Bledi Bardic on Napa Valley: “The teams that lose three or four games they try to do anything possible so they can get points. They will try anything possible to take points..” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
The Cosmos find themselves in the drivers’ seat in the NPSL Members Cup.
They’re in first place and have their destiny in their hands, or better yet, at their feet. If they win out over their final seven games, they can capture the league title.
But the Cosmos (2-0-1, seven points) must be aware of distractions or taking it easy against struggling sides. Which is why they must not take their foot off the pedal for Saturday’s 7 p.m. home game against Napa Valley 1839 FC. Napa Valley is winless (0-4), has been outscored, 12-0, and finds itself in last place.
“You can’t take them for granted,” striker Bledi Bardic said. “The teams that lose three or four games they try to do anything possible so they can get points. They will try anything possible to take points. We have to try to come out and play our best football and score goals and win the game. We can’t allow any more make mistakes and drop points, and especially against teams like that. … We cannot let any cheap things like we let that game against Milwaukee at home. We had three points. The last five minutes we blew it.”
Bardic was referring to the 2-2 draw with the Milwaukee Torrent in the Cosmos home opener at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y. on Aug. 10.
“Every game is a clean slate,” newcomer and midfielder Michael Kafari said. “We know we’re the Cosmos. We’re one of the best teams, if not the best team in the league. So, everyone’s going to show up and put out their best every week. So, we don’t take any team lightly. We go in knowing if we’ve trained all week to do what we’ve been doing we’re going to win the game. If we can worry about what we can control, we will be successful.”
Midfielder Giuseppe Barone said the Cosmos should not even look at Napa Valley’s numbers.
“I think it’s having the right mindset because if you put all those factors, outscoring and not having won a game yet, you get kind of caught up in it,” he said. “But as long as we stay focused and push that to the side, we’ll be able to get three points for sure.”
Added head coach Carlos Mendes: “It’s about attitude, mentality and how you enter the game. Regardless of how a club or team is playing or where they are in the standings, that has to remain the key to us and stick to the game plan. At times this year, we’ve taken the lead and we haven’t been as dominant or as consistent as we’d like to. If we’re going to be successful against Napa, we’re going to have to make sure to get off to a good start and we don’t want to have any letdowns.”
The Cosmos find themselves in a rare two-game Members Cup homestand. They welcome the Michigan Stars next Saturday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. So, securing six points in the consecutive home matches is vital if the Cosmos have any intentions of winning the title.
“The last time we were at home we gave up two late goals to come out with just only a point,” Mendes said. “So, it’s key to come out to get three points or the six points. We’ll take one game at a time. There are not too many games left. You have to take advantage of your home games.”
Midfielder-forward Charlie Ledula, who has been sidelined since midway through the National Premier Soccer League season with a knee sprain, is close to returning. Earlier this week, Mendes said he was uncertain whether the former C.W. Post standout would be fit to play Saturday, although next week was a better possibility.
“He’s back, he’s healthy. It’s great to have him back,” Mendes said. “He’s still working on fitness and rhythm. Obviously, being out a long time, and not training consistently, it’s only normal for guys drop a level. He looks good. He’s working hard.
“The positive thing is that he feels great. He looks like he’s enjoying himself. If not this week, then next week.”