Cosmos B Turns Attention To Next Test After Clinching Postseason Berth

The side has two regular-season matches before the playoffs
Jun 25, 2018
Cosmos B finds itself with home-field advantage in the North Atlantic Conference Division portion of the National Premier Soccer League playoffs.
Not only did the team clinch a postseason berth with its 5-0 home win over defending champion Elm City Express Saturday night, Cosmos B (8-0-0, 24 points) clinched the divisional crown in the process. So, Cosmos B will host a semifinal playoff match and perhaps more.
Second-place Hartford City FC (5-2-1, 16), whom Cosmos B visits on Saturday at 7 p.m., cannot catch the leaders, after the weekend's results were tallied.
Cosmos B players and coaching staff realize that reaching the playoffs isn't an end-all, but another part of a journey of their ultimate quest -- to win the league title.
"I think it's one of the goals that we had on our list to obtain so it's great to check that one off already," defender Jonathan Borrajo said. "But there's still a lot of work to be done. There's still a couple of games left in the league. The playoffs, there's a lot of games to get to the finals."
Added forward Bledi Bardic, who scored his sixth goal of the season Saturday night: "It was an important game to win, to get to the playoffs. We knew we could get to the playoffs, but this was the best way to do it, 5-0. We're going to the playoffs, clean sheet."
Forward Wojciech Wojcik, who also scored his sixth goal of the season, said he was "very excited" about clinching the spot.
"We knew Elm City was not going to give us anything easy," he said. "It was important for us to grind out a result. It was a collective effort."
The team has two regular-season matches remaining, including a home game against Kingston Stockade FC at Commisso Stadium at Columbia University in Manhattan on Saturday, July 7,  at 7:30 p.m.
While an opponent and a venue have yet to be determined, Cosmos B could host a home playoff match on Wednesday, July 11 (all dates are recommended by the NPSL). If Cosmos B wins, it will have another home game Saturday, July 14. The North Atlantic winner will meet the Keystone Conference Division victor in games that are scheduled for July 18 and 21.
Cosmos B's goal is to finish the regular season at 10-0-0, which could help it secure home matches throughout the postseason.
"Every game is must win," Bardic said. "So, we're going to go to win every game no matter who we play."
There is little doubt the team is focused.
“We have a group of guys that is willing to battle for each other,” Wojcik said. “Carlos and Luis [Gutierrez, assistant coach] demand that from us every time we step on the field. It took us some time, but we have come together as a team and we are playing good soccer. The next game is the most important for us. That's all that matters.”
Asked what the team's next challenge was, head coach Carlos Mendes replied, "To continue to win as many games as possible, focus on one game at a time. We have a tough one coming up this weekend. That's the goal. We want to be playing the best soccer going into the playoffs. That's what we need to do."
In fact, Bardic has some great expectations for the team. Cosmos B captured the 2015 NPSL title and the Cosmos, who are on hiatus this season, have celebrated a record eight North American Soccer League championships.
"This is the New York Cosmos," Bardic said. "This team has won before at other levels, at the highest levels, so this team is always going to compete for a championship, no matter what league, no matter what division. This is a great, great team."
Only time will tell how great as Mendes still wants to see improvement prior to the postseason.
Cosmos B, who grabbed a 2-0 halftime lead, has had lulls during the second half in recent matches. So, Mendes was encouraged that the team kept Elm City off the scoreboard.
"To be honest, I felt the first 10 minutes we let up," he said. "We came out a little flat. They were the better team. We responded well. We got the next goal. It made the difference."
Mendes lauded the play of Alexis Velela, who filled in for Garrett Halfhill at center back, central midfielders Rafa Garcia and Danny Szetela, and several second-half subs.
Darwin Espinal, who scored from distance, Szetela and Ivan Berterame, who recorded his first goal with the squad, also found the scoresheet as goalkeeper Kevin Tenjo recorded his first shutout.
"Alexis played well for us at center back; the guys who came off the bench," he said. "Rafa and Danny played well in the middle. Jalen [Brown] came off the bench and gave us a little something different. Obviously, Darwin an incredible goal. Not too many guys can score a goal like that. So that's special.
"We raised the level. We're trying to stay consistent and play for 90 minutes at the level we know we can play. We still have to try to accomplish it."
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