June 17, 2015
NOT TAKING THEM LIGHTLY
NYC FC's Wingert: 'We know it's going to be a tough challenge. We're not scared about it'
By Michael Lewis
|Chris Wingert: "I do think a lot of times, NASL teams and USL teams do a really good job of getting up for the game and providing a really tough challenge for the MLS team and that's what makes it exciting tournament."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
PURCHASE, N.Y. -- As a 12-year Major League Soccer veteran, New York City FC defender Chris Wingert has been around the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup and then some.
He has participated in more than his share of victories and even some upsets with Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids and Columbus Crew. So the Babylon, N.Y. native knows that the Cosmos are aiming to pull off an upset in Wednesday's 7:30 p.m. fourth-round encounter at Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y.
The Cosmos are the lone North American Soccer League team remaining in the competition.
"I do think a lot of times, NASL teams and USL teams do a really good job of getting up for the game and providing a really tough challenge for the MLS team and that's what makes it exciting tournament," Wingert said after training at Purchase College Tuesday afternoon. "Each year its a battle. I've obviously played in these games before and they're never easy. We're going to make sure that we're up for it if we have a chance to win."
So Wingert and his NYC FC teammates will not take the Cosmos lightly. The Cosmos not only defeated the Red Bulls in the same round last year, they dominate in what turned into a surprising 3-0 romp.
"Any time you play a quality team in a meaningful game, it's going to be a tough challenge for us," he said. "The Open Cup is a chance to win another trophy. It's also a way to get into the [CONCACAF] Champions League. A couple of important things on the line, for sure."
As an MLS side, even an expansion one that has endured more than its share of troubles and growing pains, NYC FC just might have more to lose than the Cosmos.
"Maybe," Wingert said. "I don't fear it. We can't worry too much about that. It's another game that we would like to win. We're going to try to put our best foot forward. We know it's going to be a tough challenge. We're excited about the game, We're not scared about it."
For Wingert, the game will be a reunion of sorts with several Cosmos players and coaches. That includes captain Carlos Mendes, defender Hunter Freeman, midfielder Dane Murphy and head coach Giovanni Savarese and assistant coach Alecko Eskandarian, among others.
"It's cool for me especially because I know a lot of guys on the team are really good friends," he said. "I'm close with their coach, actually a couple of their coaches. It's exciting. I'm excited for a lot of people to come out for the game. It sounds like there's going to be a ton of people, a bunch of people that I know."
When he attended St. John's University, Wingert asked Savarese, who was an assistant coach with the Red Storm at the time, for some important advice.
"We became really close," he said. "He helped me a lot with just being a mentor for me. I called him for advine about when I was thinking of leaving school early and things like that. He's just an outstanding person, a guy who I have kept in touch with over the years."