I expect some of Cosmos Country are still processing the events of last weekend's National Championship. After a season of seeing the scoreline practically crawl into the double digits, the past two matches were closer to being a challenge. Watching Miami go into fortress mode as Cosmos kept making attempt after attempt, I'm reminded that it's been a while since I've seen drama on the field. During the FC Saint Pauli friendly, there was a matching of talent but its was in the end a friendly. And not just a friendly but a 'friendly' friendly. That match was more about clubs and supporters of similar minds coming together to share a moment and declare their joint values.
The Miami FC, however, are a rival from our NASL days. We knew they were lurking about in NPSL-land. Like us, they were working to stay formidable whatever the level of play they find themselves in. I remember thinking, 'Hey, there's actually a chance we might lose.'
Turns out though, I didn't really believe it. Intellectually, yes. Emotionally however, deep down, I thought it was in the bag. And when the game started, I still believed it. Even when I saw some of the sluggishness. Even when we lost the ball unexpectedly and Miami scored, I was fairly convinced this was a hiccup. The second goal, soon after, lost in exactly the same way, slowed the roll. But it was still early in the game. I wasn't worried (enough).
The Five Points supporters generally were in a similar state of denial. Cosmos shots on goal kept coming. We got one back, relatively soon after the second Miami goal. It was only as we rounded the 61st minute and nothing was connecting. Micheal Neubauer, a fan and former semipro player whose father played on the Cosmos roster in 1972, observed that our squad at times seemed sluggish and slow to respond to opportunities. After a season of relatively easy chances, it seemed that our boys were unaccustomed to having the make the most of opportunities. That said, some attempts were heartbreakers that barely missed by inches. Miami, to their credit, made the most of their fewer moments and then effectively kept their defense in fortress mode.
Support for the squad was at near peak for the season, especially into the second half. Many match watchers commented on the energy that rose and swelled from the supporters section. The Five Points, along with a crowd of 5,300, at moments felt like they were practically willing a goal to happen. Were telekinesis a subtle thing born of collective desire, the scoreline would have been 5-2. But it's not, and at the end of the day whoever scores the most goals gets to jump up and down while holding some silver. n the end, an almost forgotten goal was rolled into the net past a mentally spent side. Echoes of how the 2016 NASL Soccer Bowl ended for the Cosmos made it an especially dispiriting end.
But sweet for Florida club. It was a swan song for Miami and their time in NPSL, as they have announced their entry into NISA, a USSF-sanctioned national D3 league, for the upcoming season. Our next chance to meet will be the 2020 Open Cup, if luck holds.
Danny Szetelta, veteran captain of the squad, took it especially hard as he was involved in both dispossessions that led to the first two Miami goals. In a Front Row Soccer article, he laments his role in the loss and that he holds himself responsible. More interesting however is this article quote from the thirty-two year old:
“I’ve been thinking a lot about my career about when it’s time to retire. There’s a lot of thinking to do. I don’t want to go out like this. So, I know we have the Members Cup. This one was important to me. We’ll see how it goes and go from there.”
It opens up the question, Cosmos Country. Danny might have announced his retirement at the end of the Members Cup tournament. If this one match had gone another way, we'd be faced with considering what the future of the squad looks like. We might still. Despite the uncertainty of the club's long-term plans due to USSF regulatory malpractice and the ongoing lawsuits, having Danny as captain was an island of continuity and consistency we could visit now and then whenever we needed. Cosmos owner Rocco Commisso has also gone out of his way to announce that the Cosmos will play next year, though the format and locale continue to remain subject to external processes in flight and legal decisions not yet made.
Congratulations to The Miami FC on their victory in the NPSL Championship this year! There were a sprinkling of Miami fans in the stadium, including Kartik Krishnaiyer who made the trek up to join Jonathan Borrajo in the press box.
And - as always - thank you to the Boys for all the hard work they did to get there, to pick themselves up after a hard beat and keeping it going. Let's go, New York Cosmos!