Depending on your point of view, it was their first practice after losing the National Premier Soccer League final on Saturday or the first training session for the NPSL Members Cup season, which kicks off this Saturday.
All things considered, they held an upbeat session at the Mitchel Athletic Complex.
“A good session,” team captain Danny Szetela said. “The boys looked good, looked sharp. We’re excited to get down to Chattanooga, where we hope it will be a good crowd and it’ll be fun.
“It was important to get out there. Obviously, the players were upset. The only way to get over and clear your mind totally is to get back on the field together, work hard and prepare for the next match.”
The Cosmos realized they had to put the recent past behind them and concern themselves about the present.
They will start their Members Cup journey at Chattanooga FC on Saturday at 7 p.m.
“You’ve got to move on,” center back Emmanuele Sembroni said. “The first night wasn’t that easy. It was fresh. You just lost the game, but we’ve got to move on. We’ve got the new championship coming. We’re very excited and we will get ready for it. It’s [the final] already in the past. Congrats to them [Miami FC], a very good team. Move forward and think about Members Cup now.”
Usually when a team plays in a league championship game, it is the last match of the year. Not this time. In a rare scheduling move, the Cosmos won’t get much time to breath between seasons.
“It’s definitely tough,” midfielder Salvatore Barone said. “It’s just a weird situation when you are playing in the final and then the next week we’re starting up a new season. We lost. Mentally, it’s tough. The biggest part for the boys is to stay strong mentally as a group, come together just be able to move on and to work hard in training this week and go out there Saturday.”
“It feels a little different,” Szetela said. “I guess when you were in the NASL [North American Soccer League] you had the spring and fall champions. They were kind of similar, but you were not playing a final game. If you win the spring, you automatically go to the final. We have a whole other half of the season to play.
“At least we’re still playing. We get to still put on the jersey and go out every weekend and represent the club.”
The players were given Sunday and Monday off so they could rest, recharge their batteries and be around friends and family before their latest challenge.
Szetela, who commutes from his New Jersey home through New York City traffic to the complex five days a week, was able to enjoy back-to-back days at home with his family.
“Being with family is always important, but it’s still on your mind,” he said. “The game happened just [three] days ago. It’s still on my mind. It’s going to be on my mind for a little bit.”
Sembroni said he decided to watch the 3-1 final loss to Miami FC again “to analyze where we made mistakes and to grow.”
His time off was a combination or relaxation and preparation. “Take care of your body,” Sembroni said. “That’s part of our job in sports. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”
The center back traveled into Manhattan to visit friends at an expresso-pizza bar before doing some fitness Monday. “I relaxed at the pool for my muscles,” he said. “Just rest and don’t think too much.”
Sal Barone hung out with his brother and midfielder Giuseppe, went out to eat with Sembroni on Sunday. “Just trying to forget about the game as much as possible and move on,” he said.
Some members of the team just couldn’t get away from the beautiful game on Monday. Exhibit A — head coach Carlos Mendes
“The funny thing is I’m still stuck with soccer,” he said. “My soccer camps started [Monday]. It was nice to have the day off and be around the camp a little more than normal. Also, I went fishing with my son. My son James is getting into fishing and that was a great way to relax and get away from it. It was a beautiful evening. So that helped.”
Mendes and his staff put together a light practice, nothing too strenuous. The more difficult sessions come later in the week.
There was much more playing that drills or working on tactics, just so the players could get back into the swing of things. Mendes liked the team’s attitude.
“A lot of emotions from the weekend,” he said. “Let them try to stay sharp, keep the tempo high. We did a too-small goal game and a lot of round-robin playing. Let the guys move a little with a bit of a run in-between. Today was the day to get back into it and we’ll start looking at the big picture tomorrow.”