Cosmos Look To Advance From Group Against LA Force Tonight

Kickoff is set for 8:00pm, watch on beIN Sports Connect
Published Sep 28, 2020

It's about taking care of business.

Winless in their first two games, the New York Cosmos enter the final Group B match of the National Independent Soccer Association Fall Tournament still in contention to reach the semifinals.

The Cosmos (0-1-1, 1 point) need to defeat the LA Force (1-1-0, 3 points) in the second game of the doubleheader on Monday at 8 p.m. at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck, Mich.

"We're still in it," head coach Carlos Mendes said. "If we take care of business, there's a good chance that we can be advancing. We have to focus."

The best scenario for the Cosmos would be a victory by first-place Chattanooga FC (1-0-1, 4 points) over the Cal United Strikers FC (1-1-0, 3 points) in the 5 p.m. match-up and a New York triumph over LA. That would ensure the Cosmos of a second-place finish. A draw between Chattanooga and Cal United would mean the Cosmos would need to win and erase a minus-two goal differential to reach the final four. 

Depending on the result of the opening game of the doubleheader, Mendes will plan and make tactical changes accordingly.

"We're going through everything right now," he said. "Depending on the result, it could be a matter of how many goals we need to win by, if we can win by a certain amount of goals. We just have to be focused and ready and then we'll know right before our game exactly what we'll need."

The Force helped itself greatly behind a 3-2 win over rival Cal United on Friday night as Cristian Gordillo Moreno recorded a hat-trick. Mendes said the Cosmos will be challenged by a talented side.

"They're a team with a lot of energy, a lot of skilled players, technical [ones] that can hurt you in different ways," he said. "It's going to be a big matchup and not an easy game. I thought they were very, very good the last game. In the attacking third they can be dangerous and combine very well. We have to make sure we are don’t give them anything easy, stay tactically organized and take our chances."

In Friday night's scoreless draw with Chattanooga FC, the Cosmos played one of their best games of the shortened season by enjoying a good deal of the possession and firing 20 shots at goal. The only thing they couldn't do was score.

Still, Mendes was encouraged by the team's overall performance on both sides of the ball.

"Everything we asked for in terms of the effort, the mentality, the work that everyone put in was very good and positive," he said. "It put us in a lot of good spots. This game can be cruel. If you don't execute and get the bounce, finish your chances, that's the way its going to fall. We just have to find a way now to be more clinical and take those chances."

Mendes had an opportunity to deploy forwards Isaac Acuna, Bledi Bardic and Shavon John-Brown together for the first time this season.

"We felt like what was going to give us the best opportunities and what the game called for," Mendes said. "Each match-up you face, teams do certain things well. We felt like going into this game, we needed a group that was going to be physical and have energy."

Midfielder Darwin Espinal, who has had injury issues this year, was not available Friday, but Mendes indicated he could be called on Monday.

"He's doing well. He'll be an option for us," Mendes said. "We have to make a decision. The guys have played a lot of minutes. Just like every other team, there's a lot of load on players playing minutes."

Monday's game will be the Cosmos' third in seven days, so Mendes will determine which of his regulars have the legs to start.

"You take a day or two to recover and see how guys are feeling in general and go with the group that is ready to go and can give you the best opportunity," he said. "We'll have to make those decisions and we'll evaluate guys who played a lot of minutes [Friday] and guys who didn't."