VIDEO: Amidst uncertainty, Cosmos close first season in Brooklyn on a high
New York Stuns Valencia Heading Into Fall Campaign
It wasn’t all that long ago that the New York Cosmos’ season, let alone existence, was in jeopardy.
With no stadium to play in, no jersey sponsor and no tickets sold, Pele’s former team looked destined for an early grave.
But in swooped Rocco Commisso, CEO of Mediacom, to save the struggling North American Soccer League (NASL) franchise.
“I’m going into this situation with my eyes open,” Commisso said shortly after securing a majority stake in the team in January. “This is not an easy situation from a financial standpoint.
“Rarely do sports teams make money. In the case of the Cosmos, it’s even worse.”
With little time for preparation, the off-season insecurity left Cosmos head coach and sporting director Giovanni Savarese forced to scramble at the last minute.
He was tasked with preparing his players — many of them new — on short notice, while also trying to instill his system of play. On top of that, his team needed time to gel and build chemistry.
Looking back, however, the Venezuelan gaffer, now in his fifth season at the helm of the Cosmos, did an admirable job given the circumstances.
A third-place finish in the Spring Season is not what Cosmos Country has come to expect from its team, which has won the Soccer Bowl three times in the last four years, but all is not lost.
It should be noted that the Cosmos finished second in the spring last year, only to win the Fall Season and eventually be crowned NASL champions.
The team’s pursuit for that title begins on Saturday as it plays host to Miami FC, a squad that won the Spring Season by a commanding 10 points.
New York’s roster will look slightly different this weekend after a series of moves.
Reinforcements have arrived in the form of Argentinian forward Pablo Vranjican, who provided a spark at the end of the spring. The team also welcomed back 2016 NASL Golden Ball winner Juan Arango.
Meanwhile, Kalif Alhassan and Walter Restrepo have parted ways with the club.
The Cosmos’ best chance of making the playoffs is to win the upcoming Fall Season. If New York can squeak into the win-or-go-home postseason, the team has a serious chance of winning the league.
The winners of the spring and fall campaigns get automatic qualification into the quirky four-team NASL playoffs. The next two teams with the best records over the course of the two seasons get the final two spots.
With a short two-week break between the spring and fall seasons, the Cosmos have been hard at work preparing for their next campaign.
On Saturday, New York defeated legendary La Liga side Valencia 2-0 in an international friendly at the new state-of-the-art Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Canada.
Although Valencia did not deploy their full-strength squad, that should take nothing away from the Cosmos, who defeated the six-time La Liga winners handedly.
With the fourth-highest budget in Spain and one of the most revered youth academies in the world, Valencia’s team is formidable through and through, regardless of who is on the pitch.
“It’s been fantastic for us to be here,” Savarese said after the win. “We’re very privileged to have been invited to play in front of this beautiful crowd in this beautiful city.
“I think the guys did very well,” he continued. “It’s a great result for them to now be confident against Miami.”
An encouraging sign was that the Cosmos did not sit back and defend for 90 minutes to let Valencia dictate the pace of the game. On the contrary, the Cosmos were dangerous, had spells of possession and scored both goals in the run of play.
It was a complete performance that saw third-string goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck rise to the occasion with normal first-string net minder Jimmy Maurer out on a one-game loan with F.C. Dallas.
The Cosmos went on the board in the 54th minute after Eugene Starikov laid off a tantalizing ball to Eric Calvillo, who smashed it into the bottom corner. The 19-year-old’s brace was the first goal conceded by Valencia in its preseason.
In the 64th minute, Zolbac, who was impressive all night, kept the Cosmos in the match when he denied Aymen Abdennour’s header at point-blank range.
The dagger in Valencia’s side came in the 77th minute when Ryan Richter provided a sensational cross into the box for Starikov. After Valencia keeper Neto made an initial save, Emmanuel Ledesma scored on the rebound.
The Argentine then ran to the corner and jumped in the air while swinging his arms down, a nod to Cristiano Ronaldo’s routine goal celebration.
Desperate to score in the second half, Valencia manager Marcelino Garcia Toral brought on Valencia captain Dani Parejo and former Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo, but the substitutes could not find the back of the net.
The win was not only a testament to the talent that the Cosmos possess, but also to the competitiveness of NASL.
New York kicks off the Fall Season on Saturday, when they host Miami FC at MCU Park at 7 p.m.
Extra Time: Toward the end of the season, the Brooklyn Eagle spoke with the Cosmos’ core four: Ayoze, Jimmy Maurer, Carlos Mendes and Danny Szetela. All four footballers have made at least 100 appearances for the Cosmos.
Given their longevity with New York, they opened up to the Eagle about the uncertainty the club faced early on, how the team has overcome those challenges and why the future looks bright. To watch the interviews, see the video above.
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