Garrett Halfhill: “It’s a little disappointing on how we handled the game from start to finish.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
After besting Napa Valley 1839 FC last Saturday, the Cosmos looked at the game in two divergent ways.
They were content with earning three more points and staying undefeated this NPSL Members Cup season but were not happy with the way they performed in the 1-0 home win.
The Cosmos remain atop the league with a 3-0-1 record and 10 points although they had to play the final 29 minutes a man down after center back Emmanuele Sembroni was awarded a red card.
“It’s a little disappointing on how we handled the game from start to finish,” center back Garrett Halfhill said. “We’ve got to be a little more composed and take care of the ball and just be smarter with referees. We’re kind of digging our own hole.”
Cosmos head coach Carlos Mendes called it a “tough game, saying the team had its “backs against the wall after we got the red card.”
“We panicked,” he added. “We got uncomfortable. We lost a little bit control of the game. Second half we got a little too concerned with the referee and got too involved there and we lost our heads a little bit. Overall, a hard-fought battle. I’m proud because we got three points at home with a man down for a chunk of the second half, but i think there are areas where we can improve.”
The hosts had several chances to take the lead and control of the match in the opening 25 minutes but failed to capitalize on them.
“The longer you keep teams in games longer the more energy they have, the more belief they have,” Halfhill said. “That was a team that worked extremely hard. At the end of the day, we got three points. You walk out, you take it and move on towards the next one.”
Napa Valley (0-5), which has been outscored this season, 13-0, used as many as 10 men behind the ball in an attempt to frustrate the Cosmos and to walk out of Mitchel Athletic Complex with a precious road point.
“They did a very good job at it,” Mendes said. “They sat in an eliminated space for us. That’s not easy when you play a team that comes into defend and sits deep. At times we were good, but we went got into areas where we should have been effective and dangerous. We have to improve on that.”
After Sembroni’s ejection outside back Pedro Galvao moved into the middle alongside Halfhill for the rest of the match. The Cosmos held off Napa Valley.
“Sembro’s a vocal guy. He’s a guy who’s playing a lot of minutes this year,” Halfhill said. “He partners with everybody. At the same time, we have guys in the back that we rotate around. Everybody’s pretty familiar with each other at this point. Our coaching staff has done a really good job of rotating guys to make sure that if something like this happened. I felt Pedro and I were on the same page for the most part.”
The Cosmos registered their fourth shutout in five matches. They have allowed only two goals in the Members Cup, both in the waning minutes of the 2-2 home draw with the Milwaukee Torrent on Aug. 17.
“It’s always our goal, the backline, goalkeepers, the team in general to hold a clean sheet,” Halfhill said. “They pressed. They’re a very direct team. They have a couple of guys up top that work extremely hard, tested us a little bit. Once we went down a man, it definitely made it more difficult. Definitely tougher than what we wanted.”
Mendes praised several players for their performances, including the front line of Isaac Acuna, who scored the lone goal in his first game back after missing almost a month because of a hamstring injury and Aly Hassan.
“Acuna, for his first game back, did well,” Mendes said. “Hassan did a lot of work for us up top. The guys in the back, Sembro, Garrett, Galvoa did a lot of work. If I’m looking overall on the team, Ansi [Agolli] was our most effective player. Getting up and down the wing, he gave us a lot of service.”
Sembroni is expected to miss Saturday’s 7 p.m. home match against the Michigan Stars at Mitchel in Uniondale, N.Y. with a one-game suspension due to the red card