Matt Lewis: “We’re expecting ourselves to win these games, no matter what the circumstances are.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
Even though it was only the third game of the NPSL Members Cup season, the Cosmos entered Saturday’s encounter at the Michigan Stars with a little urgency to return home with three points.
They did, defeating the Stars to move into first place.
The Cosmos (2-0-1, 4 points) found themselves in a rather unusual position of third place in the six-team league behind leaders Detroit City FC (2-0-0, 6) and Milwaukee Torrent (1-0-1, 4).
After dropping two valuable home points in a 2-2 home draw with the Torrent two weeks ago, the Cosmos know they need to grab some road points to compensate.
“The margin of error is less now,” head coach Carlos Mendes said. “You drop points, you have to make sure it doesn’t happen too often. When you drop two points late in the game at home, that hurts. There’s a lot of games left to play, but it’s important that you make sure you pick up points. Picking up the points on the road is vital for us.”
Chasing league leaders was a new proposition for the Cosmos, who led the North Atlanta Conference in the National Premier Soccer League the past two season from start to finish.
In their first road match of the Members Cup season, the Cosmos recorded a 1-0 win at Chattanooga FC on Aug. 10.
“It’s important on the road,” captain Danny Szetela said. “Those are the games that champions are built. It’s getting the points on the road. At home, we know we can get the job done. We gave up two goals late against Milwaukee very physical team. We lost focus at the end of the game and they capitalized and tied it. We’ve got to make sure we’re focused for 90 minutes. Going to Michigan it’s going to be a battle. but preparation this week has been great. All the guys have been focused.”
There won’t be any playoffs for the Members Cup, so securing the regular-season title is the prime objective for all teams.
“I guess you can say it puts more pressure on us in a sense,” center back Matt Lewis said. “At the same time, we’re expecting ourselves to win these games, no matter what the circumstances are. Nothing’s changed in that regard. Now we absolutely have to take points from guys who are going to be at the top of the league, Detroit, teams like that. They’re going to be good. They’re going to take care of business at home, take care of business on the road. When we go to teams like that, obviously, taking those points back from Milwaukee. We gave them some cheap points. It didn’t sit well with us. We just got to take care of business, eight games, eight wins. That’s how we have to look at it.”
During the NPSL season, all teams had to play back-to-back games on weekends at some time or another, necessitating player rotation. The Members Cup, on the other hand, has one game a week.
“Now it’s probably not going to be a ton of squad rotation with the game on the weekend,” Lewis said. “So, you have to earn your spot every week at training. Guys are really pushing it at training, pushing it at games, because now your opportunities, you’ve got to earn them.”
Added Mendes: “At this level, that’s the difference, the little things, the training day in and day out. It’s a good problem to have. Tough decisions to make. We have a deep team. We have faith on whoever steps in will get the job done.”
The Cosmos return home to Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y. to host Napa Valley 1989 FC on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m.