When the Cosmos take the pitch this evening, they face the Atlanta Silverbacks, the team that clinched the spring season title, lost only one game in the last eight contests, and just announced the return of the star Mexican forward who scored seven goals in 13 appearances earlier this year.
Worried? Not particularly.
"I think we just continue to play with focus," said midfielder Danny Szetela, part of the starting 11 for the past two games. "We've had a few chances and unfortunately" the Cosmos haven't always delivered. "Hopefully we do ."
The Cosmos can almost afford to look past Atlanta's pedigree -- even with their return of former FC Dallas forward Ruben Luna. The match is at Hofstra, and though the Cosmos have only played two games at home this year, the turf at Shuart Stadium has proved itself nothing short of magical.
Alessandro Noselli's stoppage time tally ensured the victory in the home opener against Fort Lauderdale, and two weeks ago, Henry Lopez got in on the action as well -- his header off a Macros Senna cross gave the Cosmos the win in the 92nd minute.
"Just being at home there's this atmosphere," Szetela said. "It's a boost of energy and hopefully we can carry that to three points."
And whether there really is something special about playing at Shuart, there's no doubt it's all but resuscitated Szetela's career. A highly-touted phenom who turned pro at 16, the New Jersey native was beset with high expectations and, by the age of 23, a deteriorating right knee. The injury ended his career with DC United and sidelined him for almost three years.
After multiple surgeries, the knee, he's said, is no longer an issue. The team built on second chances has given him one, and now that Szetela is starting, the motivation to contribute -- be it against the spring season champs or anyone else -- is strong.
"It feels great," he said. "Being out there in the stating 11, they gave me a chance, and I'm going to work hard to make sure it pays off."