June 17, 2015
STRIVING TO BE HEAD OF THE CLASS
East River Derby: Cosmos seek another MLS scalp, NYC FC wants to avoid being one
By Michael Lewis
|Marcos Senna could be in the starting lineup for the Cosmos against NYC FC Wednesday night.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
PURCHASE, N.Y. -- Wednesday night's Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup confrontation -- aka the East River Derby -- pits a team (Cosmos) that is in a must-win situation against another (New York City FC) that is in a can't win situation, no matter what it does.
On one side of James M. Shuart Stadium will stand the Cosmos, whose goal since last season has been to win the competition and book a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. They are the last North American Soccer League team standing after the Red Bulls eliminated the Atlanta Silverbacks Tuesday night.
On the other end of the pitch will stand NYC FC, which is should win because it is in the first-tier Major League Soccer. If the expansion team does win, well, it should because it is from the first-tier circuit against the second division NASL.
For the Cosmos, it's more than just soccer bragging rights in New York, it's about wanting to prove they can play with the big boys in MLS. Last year they outplayed and routed the Red Bulls, 3-0, in the fourth round.
"I think more than the best team in New York," Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said during a Monday conference call. "That's more for the fans. We can demonstrate that we can compete and that we are difficult to beat, a team that can play with anyone. We very seriously want to demonstrate in New York that we're not behind anyone, that we're a very tough team, a very strong team. We are coming in with the mentality that for us, it s a big match that we want to win this match."
It is an important match to NYC FC, a first-year team that suffered through an 11-match winless streak before defeating the Philadelphia Union and Montreal Impact in back-to-back games.
"These are a new experience for us," NYC FC head coach Jason Kreis said about the derbies. "I didn't know how much it would mean to the fans until we played [the] Red Bulls until you're at the stadium, see our fans and how into it we are. I would say the same thing about this game. We won't know how much this means to the fans until we're on the field during the match."
The Cosmos are coming off clinching the NASL spring championship with an undefeated 5-0-5 season.
In its first derby encounter on May 10, the first-year side suffered a 2-1 defeat to the Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.
The Cosmos want will attempt to add NYC FC's scalp to their collection. Last year Savarese made winning the Open Cup a priority.
"When professional teams from the same city that play against each other, these are the type that allow soccer to grow anywhere in the world," he said. "This is going to be a great match. We're going to face a very tough team. For us it's going to be a tough, tough match."
Kreis pooh-poohed the idea his team was in a no-win situation.
"If we win, we win," he said. "That would be our third game in a row that we're winning. I think that's critically important. I wouldn't sell it short at all. I think that this is a very good team we're playing with. I believe they had just won the first half of the season in the NASL. So this a quality opponent with quality players. A win would be exactly that, another good piece in our forward momentum, an opportunity to advance in a tournament that we want to win."
The Cosmos are coming off clinching the NASL spring championship with an undefeated 5-0-5 season after a title-clinching 3-3 draw with the Jacksonville Armada Saturday, but Savarese stressed that was already in the past.
"I forget that we are champions. That's part of the past," he said. "We're not a team that lives about the past. We're a team that lives about the future and the future is the New York City Football Club in the U.S. Open Cup. To play at home in front of our fans in almost a sold-out stadium. And that's what is the present. We're looking forward to this match. We're going to continue the mentality of one game at a team and definitely looking forward instead of back."