And currently, it’s the only thing getting me through a re-watch of Wednesday night’s disaster.
To be fair, the match wasn’t too bad. We looked like we were in control of it for most of the match. Hell, we were winning until the 75th. But, in the end it came down to late goals, an inability to kill off the game, and an inability to finish chances, things that have plagued the Cosmos this season.
There’s a few other factors at play here, amplifying the loss. The loss of the spring season by a third tie-breaker. The loss of influential players during and after the spring season, including the loss of Mike Lahoud mid-season and the rumors of Gabriel Farfán also being on his way to Miami FC. Niko. Belmont in limbo after things were looking promising again.
But, even without that, the loss of the Open Cup match is crushing. No disrespect to the league, but we’ve won it twice in three seasons, the only repeat champs in the NASL Modern Era. And while the league is still taken seriously, the only thing left for the Cosmos now is to try and win this Cup and earn a shot at the CONCACAF Champions League.
Three times, THREE TIMES, we’ve made it to the Round of 16. And three times, we’ve failed to capitalize. The first time, controversial reffing affected the match. The second time, we got blown out. And now, we lost our advantage and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Everyone on that field felt that loss, too.
“It was very difficult. I thought we had the game under control,” said midfielder Sebastian Guenzatti. “Just two unlucky plays. It was our mistake. We gave them the game.”
As far as keeper Jimmy Maurer was concerned, the blame game stopped with him.
“We outplayed them. We played well and we should have won the game,” commented Maurer. “Joke of a play from me cost all our hard work. The guys did incredible all game.They were running the show in front of me and one play completely changed the momentum, got them back into it, and absolutely killed us.”
“I completely took the legs from out under our guys.”
That loss might have hit us hard, but it hit the players just as much, if not more. Maurer rarely made eye contact during his comments and it was evident that he was choosing to shoulder most, if not all, the blame.
For that matter, nearly every Cosmos coming off the field looked absolutely devoid of any emotion, walking off the field with thousand-yard stares. One unnamed player, meeting his family in the parking lot after the match,wore a blank look on his face and seemed unable to connect with them at that moment.
Cosmos head coach and sporting director Giovanni Savarese had a mixed review on the game.
“I thought our guys played an excellent match,” he said after the match. “I think we had the most of the game, created chances. I think we should have been a little more clinical to finish some of these chances. And in the end, when you play at this level, you make the kind of mistakes that we made, you get penalized. And I think that’s what happened at the end of the game. Two of our mistakes, they’re a good team, they put it away and then we found ourselves losing a game we should have won.”
“For me the problem is to lose the ball in important areas, not being patient or mature enough as a team to be able to finish a game that we have in control.”
He was very open when asked how he felt after a third failed attempt at the Round of 16.
“It’s been always the same feeling. We’re competitive. I’m competitive,” he said. “It matters that we didn’t continue for the third year. But, I don’t look at the past, I look at today. Today, we could have had the opportunity to go through. I think we have a team that could have gotten through. And that’s what makes you end the game with some sour feelings, because I think the team had a good game.”
Asked if he felt the Open Cup was a tournament the Cosmos could eventually win, he said not only did he he think it possible, he thought this could have been the year.
“I felt this year could be the year. I felt our team is good enough to win this championship.”
“Tonight, we were not clinical the first half. And then at the end the second half, towards the end we just gave the game away.”
While it hurts, there’s no time to dwell on this. Saturday, the Cosmos kick off the fall season against Ottawa and with no playoff spot secured, it’ll take 22 games to see if they can secure a home game or any playoff position at all. And Savarese is HUNGRY.
“That’s why we do this. We love this. Every game is the same. Now we prepare for Saturday and that’s it. We’re ready to continue to go forward. We cannot stay hanging on a result tonight. We analyze it, we look at it, we learn from it, we grow from it and now we play Saturday again.”
And that’s the thing. Now, we have to move on. Like years past, the fall season will feel like a chore after being eliminated from this competition. But, it’s the trophy that’s left and the Cosmos cannot afford to over look it. This loss might feel like the end of the world, but it’s hardly the end of the season.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I plan to put on “The Notebook”, have a good cry, and prepare for Saturday.
Prepare yourselves. Fall is coming.