After a week off, the Cosmos are set for their next challenge: current NASL leaders Jacksonville Armada. The Armada enter the match unbeaten in their last three while the Cosmos come off the bye after a win in Miami.
After just three games, the Armada find themselves in unfamiliar waters: first place. Finishing the last two seasons in last and next to last place, the turnaround on the field to start the season for the league-owned club has come as a surprise to many. A pair of 1-0 wins in a home and away series against FC Edmonton was followed by a scoreless draw last weekend against the San Francisco Deltas. The club that surrendered 95 goals in 62 games has now held opponents silent in three.
And the Cosmos are well aware of the threat posed by the Armada.
“They’re a good team,” said goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer. “They like to keep the ball, play out of the back, and they combine to play some good soccer going forward. We’re going to be prepared for them at every part of the field, but we’re still focused on ourselves and fine-tuning how we want to play. We’re playing at home, so we have to be the ones controlling the game.”
“They’re in first place, and they bring that status when they play us, and we have to plan accordingly,” acknowledged Head Coach and Sporting Director Giovanni Savarese.
“We saw some areas where we can hurt them, so we’re going to try and do that. We also have to prepare some other things to do well so we can block them and not allow them to take advantage of their strengths.”
Despite massive changes to ownership, the Armada have kept some key figures including defender and Haitian national team member Mechack Jérôme. The team also retained attacking midfielders Charles Eloundou and former Cosmos Jemal Johnson. In addition, the club also picked up several players with NASL experience including Aaron Pitchkolan, Jack Blake and JC Banks from Minnesota United and Drew Beckie (Ottawa Fury/Carolina RailHawks).
The Cosmos will also look to rectify the mistakes of their home opener three weeks ago in a 3-0 loss to Miami and build on the win that followed a week later in Miami. To that effect, last week’s bye, while early in the Spring Season, might have come at just the right time.
“This bye week came at a good time for us,” said Maurer. “We were able to in a lot of work, some guys even had double sessions to build fitness and build relationships. It’s been good and we’re ready to go this weekend for Jacksonville.”
For at least one more week, though, the question on who will be in the center back position remains as it’s unclear whether captain Carlos Mendes will play.
“If we wanted to, he could play this weekend,” commented Savarese on the question. “But, we have to see if that’s what we want to do. That tells you a lot that he’s already ready to start playing. Today we let him go to PEAK Performance to do some extra work there, but if we wanted him this weekend we can have him available.”
New York Predicted XI – Maurer, Richter, Barnes, Ochieng, Ayoze, Guerra, Szetela, Restrepo, Szetela, Marquez, Starikov
Jacksonville Predicted XI – Patterson-Sewell, Ryden, Pitchkolan, Jérôme, Beckie, Steinberger, George, Blake, Banks, Maripuu, Glenn