Carlos Mendes: “We take pride in it and we represent a very good and historic club, a very big club. We have the responsibility to win as many games as possible.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
As his team enters the final game of a long year with no title to shoot for, Cosmos head coach Carlos Mendes has a simple message for his squad:
We have a job to do.
Win, lose or draw against Napa Valley 1839 FC on Saturday night, the Cosmos (6-1-2, 20 points) will finish in second place in the NPSL Members Cup behind Detroit City FC (8-0-1, 25).
But the disappointment of not winning the championship should not deter the Cosmos from striving to play their best in their season finale.
“You have to continue to do your job and make sure we win this last game,” Mendes said. “For us as a group, staff and players, we’re going into this game with the mentality that we have to win, and we have a job to do. I think part of losing a big game at home or losing a championship game it always sticks with you. It’s a learning lesson. You reflect back to the things that you can do better and learn from as a group. So, that’s something we’ll take from that. We have a job to do and we have to win at Napa.”
Forward Isaac Acuna said he was still stung by last Saturday’s 2-1 home loss to Detroit City FC and that the best way for the team to put it behind was to win.
“I think it was a bad loss,” he said. “We have one more game in the tournament. I think we get that loss out of our system by winning this Saturday.”
Saturday’s contest will be the first game for the Cosmos this season in which there is no pathway leading to a championship game.
The Cosmos were eliminated in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup by Hartford Athletic, lost in the National Premier Soccer League final to Miami FC and had their hopes of securing the Members Cup crown denied by Detroit City FC’s Wednesday 1-0 victory over Michigan Stars FC.
Missing out on the team’s goals should not affect the Cosmos’ play, Mendes said.
“You have to bring the same energy, the same mentality, regardless whether you’re playing a preseason game and preparing for a long season, championship game, that may or may not have an effect on the table or the standings,” he said. “As I’ve said, this is our job. We take pride in it and we represent a very good and historic club, a very big club. We have the responsibility to win as many games as possible.”
In the Cosmos’ previous meeting with Napa Valley, a 1-0 home victory on Sept. 7, Mendes felt his team did not play up to its potential.
“They gave us trouble,” he said. “We weren’t at our best. They made it difficult. They got numbers behind the ball. … We weren’t sharp enough from the start and the tempo was a little bit too slow. When you do that, you have team with the opportunity to get behind the ball and make it difficult to break down. That’s something we have to do better.”
The Cosmos were forced to play the final 29 minutes with a man disadvantage after center back Emanuelle Sembroni’s red card.
Acuna, who scored the lone goal in the 57th minute, expected the Cosmos to raise their level. Last-place Napa Valley (1-8-0, 3) will finish its season against Michigan on Saturday, Oct. 26. “We have to [play] our game,” he said. “We have to possess ball in and defend well. They have good players, also. We have to get the job done.”
Mendes wanted to end the season on a winning note.
“I told the guys we have a job to do and this is when you have to be mentally strong,” he said. “We have a responsibility and a job. You want to end on the right note. You have to put your best foot forward and so we can hopefully grow this for the future.”