Carlos Mendes: “You could tell everybody was confused. There was a 15-minute window there where it was probably the most difficult part of the season. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Before Aaron Dennis provided his personal fireworks during the Cosmos’ 3-1 win at Mitchel Athletic Complex Saturday night, the hosts and Chattanooga FC were forced to endure real kind.
During about an eight-minute span in the first half, fireworks from an adjacent Hofstra University festival dominated the skies and sounds, particularly at the south end of the field in Uniondale, N.Y.
It also made life difficult for coaches to communicate with their players during the NPSL Members Cup match.
“Honestly, we had no idea that it was coming,” Cosmos head coach Carlos Mendes said. “It was at a critical moment of the game where they had scored, and we were trying to at the same time trying to make some tactical changes and trying to rely some messages to the guys. It was just so difficult. You could tell everybody was confused. There was a 15-minute window there where it was probably the most difficult part of the season. I have never been a part of anything like that. We got through it.”
Usually fans are entertained by fireworks after the final whistle, not during the match.
“We couldn’t really hear too much,” Dennis said. “But we responded well. After they scored the first one, we didn’t panic.”
Once the fireworks abated, Dennis stole the spotlight with two goals within 12 minutes to give the Cosmos the lead. Dennis and Shavon John-Brown proved to be a dangerous duo for the hosts.
Only 18 seconds after the fireworks started, Chattanooga FC’s Joao Costa scored in the 12th minute, although the Cosmos wouldn’t claim the fireworks had anything to the visitors’ goal.
“We’re not going to use it as an excuse,” Mendes said. “Both teams played under it. But it was definitely a bit of a confusing moment that many of us have never experienced before.”
Mendes was impressed with the fact his team overcame an early one-goal deficit.
“We never panicked and that was the key,” he said. “It’s maturity. It’s been a team that has been working together, now coming together at difficult moments. It’s a big three points.”
With the Cosmos enjoying a 2-1 edge in the 71st minute, goalkeeper Santiago Castano made two quick kick saves to preserve the lead.
“Big players in big moments have to make big plays and that was one of them for us,” Mendes said. “That could be the difference in the game. He came up big when he had to. They put numbers forward, so there were situations where our backs and Santi had to make a lot of plays because they attacked with numbers.”
Mendes said his backline and Castano “were excellent.”
“It’s top to back,” he said. “You talk about the goal-scorers. You talk about Shavon and Dennis, but for me, the mentality in the back and Santi coming up big was the difference.”
The Cosmos hit the road to play at the Milwaukee Torrent on Saturday, Oct. 5.
They return home to host Detroit City FC in a game that could determine the Members Cup championship on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.