Cosmos head coach Carlos Mendes on Junior Burgos: “In these games at this level, the little things make a difference or it’s one or two plays that if you can take advantage of set pieces and to have someone like Junior who can really hurt a team, it’s the difference in the game.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
There’s nothing like having a free-kick specialist who can turn a game on its head.
Case in point:
Cosmos midfielder Junior Burgos.
The El Salvadoran international came off the bench in the second half and scored the lone goal to boost the Cosmos to a 1-0 win at Chattanooga FC as the visitors’ NPSL Members Cup debut was a successful one at Finley Stadium on Saturday night.
Burgos’ educated right foot is one hell of a weapon to have.
“It’s huge,” head coach Carlos Mendes said. “In these games at this level, the little things make a difference or it’s one or two plays that if you can take advantage of set pieces and to have someone like Junior who can really hurt a team, it’s the difference in the game and it got us three points. Very happy.”
A foul some 24 yards out on the right side gave the Cosmos a free kick in the 83rd minute. Chattanooga set up two walls in the penalty area in front of goalkeeper Phil D’Amico — a five-man wall closer to Burgos and a three-man wall about a yard to its left.
Burgos sized up the situation.
“I felt you just have to do the things you’ve trained,” he said. “Obviously, you kind of look at the goalie, where he is standing, you look at wall and make a decision on whether he’s going to guess or not. I felt going around the wall was the best choice and luckily, it went in.”
Given Burgos success rate, it was more skill than luck. During the National Premier Soccer League regular season and playoffs, he tallied eight goals, two during the postseason. Several of those goals came off free kicks.
Asked what his favorite free kick was this year, Burgos replied, “I think my favorite one is the one that’s coming next. I think that goal is going to be my mentality … because it shows that it’s working well and we’re trying to continue to get better.”
Burgos, who has been nursing a leg injury, did not start because his training time during the week was limited. He replaced Aly Hassan in the 52nd minute.
“It has been a tough couple of weeks for me,” he said. “I have been dealing with a foot injury. Luckily, the doctors and the trainers have helped me try to be back to health, fully healthy. It has been something that has been bothering me. I just wanted to come in and try to help the team the best way possible and I thought that was the best scenario possible and score the winner.”
Added Mendes: “He was a little bit sore during the week. He didn’t train the full week. Junior wanted to make sure he’s in rhythm when you’re out a couple of days out. He stepped in and did a great job. He did a lot of work for us, covering ground. He came in and was a difference maker.”
Burgos and his Cosmos teammates came off a 3-1 defeat to Miami FC in the NPSL championship game on Aug. 3.
So, it was vital to get off to a good start in the Members Cup season, in which teams will play 10 games apiece with no playoffs. The champion will be the first-place side.
“It was really important,” Burgos said. “We were coming a hard weekend by losing the final, but the boys did a great job in bouncing back and settling a really good ship. We deserved to win. I’m just happy we got those three points and we started off the best way possible.
“The championship loss was a tough one for us. We felt we were the better team We had the better chances. It was just unfortunate that we were unable to capitalize. It’s not so bad to bounce back from that. We’ve been doing things well the whole year. This was a game for us to put everything back [together] and continue to look forward.”