Cosmos B Prepares For Start Of NPSL Playoff Run

The side finished with a perfect 10-0 record, but now must navigate the NPSL playoffs to secure a league title
Published Jul 10, 2018
Cosmos B kicks off the National Premier Soccer League playoffs Wednesday with its players’ eyes on the big prize.
The North Atlantic Conference Champions want to win the league championship, although they realize it will not be an easy path.
To accomplish that feat, Cosmos B would have to win six matches against the best of the 98-team league has to offer during a 25-day span. The championship game is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 4.
It starts against defending NPSL Champion Elm City Express (5-3-2, 17 points), which finished in fourth place, at Hofstra Soccer Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y. on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Cosmos B (10-0-0, 30) secured the conference title with a perfect season, but the players will use a loss suffered outside league competition as motivation and a reminder on how fragile the postseason can be. Cosmos B lost to the Brooklyn Italians, 3-2, in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play-in match in May.
"We need to remember the feeling that we had after the Brooklyn Italians Open Cup game," said right back Jonathan Borrajo, who set up two goals in Cosmos B's 4-0 regular-season finale win over Kingston Stockade FC on Saturday. "When we had a big moment in the Open Cup, we failed. So now we have another big moment, and this 10-0 season will be quickly forgotten unless we focus now on July 11 and make a deep run if not win this whole thing."
Borrajo said the key to the team’s success is a Starting XI and a versatile and talented bench that goes beyond the 18 players who dress for matches.
"We have a deep squad," he said. "We have guys who haven't played that much that are still very important to the squad. The depth of our squad is very strong compared to other teams in the league. There's a lot of competition within the team, which I think is very good for us. There is a high level in training. A lot of guys want to make the 11 and make the 18-man roster. So as along we are competitive within ourselves, we have a strong squad. With our veteran leadership, that's something that could differentiate us. The coaching staff has done a phenomenal job.
"Now we have to do the simple things the right way and really hone in together and really get behind each other because every game is going to be a battle, every game is going to be about who wants it more."
Head coach Carlos Mendes liked the fact the team has home-field advantage at least through the national semifinals -- as long as it continues to win, because it finished second to the Laredo Heat in the final NPSL Power Rankings. Laredo finished with a slightly better goal differential than Cosmos B (plus 33 to plus 32).
"We want to be at home," he said. "We want to play in front of our fans. We've been good at home. Even though we didn't get the No. 1 overall seed in the country, it's still as good as you can get. It's one game at a time. We have to worry about Wednesday. We have to get by Wednesday and then hopefully back here Saturday."
Here would be Commisso Stadium at the Columbia University athletic complex in Manhattan Saturday, July 14, if Cosmos B defeats Elm City.
"We're ready, we're working hard, day by day," said striker Bledi Bardic, who finished with a team-best 10 goals. "It's a must-win game. It doesn't matter who we're playing. We just have to win the game."
The Cosmos organization has won numerous titles, including five in the original incarnation of the North American Soccer League (1972, 1977, 1979, 1980, and 1982) and three in the revived league (2013, 2015, and 2016).
Cosmos B has gotten into the act as well, winning the 2015 NPSL crown.
"For this club, it's important to win," Bardic said. "This club has always won. before us, and years ago. Even now our goal is to win every game and hopefully win the championship."
Borrajo was prepared for a difficult battle in each match.
"To win the whole you're going to have to face a lot of teams with quality," he said. "We're always going to have that target on our back. Teams are going to play their best games against us. So, I think we just need to train for that, prepare for that and go out there with the mentality that every game is going to be a final for us."
If that phrase, "every game is a final," sounds familiar, it should.
Former Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese, now in a similar capacity with the Portland Timbers (Major League Soccer), espoused that philosophy during his Cosmos tenure in which the team captured three championships.
If that type of mentality worked for Savarese and company, it certainly can for Cosmos B.