Cosmos Players Look Sharp In First Training Session Of The Year

Cosmos preseason training started on Monday
Mar 5, 2019

When the weather gives you lemons, you make lemonade. And that's exactly what the New York Cosmos did on the first day of preseason training on Monday.
Instead of holding practice in the great outdoors, the Cosmos took their first steps of the year inside -- at the Sports Hub.
That hardly dampened the spirit of the National Premier Soccer League team, which consisted of returnees, newcomers, and trialists.
"It was great," striker Bledi Bardic said. "It's been six months since we finished last year and now we're getting back. First day, couldn't wait. Ready to go."
That went ditto for team captain and midfielder Danny Szetela.
"It feels great," he said. "It has been a long time off. It's great to be back, seeing the guys training. It's going to be a long preseason. We're going to have almost two months until the first game. It's good to get back, moving, and interacting with the guys."
The Cosmos were scheduled to train at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, but Mother Nature had other ideas Monday. With a snowstorm looming in the metropolitan area and temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, head coach Carlos Mendes made some contingency plans last week, not unlike the vision he displayed as a player.
"We made the decision that we'll probably be indoors the whole week," he said. “It looks like the right one because it looks like the temperatures aren't going to move up."
In his first speech to the team, Mendes touched on several subjects, including going indoors.
"It's not ideal, but we have to make the most of it," he said. "We’ll talk more about meetings and what we expect. The first week is to get guys in and to have fun. It's always a little hectic. I said 'Guys, enjoy yourselves, get to know each other. Find a rhythm and we'll make the most of our indoor space and go from there.’ "
The change of plans hardly stifled the enthusiasm of the players who went through drills, stretching, and seven-a-side scrimmage games.
"There's a solid group that they brought in," center back Garrett Halfhill, who will return for his second season with the club. "You could tell that the level is going to be very high this year. There's a lot of excitement. Expectations are high. I thought today the level was high. The standard was very good for the first day."
Mendes liked what he saw as well. "The guys looked sharp overall," he said.
Especially a pair of new talented acquisitions at midfield -- Ricardo Bocanegra, who brings Liga MX experience to the squad, and El Salvadoran international Junior Burgos.
"Having a guy like Ricardo Bocanegra, looking at his level and just his soccer IQ," Mendes said. “He's so clever. Junior, even the way they combine. Tt's good see these guys in tight spaces.
"I was very happy with the practice, the training. The team looked good. The guys on trial fit in. It's going to be a tough decision. We have to add a few more pieces. We have good quality."
The last time we saw Bardic in NPSL competitive action, he was hobbling off the field with a hamstring injury during a playoff game while leading the Cosmos in goascoring. He was fully fit Monday, drilling shots at opposing goalkeepers.
"The injury lasted three weeks and then I played with the Cedar Stars in the offseason," said Bardic, who tied for the Cosmopolitan Soccer League fall season scoring lead with 16 goals. "It was all good. Now, six months later. I'm feeling good, thank God."

Mendes, voted the NPSL Coach of the Year, began his second season as a pro coach. So, he was better prepared mentally for preseason. He hoped that will go for the team as well.
"We need it because it’s going to be a long season," he said.
That's because the Cosmos will compete in two leagues -- the NPSL in the spring and summer -- and in the NPSL Founders Cup from August through November. And that doesn’t include the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
"We expect to win. I expect to win," Halfhill said. "I want to win the NPSL and I want to win the Founders Cup and I want to go deep in the Open Cup. I think we have a squad that's got some good depth this year. Obviously, we're still building the squad. We have some good players on trial today. So, I think everybody's expectations is to bring trophies to the club this year. We fell a little short last year."

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