By Michael Lewis
While it is not as highly publicized or anticipated as the Hudson River Derby, Friday night is expected to be the birth of a new rivalry and a derby in the metropolitan area.
That’s when the Cosmos visit newcomer New Amsterdam FC in the National Independent Soccer Association debut for the latter side at the Hudson Sports Complex in Warwick, N.Y. Kickoff is 6 p.m.
“It’s definitely going to be a great game because they are a very physical team,” Cosmos center back Emmanuele Sembroni said. “They’re going to give everything they have. They’re going to battle. We’re very excited for this opportunity.”
The teams met in the NISA Independent Cup, playing to a 1-1 deadlock in Warwick Aug. 2.
But this encounter will mean so much more, such as three points in the Eastern Division standings.
“It changes when you play a regular season game from a cup,” Sembroni said. “These are points that you got to get. This is a different type of game. But yes, two teams from New York is also a derby for us. We have respect for them. They have respect for us. It’s an interesting game. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
New Amsterdam FC, an expansion team, had plans to play its home game at Fordham University in the Bronx, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced many people’s plans to change and to think out of the box.
So, NAFC has called the Hudson Sports Complex home for the fall season.
Cosmos center back Matt Lewis, a Fordham graduate, was looking forward to playing at his old haunt. But is ready to play New Amsterdam regardless where the match is held.
He said it was just the beginning of what could be a good lower-division soccer rivalry in the metropolitan area.
“There is a lot of room for it to grow,” he said. “But at the same time, our fans take a lot of pride in New York soccer and the Cosmos being the premier soccer choice for our fans. … We’re going to take this game like it’s a battle for New York. I think every time we play this team, it’s going to feel the same way, for sure.”
Head coach Carlos Mendes, who said he learned NAFC’s style during the preseason match, expected a tough battle Friday.
“We just have to be prepared and focus in on how we want to play, how we can hurt them,” he said. “It’s a hard-working team, highly motivated. They have a lot of fight. Against us, they clearly didn’t give up anything. They continued to play late in the game and that cost us. It’s focusing in on what we do well, bringing our style and making sure we execute with the little details. If we can do that, we can be successful.”
The game is a closed-door match but can be watched at MyCujoo.TV.