Giovanni Savarese on the East River Derby: “It’s going to be a different game.”

Gio Savarese and the Cosmos training for NYCFC (Photo: Steve Hamlin/TICC)

Gio Savarese and the Cosmos training for NYCFC (Photo: Steve Hamlin/TICC)

“Both teams will put the best scenario, the best team, the best roster that they feel can accomplish the goal on that day. I’m certain of the fact that they’re going to come at us with everything that they have, as much as we are going to go at them with everything that we have.”

Giovanni Savarese, head coach and sporting director of the New York Cosmos, does not mince words on what his expectations are for this Wednesday’s US Open Cup showdown between the Cosmos and NYCFC. 

Everytime I’ve spoken with the coach, I expect certain things. He will always show a large amount of respect on who the next opponent will be. He will not overlook the match. He will not speak about any following matches in detail.

But it’s rare to see that that coupled with the fire in his eyes and the excitement in his tone when talking about a much-anticipated rematch in what was easily one of the most, if no the most, exciting and overwhelming matches ever played in Shuart Stadium.

It brings back joyful and unpleasant memories simultaneously.

I was in the stands for that one last year. I’ve never forgotten the sickening feeling in my stomach as City took a two-goal lead, the sense of disbelief as the Cardiac Cosmos tied it near the death, the sudden swap of fear for elation as City was given, then missed, a penalty kick in extra time, and the sense of despair followed by pure senseless joy as the Cosmos came from behind in penalty kicks to snatch victory from repeated almost certain defeat. I was sick for about two weeks after that. Don’t believe me? Listen to the show.

So, how does the team process events like this, a match with so much on the line as it is, coupled with the roller coaster of emotion that always goes with a New York derby?

“It’s like everything we have always done in this club. We don’t let ourselves be bothered by the things that are not positive, like pressure, being concerned, being nervous. We don’t feel those things in this club, because we don’t have the time to think. We only have time to work, to understand the magnitude of the match, to respect the opposition, to understand it is a derby, to understand what it means for the fans, to understand those things and make sure we come into this game with the right attitude to be able to give what the fans are expecting of us, and battle trying to get a victory,” says Gio. “So, for us, it’s a must win match and we understand the magnitude. But, we don’t have time to feel pressure, so that’s why we leave it in the right way which is preparing the team to be 100% on that day.”

Other expectations for the match? The coach has a few.

“We expect this game to be different than last year. We expect that the team they put on the field will be more competitive than they put last year,” he says. But, despite a better performing City side that has dug out results and has a new look with a new coach and more depth, especially from their international players, they face a challenge that the Cosmos must also consider.

“You have to remember also a very important component, which in the Cup, you can only use five foreigners. So, at some point, they’re going to have to make some decisions, as well as we too will have to make some decisions which are the foreigners we’re going to keep on. Not everyone is going to be available to play, for them and for us.”

“We have to make a decision. We have seven and we have to make a decision on keeping five. Remember that Yasmani [Duk] is in Copa America. He might be back for that [Open Cup] match, depending on how Bolivia is going to play and what’s going to happen with them and, at that point, we’re going to have to make some decisions. So, we do have seven, but we understand we have to put five on the field and, at that moment, we’ll make the decision we have to make.”

Savarese refers to the rotating five-player international rule. Of the eight international players on their roster (Juan Arango, Yohandry Orozco, Ruben Bover, Ayoze, Roversio, Yasmani Duk, David Ochieng, Niko Kranjčar [?]) only five will be able to take the field on Wednesday. Should the Cosmos win, another five could be selected for the following match.

Regardless of what the lineup looks like, the team is ready. Ready for the extra stakes in this game. Ready to play. For themselves. For their fans.

“Definitely there’s something extra in this game. I tell you that every game is a final, but I think this game, when you mention is a derby, it’s a local derby, two teams that are trying to put the stamp forward in what we are doing. This is a very, very crucial match and we see it in the way it needs to be seen. But, we took it the same way last year. And, for us, we want our fans to be proud, we need to prepare the team in the best possible way and they’re ready for it now, they’re thinking about it, they’re prepared, they’re ready.”

“So, it does have something extra and you will feel it right away when you get to the stadium. It’s going to be a different game.”

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