The San Francisco Deltas prepare to host a historic NASL Soccer Bowl Final against the New York Cosmos at Kezar Stadium this Sunday (11/12/17) at 5 pm (PST). It hasn’t been the easiest of roads for the Deltas to get here with all of the uncertainty surrounding the club and now the League, but the team has stuck together on the field to reach this moment and have one step further to go.
The Deltas are a team that has achieved more than most would have expected for an expansion side in the NASL. Most NASL experts could not have predicted that this team would finish 2nd in the overall regular season standings and now be hosting the final at home. “This is something we worked our tails off for, to earn the right to host,” said the team’s leading goal scorer Tommy Heinemann. “To host a final is something very special. Not a lot of clubs get to do that.”
While Tommy Heinemann has previously been in the NASL Final in 2015 with the Ottawa Fury alongside current Deltas’ goal keeper Romuald Peiser, not as many of the Deltas’ players have had the big game NASL experience of The Cosmos, who will be entering their fourth NASL Soccer Bowl in just five seasons. “It’s going to be my first league final after ten years of playing and after three years in this League,” said the Deltas’ captain, Nana Attakora. “I’m happy to finally get there, especially with this group of guys. It’s going to be fun.”
For Tommy Heinemann, getting to another final and getting another crack against the Cosmos is an opportunity he is very much looking forward to. He said, “I remember every minute and every second of that 2015 final. That lives with me inside,” before later saying, “To be in another final against the same club, it’s another opportunity that I’m very hungry for.”
Having reached the NASL Final in four of the last five seasons, the Cosmos hold the edge in terms of big game NASL experience. Multiple players for the Cosmos, like the captain Carlos Mendes, the keeper Jimmy Maurer or midfielder Danny Szetela, have been part of all three of the Cosmos’ previous NASL championships. “Mendes is a player I’ve actually looked up to. He’s a really good guy,” said Attakora before adding that, “They are just dangerous all over the place.” “Maybe that’s the edge they have when it comes to the experience of what they have in the League and playing finals,” said Deltas’ Head Coach Marc Dos Santos about facing the Cosmos. “But we have guys who have played in big games too.”
The two clubs met four times during the regular season with each team winning once, while the other two matches ended in draws. The opening match between the two sides saw a moment of magic from Emmanuel Ledesma to win the match 1-0 for the Cosmos back on April 29th. The second match between the two was a balanced, but somewhat dull affair that ended 0-0 at MCU Park in New York on May 27th. The third game on August 5th saw the Deltas come from behind after conceding earlier at Kezar, courtesy of goals from Heinemann and Patrick Hopkins to win the match 2-1. The final game saw the Cosmos dominate the match, go up a man, and up two goals before Devon Sandoval scored two late goals to salvage a point for the Deltas in New York. “It is a team that is very technical, a team that wants to impose their game on an opponent, a team that is very strong,” said Dos Santos about his team’s previous match ups with the Cosmos.
The Deltas are a team that has been built on the personality of their head coach, Marc Dos Santos. A very humble, hard-working, and tactically gifted coach, his team embodies that persona. Every player has made an impact on this team to win a game and no player is a super star bigger than the team. “This is a team that fights for each other. No one has an ego in a bad way,” said Heinemann about his team. “Every player on this team feels like they can make a difference in the game on Sunday and that’s what you want.”
The Deltas face off against arguably the most storied club in North American soccer history. The New York Cosmos are the most successful team in both renditions of the NASL. When asked if beating such a historic club to win the finals would make it more special, captain Attakora said, “It would be more special. In my career against the Cosmos it’s been tough. They’ve been a tough team to beat. They’ve always been a very good team and they are very well coached.”
This is a match that is being billed as one between the two top coaches that the modern era of the NASL has seen. Marc Dos Santos’ counter-part across the field on Sunday, Giovanni Savarese, has been the man to lead the Cosmos to all three of their previous titles. “Gio is a good man with good principals and an honest guy. In the game, we both respect each other a lot,” said Dos Santos about Savarese. However, Dos Santos does not feel that there is anything different than in any other final he has been in, saying, “For me it’s a final [it doesn’t matter that it’s the Cosmos]. People can make a big deal out of it. Me and Gio again and all that, but I separate things very well.” Nana Attakora might not see it that way saying that, “These are two of the best coaches I’ve seen in my life. It is going to be a chess match on Sunday.”
This will be Dos Santos’ third straight trip to a USSF pro soccer league final. He reached both the 2015 NASL Final with Ottawa before falling to the Cosmos and the 2016 USL Final with Swope Park before falling to New York Red Bulls II. “Marc has reached three finals [in a row] so far and he’s lost 2 against New York teams,” said Attakora. “So if we could beat a New York team for Marc it will be fun.” As for Dos Santos himself, he is just happy to have the final at home and not in New York. “Its special [that it is a home final]. That’s new for me in the last 3 years.”