Bledi Bardic: “We know what we need to do. We just got to go there and hopefully score a goal early and move from there.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
There are two things the Cosmos must accomplish Friday night to stay alive in the National Independent Soccer Association Fall Tournmaent: score and win.
Of course, that’s much easier said than done, especially for the Cosmos this season.
Entering their second Group B match against FC Chattanooga (1-0-0 3 points) at 5 p.m. at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck, Mich., New York (0-1-0, 0) has tallied five goals in as many games this season. That includes the NISA fall campaign and Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to the Cal United Strikers.
Another defeat would all but eliminate the Cosmos from semifinal contention, which would be a stunning development because of the team’s long, storied history. The team has won eight league championships – five in the original North American Soccer League and another three NASL titles since the club’s 2013 reboot.
The Cosmos came close to winning titles in the National Premier Soccer League and NPSL Members Cup the last two years.
“We’re here to win,” team captain Danny Szetela said. “We have the capability of doing that. there’s definitely pressure now especially after losing the first game. There’s definitely a lot more pressure because we need the three points. It’s going to be a tough game vs. Chattanooga but we have the confidence on this team from player one to player 25.
“The coaches have the confidence in us to get the job done. … Pressure is what makes players better and makes them perform at a higher level.”
The pressure also is on the team to score, especially the forwards.
“We’ve had had our chances,” said forward Bledi Bardic, who didn’t play Tuesday night. “When you get that first goal or second goal, your confidence goes high. We need to score goals. We need to win the next game. We know what we need to do. We just got to go there and hopefully score a goal early and move from there.”
Midfielder Shavon John-Brown agreed and elaborated.
“I believe once you get one, you build confidence from the start,” he said. “Coach always tells us when you’re in front of the goal, just be confident, take the chances. As you saw, we had many chances in the beginning of the game. We didn’t always do what we were supposed to do and then it came at us and bit us. With the game Friday, we should just try to take the lead early and build confidence.”
Chattanooga FC defeated the visiting Cosmos, 2-1, on two late goals on Sept. 12.
Szetela did not play in the match, so he got an opportunity to watch from the bench and look at things from a coach’s perspective.
“I think we played well,” he said. “We’ve created many opportunities and we haven’t finished our opportunities. Teams come on the counter and they finish their opportunities. We just have to come out and match their intensity. We got to know that its either three points or possibly going home and nobody wants to go home. Our goal here is to win the fall championship.”
That Chattanooga game was played in the heat and humidity, Szetela said.
“The weather here has been pretty surprising,” he added. “It’s been nice and warm. Hopefully, we can get a little rain before our game to make the turf a little wet to help our style of play.”
“Chattanooga is a good team, a team that fights hard and is organized. So, we’ve got to go out there with intensity and finish our opportunities.”
If the Cosmos don’t finish, they will be finished.