The host Cosmos must defeat Chattanooga FC Saturday night. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)

After tying at Detroit City FC last weekend, the Cosmos’ mission cannot be any clearer over their remaining four games: They must win out if they want to secure the NPSL Members Cup title.

They enter Saturday’s 7 p.m. home game with a 4-0-2 record and 14 points atop the league with second-place Chattanooga FC (3-2-2, 11) and Detroit City (3-0-1, 10) just about breathing down the team’s necks.

That makes taking home three points from Chattanooga FC at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y. so essential. The Cosmos also want to take home some hardware this year after being eliminated in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and losing to Miami FC in the National Premier Soccer League championship game.

“I think that’s so important because we lost in the Open Cup,” striker Aaron Dennis said. “It still bothers me. I think that was some of the best soccer we played all year and we lost early on. Then we also lost the NPSL final. So, this is something that I feel we have to win at this point. It’s the last part of the season and I feel we have been playing pretty well as a team. We definitely had a slip up against Milwaukee [a 2-2 home draw] but all the powers are in our hands. I hope the guys can remain focused and come out with the last couple of victories.”

There is little room for error in a 10-game season. With only four games left, one slip-up and seeing a win turn into a tie could be lethal for any of those three teams.

“Every point matters right now. This game is huge,” head coach Carlos Mendes said. “If we don’t get the three points, we put ourselves out of the drivers’ seat. We expect another very difficult game. For me, [Chattanooga is] one of the better teams in the league. When we played them there it was a very difficult game. If we’re going to win this game, we need to be at our best.

“We’re excited for the challenge. We’re home. We’re happy to be home in front of our fans. We have to perform. we have to make sure we have the right mentality and we don’t panic, that we’re patient and we understand the importance of it. Like I said to the guys, embrace the challenge and be ready to play. Three points is a must.”

The Cosmos have a game in hand on Chattanooga FC, which already has played eight games. Detroit City, however, has two games on hand on New York.

“We haven’t lost yet,” forward Shavon John-Brown said. “We’re doing everything right, but it is just the final product we’re lacking. We get some of it [goals], but it’s not enough the way we could see games out. It’s always 1-0, 2-0. Teams can actually come back in the game and get a moment going forward. We can close our games early and relax.”

The Cosmos recorded a 1-0 win at Chattanooga FC in the Members Cup opener for both sides on a Junior Burgos goal in the 84th minute.

“They’re organized, tactically very good,” Mendes said. “They press. They work very hard as a team, so they make it difficult on you to play. In the first game the tempo wasn’t good enough and switching the point of attack. We need to be a little bit better in this game and make it difficult on them to try to press in spots and be better in building. At their place we struggled to build. They caused us some trouble with turnovers. We have to be a little bit smarter.”

Chattanooga FC boasts a league-best 16 goals, but that could be a bit misleading as the team has scored nine of them against the struggling Napa Valley 1839 FC side (0-5-1).

“It’s an interesting team because they did move the ball really well assistant coach Luis Gutierrez said. “They have some very clever players. But I think … they suffer to score goals. That is a key point for us. If we defend well, we’re still compact during this game, I think we’re going to have chances.”

The Chattanooga match probably won’t be the Cosmos’ biggest game of the season. If they defeat the Milwaukee Torrent on Saturday, Oct. 5, they will host Detroit City on Saturday, Oct. 12 in their final home match of the season with a likely opportunity to win the title.