2011 CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND PREVIEW
July 22nd, 2011 - After four exciting quarterfinal matches, the semifinals are set. The semifinals are on Saturday and are set to kick off at 4:00 pm while the Cosmos Copa Championship match will be played at 12:00 pm on Sunday. This is Championship Weekend. The semifinal matches are NYC England vs NYC Poland and NYC Senegal vs NYC Mexico and will be played at the Corona Park fields at Flushing Meadows in Queens. The matches are open to the public and are free to attend, however, the NYC England vs NYC Poland match as well as the Championship match will be streaming live online with commentary at http://livestream.com/cosmoscopa
NYC England v NYC Poland
In Cosmos Copa 2010, NYC Poland and NYC England produced one of the best matches of last year’s tournament in the quarterfinal round. NYC Poland proved victorious with a 3-0 win that day, but those who witnessed this epic battle swear that the result flattered the eventual champion and the match was far closer than the final outcome presented. NYC Poland went on to become Cosmos Copa’s 2010 Champion, while NYC England had a year to plan for possible revenge.
As we fast-forward to Championship Weekend 2011, NYC England v NYC Poland “part deux” will most likely provide equal parts of a chess match worthy of Fischer v. Spassky , mixed with the unabated fury of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant; with a dash of elegance thrown in for good measure.
NYC England comes into the semifinal as a top seed, unbeaten and not a point dropped to draw or loss. Led by captain and midfield lynchpin Andrew West, NYC England has dictated every match they have entered, exemplified by their emphatic win over favorite NYC Jamaica. They use a team-oriented approach that capitalizes on possession and deadly execution of every chance, or half-chance given to them. The poise and patience in which Team President Yuval Lion’s team plays with is remarkable and this attribute has been the key to being a game away from the championship. Top striker Thomas Smith got a knock in the first half of the 2-1 quarterfinal victory over NYC Jamaica and was rested for the remainder of the match. It will be very interesting to see if he passes his fitness test for the next game; if he does, he may be the piece of the puzzle that has been missing for NYC England to get past this mighty opponent. Though Mr. Smith’s fitness may be in question, NYC England’s #9, George Fenwick, is currently 2nd in the 2011 Golden Boot race, so it seems that goals may not rely on just one player.
What was evident in their loss against NYC Poland last year was a lack of depth on the bench. Their adversaries simply punished them with an onslaught of talent at every position and effective substitutions left NYC England beleaguered and fatigued. It is unknown if this squad has fixed this problem, or if they have found a game plan that renders this issue moot. What we do know is that NYC England comes into this match with a potent combination of confidence, momentum, and a big chip on their shoulder to knock off their nemesis.
NYC Poland enters this grudge match on Saturday with a different mentality, which may best be described as humbled. After a 2-2 shock draw against a much-improved NYC Mexico team in the group stage (the “NYC El Tri” took a quick 2-0 lead, forcing NYC Poland to fight for a 2-2 draw), NYC Poland kept their poise and got the necessary results against NYC Croatia and Ivory Coast to progress as the Runner Up of the group. Their subsequent win over a depleted NYC Greece squad in the Quarterfinals has left NYC Poland with a question mark as to whether they have stepped up in quality to repeat as Champions. The loss of 2010 MVP and top scorer Chris Karcz for this year’s tournament cannot go without mention. Though Cosmos Copa has gained a fantastic Livesteam commentator (don’t forget, you can watch this match and listen to Mr. Karcz in real time on www.livestream.com/cosmoscopa), the team is still missing what he brings to the pitch. That being said, NYC Poland has a new face on the scene by the name of Damien Serafin on the forward line. This 19-year-old striker already has two goals and two Man of the Match awards in four games this campaign and looks to have the qualities to keep this team feared whenever the starting whistle blows. Serafin still has some amazing players to rely on behind him. Talisman and perennial standout, midfielder Teddy Nizioliek and Goalkeeper/Captain Marcin Czerwinski, keep a very stiff spine in the middle of the NYC Poland field. What separates NYC Poland from almost every team in Cosmos Copa is the level of coaching and depth of squad. It seems this team can substitute strength for strength at every position, which gives them unlimited possibilities and fitness at their disposal.
This semifinal battle should not be missed. There is drama, intrigue, talent, and tactics, which will unfold as soon as the starting whistle blows. It is difficult to predict a clear-cut favorite, which makes this confrontation between two equally talented teams even more enticing to watch.
NYC Senegal v. NYC Mexico
This semifinal match may be the most anticipated game in Cosmos Copa history, especially if you are a neutral coming into this Championship Weekend. Each team has created, rather than exceeded expectations on their journey up to this point and they have done so with zest and enthusiasm.
NYC Senegal have been the team to beat since their first match against a very talented Russia team (4-0) in the Qualifying round on June 18th in Brooklyn. Their reputation as one of the most feared squads grew to an almost paparazzi-like gossip story around the NYC soccer landscape. Almost every impartial voice, when asked who was the team to beat in this year’s Cosmos Copa, the response was reminiscent of a fabled Trident commercial, “4 out of 5 experts agree, NYC Senegal will win the Cosmos Cup”.
NYC Senegal would look like a professional team to any laymen. They are big, strong, athletic, and focused on whatever task is at hand. More importantly, this team plays with a discipline that far surpasses that of an “amateur” side. NYC Senegal possesses a stifling defense, led by goalkeeper Malik Faye, and a balanced offense orchestrated by captain Mame Samb and 2 goal scorers who are in contention for the 2011 Golden Boot award in Pape Modou Thioune and Oumar Niang. What separates NYC Senegal from many teams and what may have created their undaunted reputation comes from their unity. This team displays a sincere love and respect for each other that transcends the soccer and there is an impression that this side has played together for a very long time.
The only thing that stands in the way of this team and the championship is that NYC Senegal has not been matched against a team of even caliber. This squad has literally ran over every opponent they have faced, with the exception of NYC Jamaica (1-1), whom they drew in a match that was largely inconsequential, since both teams have already advanced from the group stage. This luxury will now come to an end against NYC Mexico.
NYC Mexico has clearly surfaced as the most improved team in Cosmos Copa. 2010 provided a wake up call to team president Roberto Sosa when his team barely made it out of the group stage, only to be thrashed by NYC Ireland in the Quarterfinals (6-1). Their fate proved to be much different this year. Their first match was against the title-holders NYC Poland, which yielded a “shocking” 2-2 draw. NYC Mexico cruised out of the group stage with successive wins over NYC Croatia and Ivory Coast, which then almost fatefully had the squad matched against their nemesis NYC Ireland again!
This time around NYC Mexico came well-equipped to dismantle a quality NYC Ireland side (3-1). Led by the joint top scorer in this year’s tournament (Usiel Vasquez, 5 goals) and his strike partner Kevin Mira (3 goals), along with standout player Miguel Martinez, NYC Mexico have the tools and the pedigree to take on any team in Cosmos Copa this year. The missing link to success could be away from the field and lie in the stands. If NYC Mexico can rally the immense Mexican community in NYC, they may be able to have the “12th man” be the deciding edge over a much less populated Senegalese community.
This match could quite possibly replace the Macy’s Fireworks Show on July 4th as the most explosive 90 minutes in NYC! Is NYC Senegal as good as their reputation? Can NYC Mexico keep their momentum and poise? What we do know is that the answers will be much more enjoyable than the questions this Saturday.