The Cosmos face Miami FC this weekend. Unlike most of their NASL competition, they have a unique connection with the Alessandro Nesta-coached side, in the two players that started the season with the Cosmos before winding up on the Miami FC roster.
“I think it’s definitely a different team because they have other players and I think they have improved the quality of the players they brought in at this moment,” said Cosmos Head Coach and Sporting Director Giovanni Savarese on the Miami side. “I definitely see a team that is going to provide more challenges against us. That shouldn’t be a surprise. I think they’re treating this game like every other team that plays the New York Cosmos, with the importance that they always take.”
The coach also shared his thoughts on whether he thought the Cosmos could contend for a league title.
“I think so. They were always a contender, now even more so. But I think not only them, but every single team in the NASL. It is a very competitive league and I think anyone can make it all the way through. For me, that’s the way I see it. Miami can definitely win it all. They have a good team, but as I said, like any other team in the NASL because it’s a very competitive league.”
Miami FC implemented several changes in the days following their 3-0 loss to the Cosmos. A game that the Cosmos could have won by a higher scoreline had they finished dangerous chances, it also seemed to be the final catalyst for change to Miami FC, starting with the acquisition of holding midfielder Richie Ryan and a change in formation.
The moves did not end there as another holding mid would appear as a member of their roster shortly after. Michael Lahoud, on a season-long loan with the Cosmos from the Philadelphia Union was recalled and then sold to them. The move was met with surprise and anger from Cosmos fans, but Savarese has looked past this, labeling this a hazard of the business.
“No animosity whatsoever in relation to Lahoud. Lahoud was good to us, we wish we could have kept him. Unfortunately the situation was the way it was, but this is what happens in soccer on a constant basis and we have to continue to work. For me, the way I look at it, it opens possibilities for other players to be able to step in and do the job. That’s the good thing about soccer. Every single time something happens, it’s an opportunity for another player to be able to gain and the team continues always. For me, as much as I would have loved to have kept Lahoud here, this is soccer business and we just have to continue to go forward.”
Whatever the cost was to New York (in their depth) and to Miami (in their pocketbook), the change has been noticeable. Between a formation change and the addition of other players like Kwadwo Poku and another Cosmos, Gabriel Farfán, Miami FC has gone from 0-2-4 (6 GF, 12 GA) to start the season to 1-3-1 (3 GF, 4 GA), improving in nearly every category except goals scored.
But does the presence of two former Cosmos on the team give Savarese a leg-up and better insight into a new-look side?
“You can say also the contrary. I think in soccer you can find many things that can appear to be in your favor or against you. But again, I’m going to analyze them as players we know, players that played last match and what they’ve done and that’s how we’re going to analyze it. Yes, we know them a little bit better, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be playing the way they played here. They might have some different responsibilities. But at the end of the day the most important part is that we analyze them as a team and that we try to prevent their strengths and expose their weaknesses to get the three points we need.”
Considering that Lahoud has been moved from the holding mid position he occupied here to the left side of the midfield, it’s probably a good approach. Farfán is also a difficult factor to pin down due to his versatility on the pitch.
Regardless of all the other factors, it all comes down to just another game for Savarese. And anyone who knows him knows it’s another final.
“We don’t expect anything different than any other team we play against, that they come to the Cosmos to look to get the result that can put them in a better situation, to give them more confidence and in the end that’s one thing we expect from this team. We are not doing anything different than what we do against every other team that we play. Every team we play, we treat with respect, we treat it as a final and we prepare for the match in the hopes we can put the best XI to perform. It’s not going to be any different, this match.”