Carlos Mendes: “It was the focus of when you get your opportunities you’ve got to take them and make sure you’re consistent for 90 minutes because in this league, anything can happen the games are tight. There is no room to let up.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
Similar scenario, different result.
The Cosmos entered the waning minutes of their NPSL Members Cup match at the Michigan Stars on Saturday night enjoying a two-goal advantage, not unlike what had transpired in their most recent game.
But unlike the 2-2 home draw against the Milwaukee Torrent, the Cosmos showed that they had learned their lesson and held off their foes for a 2-0 triumph to move back into first place.
“We said when we did take the lead we had to make sure we kept a zero on the defensive end,” head coach Carlos Mendes said. “We accomplished that. It was a good result and a good bounce back. We’ll just grow from here. I just loved the attitude and mentality of the team. It was right from the start of the game and it paid off.
“We spoke about it all week, just saying it’s a learning lesson for everybody. You can’t let off the gas for 90 minutes. It was the focus of when you get your opportunities you’ve got to take them and make sure you’re consistent for 90 minutes because in this league, anything can happen the games are tight. There is no room to let up.”
Midfielder-forward Darwin Espinal, who tallied the first goal of the match at Ultimate Soccer Arenas, said it was “very important” to secure the win.
“Dropping two points at home is not ideal for the league, for the race, so it was important to keep getting points,” he said.
Espinal added there was no talk about the Milwaukee letdown during Saturday’s match “because it was in the back of our heads from the game before. It just wasn’t going to happen again.”
The Cosmos dominated possession for most of the match.
Mendes praised his defense, which helped goalkeeper Santiago Castano record his second away clean sheet.
“The guys in the back, [Pedro] Galvao did very well and [Emmanuele] Sembroni and [Matt] Lewis made sure we kept that zero,” he said. “Happy all around.”
That included newcomer Michael Kafari, who made his Cosmos debut in the Starting XI.
“I thought his effort was fantastic, his work rate, covered a lot of ground for us. Good to see him get out there with his first game with the club,” Mendes said.
Kafari earned the starting role by having a good week in training, the coach added.
“He fit in right away with the guys,” Mendes said. “We felt in this game he would give us the balance we were looking for. We’ve been lucky. As I’ve said all year, we’ve been able to rotate guys, give guys an opportunity. Everyone has stepped in and I think it was no different for Kamari.”
That included the goal-scorers — Espinal and Aly Hassan.
Espinal’s goal was his first in in the Members Cup.
“We’re happy for him,” Mendes said. “He put himself in a lot of good spots. He has been a little bit frustrated because he hasn’t found the back of the net as much as he would like to.”
Hassan struck for a golazo, similar scores, for the second consecutive match. In the Torrent encounter, he scored from the right side of the penalty area. On Saturday night, he duplicated the feat from the top left corner of the box.
Mendes called it a “fantastic goal.”
“He’s a goal scorer,” he said. “It’s good to see him get self confidence again. Any time he’s inside the 18 or 20, 25 yards out, he’s a dangerous player. He’s very, very clever, scored some big goals for us at the moment. So I’m very happy for him. Fantastic finish the last [game] and pretty much the same type of goal this week. He’s shown what he can do.”
The outdoor game was played indoors in a facility — not a domed one — but with a roof. That was a first for the Cosmos.
“It was definitely a new experience. a bit different in terms of the set up. but we focused on our game plan,” Mendes said. “It didn’t change whether we were playing in a structure that was closed in or open and the guys did a great job. It was a little bit different in terms of just the environment. You’re indoors. You can hear everything. and obviously, the roof or the ceiling of the structure came into play a couple of times, which is something you don’t see happen in the outdoor game or an outdoor field.”
The ball hit the ceiling a few times, necessitating in a drop ball.
“It was a big field,” Mendes added. “The size of the field was no problem. It was actually wider than most of the fields we play on and that helped us.”
Espinal said he once played in a preseason game in a similar facility.
“It’s a game at the end of the day,” he said. “It doesn’t really change anything. Besides, the weather was nice.”
No wind or rain. “It was nice, no humidity, none of that,” he said.
The Cosmos return home to the great outdoors for two big straight matches at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y.
They host Napa Valley 1839 FC on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. before welcoming the Stars Saturday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.