FIVE STANDOUT PLAYERS FROM THE COSMOS COPA GROUP STAGES
The highly rated Teddy Niziolek surveying the field in front of him
Midfielder, NYC Poland – AS the 2011 Cosmos Copa Golden Ball winner, Teddy Niziolek came into Cosmos Copa with a great deal of pressure on his shoulders. Chris Dobens of Totalfootblog even named him "Teddy ESPN" after his wonder goal in last year's final landed him on ESPN Sportcenter's Top 10 plays. Despite having to deal with high expectations to better his performance from last year, the Polish playmaker flourished during the group stages as he managed to both score goals and control the tempo of each match he partook in. In Poland’s 2-0 win over Jamaica, Niziolek struck twice, showcasing his clinical finishing ability. In contrast, Niziolek drifted a bit farther back in midfield, becoming a defensive central midfielder, during his team’s 1-0 win over Uruguay. Whether Niziolek chooses to take on a defensive or offensive role, he will surely be an influential figure in Poland’s Quarterfinal clash with the United States on Saturday.
Jefferson Hinds – Midfielder, NYC Jamaica - Hinds is the motor to the Jamaican attacking machine that scored six goals during the group stages. His low center of gravity and deft touch on the ball make it difficult for opposing player’s to dispossess him in midfield. Hinds’ best display this past weekend came in his team’s 5-0 rout of an upstart Afghanistan side. Hinds managed to score a goal and record two assists in a performance that showcased his exceptional passing vision and quick decision-making, a rare skill amongst semi-professional and amateur players. If Jamaica wish to advance past an undefeated Haitian side in the quarterfinals, Hines will have to be the player that controls the middle of the park.
Yvener Guerrier – Forward, NYC Haiti – Guerrier cemented himself as one of the most clinical strikers at this year’s Cosmos Copa as he scored five goals in Haiti’s three group stage matches, including braces against France and the USA. Guerrier is a prototypical modern all around striker in his build as he his tall, powerful, and deceivingly quick. However, his skill and composure on the ball allow him to interplay with the midfield players that provide him service, creating the possibility for quick one-two passing sequences in the attacking third. However, despite Guerrier’s ability to influence each match he plays in, he has to be wary of his habit of failing to stay focused for the full duration of a game. During the second half of the USA game, his movement was lackadaisical, which stunted many of his team’s attacking moves during the latter portions of the match. Nevertheless, Guerrier is one of the top strikers at Cosmos Copa and will be looking to put his name on the score once again when Haiti faces Jamaica this weekend.
Andrew Herman – Forward, NYC USA – If we were to rank the strikers who played in the Cosmos Copa group stages, Yvener Guerrier would rank 1a while Andrew Herman would rank 1b; the only reason being that the Haitian front man scored one more goal than the American during the group stages. However, three of Herman’s goals came via an impressive hat trick in the United States’ 3-2 comeback win over France; probably their most vital win of the group stages. Similar to Guerrier, Herman is a physical force on the field with massive upper body strength, but it’s his soccer IQ that makes him such a dangerous threat to opposing teams. His ability to find pockets of open space in the attacking third not only stretches the defense, but it also gives his teammates more time to push forward and pick out dangerous passes. Herman’s soccer knowledge will be tested to the limit this weekend when the United States face-off against two-time defending champion, Poland. The Poles are the most organized and defensively disciplined side at Cosmos Copa, so it would take someone of Herman’s tactical knowledge to crack the Polish code that has delivered NYC Poland two straight Cosmos Copa winner’s medals.
Souleymane Kone – Defender, NYC Senegal – Kone is the most surprising inclusion of the group, as his performances during the group stages might not have impressed the casual observor. However, his progression over the three matches that Senegal played was extraordinary. During his team’s first game, Kone seemed a bit out of place at the left back position as the speed of his decision-making didn’t match up to the swiftness of the Senegalese attack. However, during day 2 of the group stages, Kone put on two dazzling performances where he exhibited a keen tactical awareness, a high work-rate, and impressive technical ability, whether it was controlling the ball out of the air or running at the opposition. Kone is a player to watch because he brings a new dimension to an already exceptional squad. While Senegal enjoy keeping possession in midfield, they often fail to use the flanks as the majority of their attacking movements go through the center of the field. Kone’s overlapping runs and attacking mindset gives his team more width, which will stretch the opposing defense, which will lead to more chances to attack through the middle; exactly what Senegal enjoy doing most.