Aaron Dennis: “It’s a perfect tournament for me honestly. I feel like I’m getting my match fitness back, getting my sharpness back.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
The Concacaf Nations Cup could not come at a better time for Cosmos forward Aaron Dennis.
The Elmont, N.Y. native will leave the team for one week to wear the colors of the U.S. Virgin Islands twice in the continental competition.
“It’s a perfect tournament for me honestly,” Dennis said last week. “I feel like I’m getting my match fitness back, getting my sharpness back. I missed a decent amount of games in the middle of the season. I’m excited to get down there. We play two games. Hoping to do well and come away with six points.”
In League C Group I, The Dashing Eagle will host the Cayman Islands at the Bethlehem Soccer Complex on Thursday at 3 p.m. ET before visiting Saint Martin for another encounter on Sunday, Sept. 8 at 3 p.m. ET.
“I think Concacaf did a good job of evening up the divisions,” Dennis said. “I think both of those games are win-able for us. Hopefully, the other guys have been doing their part in terms of getting their match fitness in.”
Dennis will leave for the U.S. Virgin Islands on Monday, Sept. 2 two days after the Cosmos (1-0-1, 4 points) visit the Michigan Stars (0-0-1, 1). He will miss the NPSL Members Cup home game against Napa Valley 1839 FC at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y. on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m.
“It’s part of [soccer],” Cosmos head coach Carlos Mendes said. “We have a deep team. We’ll have rotation. We’ll have guys who come in and step in. The guys who have to do the national team stuff, we’re obviously happy for them and we’ll get through that.”
Dennis admitted he was not at the optimum shape of where he wants to be.
“Definitely, after this week, I expect to be against Michigan this weekend,” he said. “Train hard this week and get myself there for next week.”
The one-time Elmont High School standout had an encouraging start to the season with three goals in his first three games, including one in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup victory. But Dennis has tapered off since then due injuries and a two-game suspension for fighting in the National Premier Soccer League quarterfinals last month. He was forced to miss the championship game.
Dennis said he was “a little disappointed,” on his season.
“I started off super strong, then in the middle kind of fell off a bit,” he said. “But I want to finish the season strong. All that’s past me know. I’m just happy to be back on the field. the suspension was tough, missing the final against Miami FC. It was tough for me personally. There are more games left. I’ll miss one, but I’m going to give all my best to the season and hopefully we can win the Members Cup.”
The Cosmos dropped two valuable points at home as they played the Milwaukee Torrent to a 2-2 draw on Aug. 17.
They have eight games remaining in the regular season in a league that has no playoffs. So, they need to accrue as many points as they could on the road to make up for that tie.
“Definitely tough,” Dennis said of the Cosmos’ Members Cup schedule. “Even from the first game against Chattanooga, it wasn’t easy. That game wasn’t easy. Junior ‘Burgos] had a wonderful free kick, but that was a tough game. Last week we thought that game was sealed. In the last 10 minutes we let them tie it up. The teams in this league, we don’t know much about them. I wouldn’t say the two games have been relatively easy. So, we have to stick together for the full 90 minutes, be smart and try to minimize our mistakes.”