Welcome to a new feature to the View from Avalon: continuing coverage of the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League.
Tradition. History. Winning. Passion. Excellence. Dynasty.
Those are all the words that define the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. They were the face of the NASL back in its previous incarnation. A powerhouse organization that forged itself on talent from around the world and a desire to make the game of association football relevant, strong and everlasting.
The names of the greats that donned the iconic green and white strip are many: Siegfried Stritzl. Randy Horton. John Kerr. Keith Eddy. Ramon Mifflin. Giorgio Chinaglia. Franz Beckenbauer. Yasin Ozdenak. Giuseppe Wilson. Carlos Alberto. Vladislav Bogicevic. Wim Rijsbergen. Johan Neeskens. Andranik Eskandarian. Roberto Cabanas. Hubert Birkenmeier. And of course, Pele.
Those are just a few of the many who played for the kings of American soccer in the 70s. No one can forget the 1977 season, when Pele retired from the game as a champion and a legend. To this day, he is the honorary president of the Cosmos, who now return to existence and are hours away from finally playing in the similarly-reborn NASL.
Even more enticing is that the Cosmos of today are starting off where the Cosmos of yesteryear also began their rise to fame: James M. Shuart Stadium, on the campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
Exactly three years ago, it was announced by Pele that the Cosmos were back. The original intention for the club was for them to play in Major League Soccer. Cost issues and the rise of New York City FC made this impossible. But the Cosmos organization were not intent on going down quietly. The Cosmos played their first match on Aug. 5, 2011, as the Under-23 team mixed in with guest players.
Ownership changed hands soon after, and in Jul. 12, 2012, the club announced that they would play in the North American Soccer League. And so, the final countdown began in earnest.
The Cosmos played a number of friendlies prior to preparing for the season opener against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. New York thrashed Newtown Pride 6-0 on Jun. 18, rolled past Old Carthusians in London 4-1 on Jul. 21, lost a tough contest with Leyton Orient on Jul. 24 and drew 1-1 with Gillingham on Jul. 26.
Many of the players who will take to the pitch for the first time in NASL play have experience in Major League Soccer. Defender Carlos Mendes appeared in 146 league matches for the New York Red Bulls; defender/midfielder Hunter Freeman spent time with the Red Bulls Houston Dynamo and Colorado Rapids; midfielder Danny Szetela began his footballing career with the Columbus Crew and midfielder Joseph Nane played for Toronto and Colorado from 2010-2012.
There is also some experience on this year’s Cosmos roster. Spanish forward Marcos Senna was one of Villareal’s top players, with 292 La Liga appearances and 25 goals from 2002-2013. Senna was also on the Spanish national team in the 2006 World Cup. Italian striker Alessandro Nosellio has over 200 appearances and 56 goals for Mantova and Sassuolo in Italy.
A couple of players that are currently off the radar and could make an impact for New York are winger/striker Jemal Johnson and striker Henry Lopez. Lopez is a 20-year old Guatemalan international that spent time with Los Chapines in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Johnson is a journeyman, having spent time with 11 different clubs in England, and he also played for the Strikers earlier this year.
So what will the future hold for Giovanni Savarese’s Cosmos? Will the fans come and embrace this team? Will the glory days of the 70′s and 80′s return to Queens? And will the Cosmos rise and become the glamour club of the second division of American soccer? Find out…here on The View from Avalon!
The world-famous New York Cosmos open up the long-awaited new chapter in the history of its organization on Aug. 3 against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers at Shuart Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.