Isaac Acuna has scored three goals in his last two games. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
The one thing that is almost as good as a victory for an undefeated team is a hot striker.
Isaac Acuna definitely calls into that category.
The 29-year-old forward has gotten his health back and his scoring touch as well. He has connected three times in the past two games — both New York Cosmos wins — including a brace in a 2-0 triumph over the Michigan Stars in an NPSL Members Cup match at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y. on Saturday night.
“It’s huge,” head coach Carlos Mendes said. “You want your forwards scoring goals. You want them in rhythm. Obviously, between [Aly] Hassan and Acuna, guys that were injured and missed some games, now coming back, finding their rhythm, to find goals to get their confidence. Strikers need that. It’s great to have them back. So, he’s in the box with physical presence. He’s clever and he’s getting on the end of things.”
Acuna, who returned with a goal in the Cosmos’ 1-0 win over Napa Valley 1839 FC on Sept. 7, has been sharp during training. That goes a long way in Mendes determining which players will be in the Starting 11 or the 18.
It can be a precursor to a good game.
“Absolutely,” Mendes said. “Throughout the week you look for guys that are sharp. You look at them physically, how they feel. Of course, going through a season everyone has different moments. For us, it’s about who’s in rhythm, the system, how we want to play and who fits the role. We’ve been lucky because guys have stepped in and done well.”
Another example of how someone has impressed in practice was midfielder-forward Charlie Ledula, who hadn’t played since midway through the National Premier Soccer League season due to a knee sprain.
Ledula replaced David Diosa in the 76th minute.
“He had a great week of training,” he said. “We felt like he was ready to be on the roster.”
“You can train all you want, you have to get into the rhythm of the game,” Mendes continued. “You can see it. He got forward twice. He almost had a goal. He had a great cross. It’s good to have him back. He gives us another option. He trained well all week. He looked like he was ready and enjoyed the game.”
Mendes also was encouraged with the play of the defense, particularly with center backs Garrett Halfhill and Matt Lewis and outside back Pedro Galvao in front of goalkeeper Santi Castano, who recorded the club’s fourth clean sheet in five matches. Regular center back Emmanuele Sembroni sat out this game with a red-card suspension. He will be
“In the second half, they [the Stars] had some chances,” he said. “They had to come up big. We had to come up with some big defensive plays. I thought we were fantastic at the back. Garrett, Pedro and Matty worked hard and had to cover a lot of ground.”
In a top of the table clash, the first-place Cosmos (4-0-1, 13 points) will visit second-place Detroit City FC (3-0-0, 9) at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtranck, Mich. on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
The Cosmos return home to welcome Chattanooga FC in their penultimate Members Cup home game at Mitchel on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m.