June 28, 2016
WANTING TO TAKE THE FIFTH
Cosmos meet the Revs as they attempt to hurdle their fifth-round Open Cup obstacle
By Michael Lewis
|Carlos Mendes: "We have to be disciplined. Hopefully we have learned that from the past."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Since returning to the North American Soccer League three years ago, the Cosmos have won two Soccer Bowl titles and reached the semifinals of a third playoff.
Now, they hope to take the fifth for the first time, as in the fifth round of the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup.
Despite surprising rival New York teams twice in the fourth round, the Cosmos haven't been able to get past Major league Soccer opposition in the Round of 16.
Perhaps the third time will be the charm for them as they host the New England Revolution at Belson Stadium at St. John's University Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The victor will play the winner of the Red Bulls-Philadelphia encounter on July 20.
Since first competing in the Cup in 2014, head coach Giovanni Savarese said the team's goal was to win the tournament so it could compete and represent the NASL in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.
"We take every competition very seriously because we would like to have the chance to compete outside the United States in the CONCACAF Champions League," Savarese said in a recent interview. "It would be a great scenario for a club like us. It would start to be known as well in other places that we're back, to be be able to defeat difficult teams and make it all the way in a very historical competition, which is the U.S. Open Cup. So for us, the cup is a target. It is very important.
"There is a lot of matches to be played, there is a lot of hard work to put in. It's definitely not going to be something that comes easy to us."
It hasn't been and won't be for any team, MLS or NASL.
Yet, Savarese enters the game confident his team can win, no matter the opposition.
"We have a confidence among ourselves that I think we can beat anyone. not specific to the New England Revolution," he said. "It could be Eibar, it could be an MLS club, it could be anyone that we face. We always enter into a match thinking that we're going to win."
The Cosmos defeated Eibar, a La Liga side, in a shootout in a friendly earlier this year.
For a team with such a renowned history as the Cosmos, the Dewar's Cup trophy would be another piece of hardware to add to their trophy collection.
And speaking of history, a little history about the Cosmos in the Open Cup.
In 2014, they rolled to a 3-0 victory over the Red Bulls in a fourth-round encounter at Hofstra University before falling in a controversial extratime match at the Union.
In 2015, they overcame a second-half, two-goal deficit against New York City FC before prevailing in penalty kicks at Shuart Stadium. They then were blanked by the Red Bulls, 3-0, at Red Bull Arena in the fifth round.
And this year, they squeaked out a 1-0 fourth-round victory over NYC FC at Fordham University on June 15 on Danny Szetela's late goal.
Asked what the Cosmos learned from their last two elimination matches, captain and veteran center back Carlos Mendes replied, "We have to manage the games a little bit better, be a little smarter. A tournament, of course, is difficult because if you play well or if the bounces go your way, you miss an opportunity and they put one away, you're out of the tournament. There is no tomorrow.
"You have to disciplined. Hopefully we have learned that from the past."
Mendes recalled last year's match in Harrison, N.J.
"We exposed ourselves, we opened up a little bit too much and they made us pay for us," he said. "Hopefully as a team we can mature from that and realize you want to play to win, you want to play aggressive but you have to play smart, also. And tactically be very organized."
The two fifth-round exits or playing more MLS teams haven't given the Cosmos any extra motivation, said Savarese.
"We are motivated as we are for every single match that we play," he said. "We are very motivated because we are serious about competing in the U.S. Open Cup. We are excited to measure ourselves against an MLS club."
Which brings us to this year's fifth-round confrontation.
The Revs (4-5-7, 19 points) find themselves in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, seven points off the pace set by Philadelphia.
They are competing in their 17th Open Cup and are 11-4-4 in their previous 19 games against lower-division sides in tournament play. It should be noted that one of their losses was a 4-3 home defeat to the Long Island Rough Riders in 1997.
In this year's edition, the Revs edged the NASL's Carolina RailHawks,1-0, in the fourth round, despite a 134-minute rain delay. New England advanced to the Round of 16 for the 10th time. Homegrown Player Zachary Herviaux, making his first professional start, scored the game’s lone goal in the 103rd minute.
New England is led in scoring by midfielder Lee Nguyen (four goals, six assists), followed by former Red Bulls striker Juan Agudelo (three goals, two assists) and Diego Fagundez (three goals, two assists).
It is not known whether those three or how many regulars will suit up for the visitors in Queens, N.Y. Wednesday night.
Regardless who wears the Revolution uniform, Mendes has assumed a difficult battle will ensue.
"They're a dangerous team," he said. "They have guys like Nguyen in the midfield that are great players. They are athletic as a team overall. They like to attack. They work hard. They're disciplined. They get behind the ball so they're a team that's going to present a lot of problems.
"We need to be focused and ready to play if we want an opportunity to move on."