2015 GROUP STAGE PREVIEW: GROUP G
By Aaron Cheris
Group G in this year's Cosmos Copa is one to look out for. This group holds last year's champion, a newcomer, and two teams that are trying to recover from struggles in previous tournaments.
2014 belonged to NYC Gambia. The Gambians became the first African team to hoist the Cosmos Copa championship trophy last season, and they believe they can do it again this year.
“It’s going to be tough, that’s for sure. We’ll do the same things we keep doing, we work hard, stay competitive and just do our things,” team president Ansumana Gaye said. “The core players on the team really understand the philosophy, that is one of our biggest strengths that helped us last year. I’m hoping to repeat that.”
NYC Gambia defeated NYC France 2-0 in the championship game last season as Aboubacari Sissoho and Yankuba Janneh scored to give the Gambians the win.
Defender Emmanuel Gomez and midfielders Housainou Ogo and Abdulai Jagana were named to the Cosmos Copa Best XI. Most of the players who won the championship last year will be returning in 2015, and they know that there is a target on their backs.
“Once you come from a championship year, the pressure goes up,” Gaye said. “We have a lot of mature players that know what it takes. The expectations are high. We want to do it again.”
NYC Gambia begins their title defense atop the group.
In 2014, NYC Ecuador had to battle just to make it to the group stage of the tournament. Now in the two spot of Group G this time around, NYC Ecuador is hoping this will be their time to shine.
Team president Tony Toral told CosmosCopa.com his expectation is, “to honor the winning tradition Ecuadorean soccer has in NYC.”
Last year, NYC Ecuador was knocked out of a group that included eventual champion NYC Gambia and semifinalist NYC Ireland.
The Gambians and Ecuadorians are again paired in the same group this year. In 2014’s Group A, NYC Gambia defeated NYC Ecuador 2-1.
This time around, NYC Ecuador hopes to emerge victorious and advance to the Round of 16.
In their first ever Cosmos Copa appearance, NYC Antigua has high hopes. The team representing the island nation hopes to pass through a difficult Group G.
Team president Everton Pigott said his team is excited about the upcoming group stage at Randall’s Island, and his team is not to be taken lightly.
“I believe our aggressiveness should help, we have a mixture of young and more mature players that can exercise our continuous zeal to win,” Pigott said. “Our style of play is very aggressive.”
NYC Antigua is hoping their top player, Ziggy Thomas, is able to lead the team to success. Thomas has previously played for the Antiguan senior national team, scoring eight goals for them during that time.
“If our top players come through, we should be able to meet our goals,” Pigott said. “I know we’re in a bracket with the champion team of Gambia, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
NYC Antigua opens up group play as the three-seed in the group.
The Scottish team is ready to deploy its secret weapon.
“We have Scotland’s Ronaldo on our team,” team president Colin Reid said.
That would be Robbie Weir. After playing in the tournament in 2013, Weir missed last year’s tournament and is ready to lead NYC Scotland to the promised land this year.
“Robbie will basically to show New York how to play soccer,” Reid said.
Even though July in New York is unlike the “miserable” Scottish weather, as Reid calls it, his team should be fine adjusting to the New York heat.
“For New York, we have adapted our game so we play an intelligent pressing game,” Reid said. “Once they cross the halfway line they’re going to be facing a Mel Gibson Braveheart wall of Scottish defense. We will harass, we will terrify, and we will win the ball back.”
NYC Scotland begins as the four-seed in the group, but they are poised to advance to the next round.