It’s no secret how important the Open Cup is to the Cosmos. As the only way for an NASL club to potentially gain entry into the CONCACAF Champions League, it’s regularly expressed how important the tournament is to the club.
Between two runs that ended in the Fifth Round and this week, the Cosmos hold an overall 4-1-2 record. But, after winning two titles in the last three seasons, perhaps the Cup holds even more value to the New York side as a goal not yet reached and the only way for them to test themselves against MLS sides.
“It is more so for the NASL teams than for the MLS of course, even though I think in the past few years we have seen a turn that now everyone is taking the competition more seriously,” commented Cosmos Head Coach Giovanni Savarese on the importance of winning it. “I think for us, it’s more important because it’s the only way for us to compete internationally. This is the only way for us to be able to get away from the United States in order to see how far we can go. It would be exciting for us to measure ourselves against teams from CONCACAF.”
“That’s why we always take it very seriously, but also for us it makes us be legit in some ways as well because I think being able to play the MLS teams first of all is a thermometer for us to see where we are. Being able to go further and further gives us more credit in what we’re trying to build.”
While many might overlook their initial match on Wednesday against PDL side Jersey Express, Savarese had expressed concerns, calling it “the toughest match” and explained his thinking after the win.
“For me, it’s always the toughest one because you get, a lot of times, teams to be able to overlook it, to come soft mentally,” said the coach. “Because we came here mentally prepared, that’s why we were able to control the match.”
He expanded further on his thoughts of the match yesterday.
“I was definitely very content with how serious the guys took the game, how they stepped on the field, how we moved the ball around. Of course, there were some things I thought we could have done better, we could have made them run a little more, finalize our chances to make sure the game was a little more in control, but overall the mental state of the team was one we needed in order to get the result. From that standpoint, I’m very proud of the guys that they were able to come in and perform and get a good win. Now, as I said before, we can talk about New York City.”
Last year’s derby between the two sides was a thrilling affair with a two-goal NYCFC lead tied up at the death. The game went to stoppage where NYCFC missed a penalty and the game was ultimately decided by penalty kicks. Between that loss and their inability to win a single match against Red Bull, including the recent “Red Bull Wedding”, one can imagine they may be more inspired to pull a win here.
There’s no question the fans expect an exciting battle between the two sides. It sounds like Gio expects one, too.
“Now it’s the second match. It has a lot more because now it has a memory of a previous match. These are the matches, the important matches that not only create a rivalry, but also make the sport grow in the area and in the United States. These local rivalries are fundamental. I think it’s exciting for people to have the chance to be able to go watch this match and for the teams to prepare the right way and take it seriously, the way it’s supposed to be.”