Cosmos Notes: Update on Mendes, Gio praises PRFC, more

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by JAKE NUTTING

Last Saturday’s victorious rally from down two goals was another perfectly-scripted ending for the Cosmos in their longstanding rivalry with the Tampa Bay Rowdies. However, one of the club’s stalwarts from the modern era, captain Carlos Mendes, was celebrating from the bench after not being selected for the starting lineup.

Head coach Gio Savarese acknowledged that Mendes has been playing through a small injury in recent week, but tactics were his primary reason for keeping the veteran out of the lineup, not injury or fitness.

“He does have a knock, a little thing that has been carried on and big credit to him that he has played with the pain and has done a tremendous job to continue to play under that pain,” Savarese said. “This particular time it was more a selection than giving Carlos rest. Always when he gets rest it’s a good thing, but I felt the guys I put in for this match was more of a selection from the technical side to approach this match than anything else.”

Savarese went with Hunter Freeman and David Ochieng in central defense against the Rowdies. The combination, as well as the two outside backs, looked suspect early on against the Rowdies, but ultimately the group did enough to keep the Rowdies at bay most of the match.

Mendes will be fit or selection if Savarese chooses to turn back to him, but Yohandry Orozco and Alexis Velela remain out with respective knocks.

Possible Boost From Rousing Victory Over Rowdies

The last-gasp victory over the rival Rowdies over the weekend was the kind of magic the Cosmos have sorely missed late in matches this year. That kind of win has the potential to kickstart a positive run for a club, although Savarese still believes the team needs to put in the work to shore up weaknesses if they want to string together good results.

“I think these types of matches give credibility to the team and allows the team to see what we’re capable of,” he said. “Nevertheless, there are things we have to improve, things that we need to do in order to not concede in a game that the team we were playing against only had three chances the first half and they converted two. That’s something for us to analyze. We need to be better than what we showed that first half in relation to dealing better with the attack and not conceding the way we did.

“This kind of reaction definitely carries on and gives strength to the team to believe and keep on working. Most of all, always, and I have said it many times, when you fix and correct things after a win it’s always easier than when things are not going your way.”

Praise for Puerto Rico FC

The Cosmos posted an impressive 3-0 scoreline against the NASL’s latest entrant just a few weeks ago, but that result isn’t indicative of the tough fight Puerto Rico FC showed in battling with the Cosmos at Shuart Stadium.

“The entire organization, from the coach, to the ownership, the players, they’ve all done a good job to be able to be competitive,” Savarese said. “I think if we remember the game we played at home, even though we won 3-0, the game was a lot more difficult than what the result showed. We expect an even more difficult game when we travel down to Puerto Rico.”

Not Table-Watching Yet

For the moment, the Cosmos sit fairly comfortably in the postseason race, trailing only Indy Eleven and FC Edmonton in both tables by a slim margin. The top spot is well within reach, but with 13 matches remaining in a highly-competitive year, the Cosmos cannot afford to take their foot off the pedal.

“We look at [the table] in a way where we see where we’re at, but I don’t think it points in any way what is going to be the outcome of this year,” he said. “We still have too many matches, we still have to perform, get points.

“It’s going to be a hard battle, but a lot of teams, because if you look at it, anyone can get in. Everybody will fight, every team is a couple of games away from being on top. As we have seen, this league has shown to be very competitive, there will be teams that will surprise you as well toward the end to reach the top.”