Cosmos Host NYCFC In Star-Studded Inaugural East River Derby Clash

The Cosmos host NYCFC in a derby match for local bragging rights and a chance to move on in the Open Cup
Matthew Levine (@NASLInsider} | Jun 17, 2015

The beauty of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will be on full display at Shuart Stadium on Wednesday night. The New York Cosmos will meet New York City FC for the first time in what has been dubbed the East River Derby.

The matchup is a chance for local sides to meet for the first time as NYCFC makes its first ever Open Cup appearance. Last season, in the Cosmos’ first ever Cup run, the NASL side knocked off another local rival and MLS club, the New York Red Bulls, 3-0.

“It’s one of the most anticipated games in the city and everywhere else in the country,” Lucky Mkosana said of the Open Cup meeting between the New York sides.

Not only will the atmosphere be electric due to it being a derby, there will be plenty of star-studded names on the pitch. Spanish legend Raúl will suit up for the Cosmos, and his countryman, Marcos Senna, could be available to join him. Spanish icon David Villa could suit up for NYCFC, as could U.S. international midfielder Mix Diskerud.

“I think we have to control the emotions,” captain Carlos Mendes said. “Obviously it’s going to be a great atmosphere and everybody will be excited to play. We have guys that have played at every level, in MLS and all over the world. We believe in ourselves, and we know we have a good squad.”

The Cosmos are coming off the 2015 NASL Spring Season Championship, which was claimed after a 3-3 draw with Jacksonville Armada FC on Saturday. NYCFC has had its fair share of struggles in its first MLS season, but the club is coming off back-to-back wins. Among many others, former Atlanta Silverbacks midfielder Kwadwo Poku is in great form for Jason Kreis’ side.

Even with NYCFC’s inconsistent form, the Cosmos can ill afford to take their opponent lightly on Wednesday.

“They’re a very good team,” Mendes said. “I know they’re not doing very well in MLS right now, but they have great players.”

On what the Cosmos need to do to be successful, Mendes added, “For us it’s to be focused, to play 90 minutes, and be consistent.”

The Cosmos, who were knocked out in the fifth round by the Philadelphia Union last year, are once again expected to put everything into an Open Cup affair. While a win against NYCFC would produce local bragging rights, even more is on the line. The winner of the Open Cup is rewarded with a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.

“For us, one thing that we have said to the players is that every game matters for us – whether it’s a friendly, a championship game, or a U.S. Open Cup game,” head coach Giovanni Savarese said. “Every match is important for us. We’re going to have the same mentality.”

While Savarese felt that they lost a bit of focus in the last match to draw against the Armada FC, the Cosmos coach took the positives heading into the clash with NYCFC.

“I think it’s better that we finished the way we did,” Savarese said. “That way the guys will understand that it’s not going to be easy on Wednesday. Everybody in some sense feels we could have done better in the second half, and that will build momentum mentally for the guys to make sure we come prepared on Wednesday as we did last year against the Red Bulls.”

In a match that will be charged up, it could come down to two top Spanish forwards having the crucial touch. The Cosmos will hope it’s the one wearing green.

“I’ve always been a fan of David Villa,” midfielder Hagop Chirishian said. “But not on Wednesday.” 

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