By Jeff Helfrich/NPSL.com
This week, ASC San Diego will travel over 2,700 miles to face off with New York Cosmos B in the NPSL national semifinals.
San Diego midfielder Michael Kafari believes that his team matches up well with the blue chip New York squad. And as far as the trip, Kafari says the team has no problem with a little adversity.
“We had to bus to Arizona and play in 104-degree weather,” Kafari said. “We’re used to it. We’re comfortable being uncomfortable.”
ASC San Diego (15-1-5) picked up a 2-1 win over FC Arizona to claim the West Region title while New York (15-1-1) claimed a 3-1 win over FC Baltimore to win the Northeast. Cosmos B head coach Carlos Mendes hopes his team will be sharper on offense this Saturday, and one of the NPSL’s best is capable of doing just that.
New York forward Bledi Bardic has scored 12 goals this season, including Open Cup play. ASC San Diego goalkeeper Jean Antoine (10 shutouts) and company have spent the week preparing for Bardic and the Cosmos’ scoring attack.
“He’s a good player,” Kafari said. “I played with him at Puerto Rico FC. It’s going to be tough to defend him. I think we’re up for it. We’ve done our homework a little bit on him and we should be able to handle it.”
ASC San Diego has firepower of its own in forward Elijah Rice (eight goals, six assists), midfielder Christian Enriquez (seven goals, five assists) and midfielder Dallin Cutler (five goals, five assists).
“When they go forward, they have guys that can hurt you,” Mendes said. “We have to be very careful with that.”
Mendes credits much of his team’s success down the stretch to a deep team that stays balanced. Each player that has had to step in has done the job for his club.
“If you’re going to get to the semifinals, the finals, and win a championship, you need that,” Mendes said. “We’ve been very lucky.”
ASC San Diego head coach Ziggy Korytoski is excited to play a storied club in the Cosmos and welcomes the challenge. What makes his team different this year from years past is more “bite and fearlessness.” A chance to play for and win an NPSL National Championship would mean mission accomplished for ASC San Diego.
“We believe we’re at that level of the Cosmos, but on the west coast,” Korytoski said. “Our guys know the history and what they’ve accomplished. When you play high level teams that you think you’re in that category with, I think it brings the best out of everyone.”
In a conversation with the NPSL media team just before his team’s red eye flight on Wednesday night, Korytoski confirmed that his team is comfortable being uncomfortable.
“I think we do a good job with preparation, not just on the field but mentally,” Korytoski said. “Any team, any time, any where.”
Photo Credit: Dereld Photography and Matthew Levine/New York Cosmos