New York Cosmos Players Reflect On 2019 Season

There were plenty of positives, despite missing out on major hardware
Oct 29, 2019
New York Cosmos captain Danny Szetela put the team's year into proper perspective with a pair of divergent adjectives.
 
"We definitely had a successful year, but also a disappointing year," captain Danny Szetela said.
 
Given the Cosmos' history and its quest for championship and trophies, Szetela was spot on. The Cosmos finished with a superb 24-3-3 record spanning the National Premier Soccer League, NPSL Members Cup, and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, but they did not take home the coveted hardware.
 
"I mean, it was not a bad season at all," said Albanian international Ansi Agolli, who won several championships and cups in his native country and Azerbaijan. "It would be much better if we won a trophy because at the end, we played good, positive. What matters more is a trophy. That is the difference this year."
 
Not surprisingly, expectations always have run high with the club, which has won eight North American Soccer League Championships.
 
"It's tough," head coach Carlos Mendes said. "You ultimately want to win. Fans expect championships and we didn't do that. So, I think we fell short in that sense. I think if you look at the overall team and performance, I think we grew, and we had a lot of good performances. The team matured. There were a lot of good things about the season. A lot of players had many opportunities, stepped in and did well. That's great for the future."
 
The Cosmos were eliminated by Hartford Athletic in the second round of the Open Cup, dropped a 3-1 home decision to Miami FC in the NPSL final, and finished second to Detroit City FC in the Members Cup.
 
"There's a lot of positives," center back Matt Lewis said. "But in terms of success and being successful, we fell short. I think if you ask anybody in that locker room nobody is really excited with the way the season ended, not bringing home any trophies that we desired."
 
There were plenty of fine performances throughout the three competitions. Forward Bledi Bardic was named to the NPSL Best XI, having recorded a hat trick against the Brooklyn Italians. Agolli scored a wonder goal against the Italians in a playoff win. And Junior Burgos closed out the season with a hat trick in a 7-0 triumph over Napa Valley 1839 FC last Saturday.
 
Center backs Emanuelle Sembroni, named the Five Points Player of the Year, and Lewis shored up the back line with Pedro Galvao, Kevin Venegas and Agolli on the flanks.
 
The turning point of the season came in a 2-2 home draw with the Milwaukee Torrent on August 17. The Cosmos enjoyed a two-goal advantage entering the waning minutes, but the visitors managed to walk out of Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y., with a point by scoring twice while denying the Cosmos two points.
 
"You really can't drop those games," Lewis said. "At the end of the season, those points really hurt you because that puts pressure on Detroit. Even if you lose to Detroit at home, they still have pressure to perform well for the last two games."
 
Added Szetela: "If we win that game, it's a whole different story with the Members Cup. It is what is. It's a learning experience. We have a lot of young guys on the team. Even for me, it's a learning experience."
 
The Cosmos led the league with 22 goals but did not score when they needed to in some key matches.
 
"It comes down to opportunities that we needed to finish and we didn't," Szetela said. "We just got to move forward, put the season in the past, and focus on next year."
 
Mendes was gratified to see the team improve, especially young players such as midfielder Giuseppe Barone and center back Armando Guarnera.
 
"They are just coming into the pro ranks and have played only a year or two," Mendes said. "When they've stepped in, they did very well. As a coach, as a staff, that's what you want to see. Maybe the guys who are younger, who don't have as many minutes, and they get their opportunity to see them improving is very, very important because you can see something for the future."
 
Szetela’s two most memorable matches were the 2-1 win over St. Pauli at Rocco B. Commisso Stadium in New York City on May 23 -- Aly Hassan scored a late game-winner -- and the Open Cup loss to Hartford.
 
"Having St. Pauli come over from Germany and play in New York, that relationship that their fans have with our fans was definitely important," he said. "Hartford Athletic. After the first 20 minutes that was a game that we dominated. Probably the best game we played all year. But unfortunately, we lost that game. We didn't finish those opportunities that will take us to the next round. Obviously, we wanted to get to play the Red Bulls or NYCFC again like we have in the past. We have to wait for another year."
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