Carlos Mendes: “The biggest difference for us was executing and finishing chances and we did that early.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
Cosmos head coach Carlos Mendes could not have asked for a better way for his team to complete the NPSL Members Cup season Saturday night.
The Cosmos struck for a season-high seven goals en route to a 7-0 victory over Napa Valley 1839 FC in Napa, Calif.
“The biggest difference for us was executing and finishing chances and we did that early,” Mendes said. “We took advantage right away. We settled in the game quickly and then put them on their heels. We had had opportunities this year to go take the lead early and we hadn’t. Saturday, we were able to do that and that was a big change and a big turning point in the game.”
Had the Cosmos scored early and often, Mendes mused that perhaps the season could have had a different ending for his club. The Cosmos (7-1-2, 23 points) finished second to Detroit City FC (8-1-1, 25). Napa Valley (1-8-3, 3), completes its season against Michigan Stars FC on Saturday. There are no playoffs in the Members Cup.
“After the game, you reflect on the season, this being the last game,” Mendes said. “We just spoke about taking opportunities and if we had done that a little bit more through the year, we’d probably be sitting in a different situation and maybe celebrating a championship. But that’s how it goes. we finished strong. That was the positive thing and a very good performance.”
Veteran midfielder Junior Burgos led the way with a nine-minute hat-trick, converting a penalty kick, a free kick and a goal through the run of play in the 32nd, 38th and 41st minutes to give the Cosmos a 5-0 halftime advantage.
Mendes was impressed with Burgos’ quick goals as he was with the entire squad and its focus on the match.
“Not just Junior, but the team’s attitude and mentality going into the game,” he said. “Even though we knew in the table where we were at, we weren’t playing for anything, the mentality was very good, which is not always easy.”
It was the first game of the National Premier Soccer League and Members Cup seasons in which the Cosmos didn’t compete for a playoff spot or battling in the postseason.
“They did a great job,” Mendes said. “When we spoke about having a having responsibility, every time you put on the shirt, every time you represent the club, regardless if you’re in preseason or if you’re in a title game you have to go and have the mentality to win and we did that.”
The Cosmos’ most impressive goal, according to Mendes? Aly Hassan’s ninth-minute score that lifted the visitors to a 1-0 lead. David Diosa, who assisted on the goal, doubled the lead four minutes later.
“The early goals and us executing our chances right from the start was the turning point for us,” Mendes said. “It changed the game. We grew confidence, and i think it hurt them. There were a lot of goals, but if you look at that, that was definitely the key for us to keep rolling and take control of the game.”
With key players such as captain Danny Szetela and Albanian international Ansi Agolli staying home, Mendes credited such players as midfielder Salvatore and Giuseppe Barone for playing a strong game.
“I thought everyone played well,” he said. “It was good to see guys like Giuseppe and Sal who haven’t gotten as many minutes, they did very well. All the guys who stepped in and didn’t get very many minutes. Diosa had a good game. We’ve said all year the guys maybe haven’t been consistently in the starting lineup have stepped up when we needed them. Saturday was no different. A great team effort from everybody.”