plan and what the team worked on in training during the week.
“I think more focus more on tactical, how we want to play, what we think is the best game plan for us to be successful,” he said on Friday. “The last couple of days has been like that and making sure that we’re still sharp and the mentality is ready. It’s going to be difficult conditions to play. We have to be good with the ball, good with possession. Hopefully, we can make them run more and chase us a bit. Under those conditions, it’s not easy.”
The Cosmos who are undefeated this season at 14-0-1, enter the match confident, but give Baltimore plenty of respect. The winner will advance to the NPSL national semifinals, scheduled for next weekend.
“We’ve been working on a certain idea for the post season,” Burgos said. “Now you have to be mentally focused and prepare for anything. You cannot underestimate anybody. At the end of the year that’s when the best teams are around and any team can hurt you. You have to focus and do your work and do what you’ve been doing the whole year, so there’s no surprises.”