Cosmos Begin 2019 NPSL Season At Home Vs. NYAC

Mendes, Cosmos
Carlos Mendes. Photo: Matthew Levine/New York Cosmos

The New York Cosmos will be back in action for another season as the team opens its NPSL campaign Saturday hosting New York Athletic Club.

The season-opening match will kickoff at 7 p.m. at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale.

New York begins its 2019 season after making a deep run in the 2018 NPSL playoffs. The green and white finished the regular season 10-0-0 and were eliminated in the Northeast Region Final by FC Motown.

Cosmos head coach Carlos Mendes knows the importance of getting off to a strong start as a new season begins.

“It’s very important to play well,” he said. “We’re going to have to bring the right energy. We have to have the right mentality and put a good performance on the field for the club and for the fans to enjoy.”

Mendes is also looking for strong support from the team’s fan base as the Cosmos play their first match in a new venue.

“It’s important to make sure the people who come out are excited and enjoy the game and they come back,” he said.

Mendes, who on Saturday will mark his 17th opening day, is optimistic that his team will have a successful run as they target the NPSL championship as its ultimate goal in the first part of the year. New York will also compete in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and in the Founders Cup beginning this summer.

“We feel good about the group,” he said. “We know we have talent, but it’s one game at a time. We’re trying to get across to [the players] there are no easy games, whether you’re in the NPSL, Open Cup or the Founders Cup come August.”

Team captain Danny Szetela leads eight returning players from the 2018 squad. This includes striker Bledi Bardic, who had a team-best 12 goals, and midfielder Darwin Espinal, who had a knack of scoring goals on the road.

“The guys have been doing great,” said Szetela, who has played for the Cosmos since 2013. “Once guys get hot, the goals are going to just keep coming. Hopefully, we have a big game and get a good result.”

Several newcomers with international experience are expected to bolster the team. This includes Albanian national team captain Ansi Agolli, who will man the left back position, and midfielders Ricardo Bocanegra, a former Mexican youth international who has played in Liga MX, and Junior Burgos, a member of the El Salvadoran national team.

Forward Aaron Dennis, who grew up in Elmont, is a member of the U.S. Virgin Islands national side, having captained the team.

“Guys have a lot of respect for Agolli. We’re very happy to have him,” Mendes said. “He’s a great player, but also a great person who has a great mentality. He’s very good for the club.”

Mendes said he had “high expectations” for Bocanegra, a crafty playmaker who can score goals and set up teammates.

“He’s a great player. He’s a pro,” Mendes said. “He’s adjusted through preseason, but we expect a lot out of him. That final pass and finding the gaps, and really making a difference for us and we’re going to push it to do well. I love what I’ve seen in the preseason.”