Cosmos close out regular season on the road in Chattanooga

Kickoff set for 7:30pm, watch live on MyCujoo
Published Sep 11, 2020

Tonight’s battle with Chattanooga FC might be the Cosmos final regular season match of the summer, but they’re treating it as if it were a playoff tilt – and with good reason.

If the Cosmos (1-0-2, five points) win and other results go their way, they will win the Eastern Division fall division and secure a high seed in the NISA Fall Tournament. The Fall Tournament is scheduled to run from September 21 - October 2.

"We want the number one seed," captain Danny Szetela said. "If we get it, that means the group can be a little easier. But, there is going to be no easy games. We're going to be focused on this game against Chattanooga and get three points and try to finish in first place."

Chattanooga FC (1-1-0, three points) has two games remaining in the shortened regular season and is still in contention for the division title.

In their only trip to Tennessee, the Cosmos recorded a hard-earned 1-0 victory in their 2019 NPSL Members Cup opener on a Junior Burgos goal.

"Every team that comes out against us wants to play to win and it's the biggest game of the season," Szetela said. "Coming down to Chattanooga, it's going to be hot and humid again. So, we've got to make sure we're doing the right things off the field, hydrating, eating well and getting prepared for that part of the game.

Head coach Carlos Mendes said that he was expecting another close encounter, much like last season.

"They are a team that battles, will work for 90 minutes and are very good at home," he added. "For us, the challenge is to play a complete game and make sure we put our game plan into effect early."

Unlike what transpired against Detroit City FC on Wednesday, the Cosmos must put away their chances.

"We have to execute, be clinical on any chances you get because it's not going to be easy to get a lot of opportunities on them," Mendes said. "We have to make sure that when we get into good areas we take our chances, that we are solid in the back, solid as a group, making sure we're disciplined and not giving them anything easy."

Szetela, who suffered a cut on the top of his head in the first half in the scoreless draw with Detroit, said that he can play against Chattanooga. After colliding with Ibrahim Conteh, Szetela required a bandage in Cosmos green wrapped around his head for the remainder of half. He returned to play without it in the second half.

"I'm feeling ok," he said. "Fortunately, it was the top of my head and not my forehead. Everything's good. No concussion, just a little cut with some blood. I didn't have to get stitches. You know me, I'm a tough guy. I'm not going to get off the field for a little bit of blood."

The Cosmos journey to Chattanooga took two days – seventeen hours on a bus, not including a hotel stay in Roanoke, Va. on Thursday night. The club decided to take a bus instead of a plane due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seventeen hours in a bus is a long time, but there were several stops for players to get out and stretch. Inside, there were plenty of diversions.

"The guys have their phones," Szetela said. "Guys are playing cards, they're laughing, they're joking. You can go to sleep whenever you want and get your rest. It's not too bad on the bus. You don't have to go through security lines like in the airport. We know we're safe. We're the only ones on the bus, following protocols.”

Mendes understood how different this season has been, especially with a bus trip and a road game only four days after Wednesday's match.

"This is a unique year and it presents a different challenge for everybody," he said. "We are confident we have enough players and a deep squad that whoever has to step in, whether it's from injuries or from just fatigue. Travel makes it a little more difficult. Guys are going to be ready to play.

"Everybody is dealing with this situation on how things are right now around the country,” he added. “We're just happy and excited to play against a very good team with the right mentality. It's going to be a big challenge and one that we're looking forward to."

Fans can catch tonight’s match live on MyCujoo, or on the club’s website here.