AFGHANISTAN V. USA: JUST ANOTHER MATCH AT COSMOS COPA NYC
Sunday afternoon will pit two of the most impressive teams from the first day of qualifying for Cosmos Copa against each other, NYC USA and NYC Afghanistan. Both teams are undefeated, NYC USA defeated NYC Kosova 5-0 this past Sunday while NYC Afghanistan beat NYC Japan 1-0 and NYC Holland 2-1.
As a World Cup-Style tournament with local players playing as the "national teams" of their heritage, there was always a chance that the Cosmos Copa Qualification Tournament, with 20 teams participating, was going to throw together some interesting matchups. On the first day, traditional rivals Argentina and Urugauay played against each other and Portugal and Spain locked horns. One of the most intriguing match ups in the history of Cosmos Copa, NYC USA v. NYC Afghanistan, is coming up on Sunday.
However, despite the excitement and potential plotlines surrounding the upcoming match, the presidents from each team are treating the game like any other. Simply put, it’s just another game being played in New York City at Cosmos Copa. In a diverse city like New York, every weekend, politics are left behind when the players step out onto the pitch.
“We don’t have a specific game plan except to field the very best players we have,” said NYC Afghanistan president Waheed Khosdal. "When I saw that match, it didn't stand out. I saw that team and if we want to come in first, we need to beat USA.
“It's really just another game... One of the biggest things on the guy’ minds is leaving top of the group; and since Afghanistan are currently group leaders, they are the best team out there,” explained NYC USA president Patrick White.
On the pitch, the match will be just as interesting as it is off the pitch. NYC Afghanistan will have to rely on its impressive back line, which features former German second league player and capped Afghan national team member Djelaludin Sharityar, to contain a scorching USA attack.
“Our defense is our best attribute. Our two center backs are very good,” explained Khosdal.
NYC Afghanistan’s 4-2-3-1 formation may very well aid in their defensive plans as it gives more support to their back line.
“We used to use a 4-4-2 in our practice games, but our defense kept breaking down so we switched to a 4-2-3-1. This way we have 6 defenders, which should be enough for an attacking USA squad,” theorized Khosdal.
With heavy expectations to fulfill after their 5-0 win over Kosova, NYC USA are relying on the experience in their side to carry them through their batch of games this Sunday.
“I think our biggest strength will be the level of experience and the pedigree of each player. We have a good group of guys who are soccer savvy and have played at a high level. Each guy’s individual experience is our greatest strength moving forward,” said White.
Patrick White is confident that NYC USA’s players will be able to handle the pressure that will assuredly follow them into the Afghanistan game. The only matter left to solve for White’s men is to see if they erase the dismal performance of last year’s squad from the minds of US fans. In 2011, NYC USA, under a different president, was unable to even qualify for Cosmos Copa.
“Yes, I am aware [of how last year’s team performed]. I know a lot of other guys that have played or are playing on different Copa teams, so from there I was able to look into how the USA team did. I found out that they did fairly poorly. It seemed as if there were a light number of players, who were getting frustrated, and not playing to their ability level.”
To ring in a new era of NYC USA, White came up with a three/fold selection process to choose the players for his squad.
“I wanted players that were experienced, who could commit, and who knew each other fairly well; whether it was as teammates or as opponents.”
NYC Afghanistan, chose its squad from two rival teams from a local Flushing, Queens amateur league.
“It hasn’t been that easy. I coach one of the teams and we know the other really well. They’re kind of our rivals so, at first, it was hard to bring the players together but our management got everyone on the same page,” said Khosdal.
However well NYC Afghanistan perform in this year's Cosmos Copa, one thng is for certain: they have already achieved a great deal in the past couple of weeks.
“A lot of people didn’t know we [Afghans] play soccer. They knew of our players but they didn’t know we were Afghan, now some people know,” explained Khosdal. “There’s a big Afghan community in New York, so there have been a lot of phone calls congratulating us. It’s been a great opportunity. We are very thankful to the Cosmos for allowing us to participate,” he proudly added.
So, as one team looks for redemption and a chance to display their ability on Sunday, one will proudly be marking their ascendance into the New York City Soccer scene. Just another match in Cosmos Copa.
For the full schedule of Sunday's Qualification Tournament, go to cosmoscopa.com/tournament