By DAN KARELL
The New York Cosmos are back.
For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Cosmos will take the field in an official league match when they face the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers on Saturday at Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, New York.
Since the organization announced their intention to play in the 2013 North American Soccer League Fall Season, momentum has begun to grow. It grew on December 11, 2012 when the club made former Metrostars and Red Bulls defender Carlos Mendes their first signing, rose higher with the acquisition of former Spain national team midfielder Marcos Senna, and continues to grow with the team’s 26th and most recent signing, Roversio.
Head coach Giovanni Savarese had a very decorated playing career for 18 years as a professional, but his challenge with the Cosmos will be to prove that as a first-year manager, with no prior professional experience, he can lead the squad to the Soccer Bowl.
On a preseason trip to London, the team got two games under their belt, but as the anticipation towards the Cosmos return reaches a crescendo, it’s time to take a closer look at the Cosmos heading into the 2013 NASL Fall Season.
NEW YORK COSMOS SEASON PREVIEW
KEY ACQUISITIONS: MF Marco Senna, D Carlos Mendes, MF Ayoze, D Hunter Freeman.
HEAD COACH: Giovanni Savarese, first season with the New York Cosmos. Former director of the Cosmos Academy.
While the New York Cosmos are back in name, the current group of Cosmos can’t be compared to the legendary group from the 1970s and 1980s. It’s not a team of stars like Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, and Giorgio Chinaglia all thrown together.
But that’s not to say this team isn’t talented. It’s a team full of veterans that have played in leagues like Major League Soccer and La Liga, as well as a number of young professionals hungry for a chance in the game.
It’s a team that includes two players on the recovery trail, Chris Rodd and Danny Szetela, who are getting back in the professional game after a long time out due to injuries. And it’s a team that includes a first-year head coach the players are all raving about.
“Gio’s just so positive always, no matter what,” Szetela told SBI. “You make a mistake, he’s the first one to say, ‘It’s all right, you’re going to make mistakes and that comes with the game.'”
If this team has any strengths on paper, it’s in the spine. Carlos Mendes brings a wealth of experience to the club, and he’s worn the captain’s armband during its tour of England. Alongside him will likely be either Hunter Gorskie, a defender fresh out of college but with plenty of games under his belt, or Roversio, who signed with the club after playing recently in Spain and Turkey.
Even at the goalkeeping position, Jimmy Maurer comes to the club from Universidad de Concepcion in Chile, and Kyle Reynish joins after spending six seasons as Nick Rimando’s backup with Real Salt Lake.
In the center of the field, all eyes will focus on Marcos Senna, the former Spanish international who surprised many with his decision to join the club. A Brazilian by birth, Senna has begun the adjustment to playing on a new team in a different country with a new language. According to many on the roster though, Senna’s contributions since he’s signed have proven that he can still perform at a high level even at the age of 36.
“He’s a leader among the team, he’s bringing all of his experience for all of the players, and he’s a class act in every sense of the word, on and off the field,” Savarese told SBI. “We are not just satisfied, I would say extremely satisfied with everything that he has contributed and he has the expectations so far that we have had about him.”
Up front, there’s an assortment of young players with high potential. Peri Marosevic was the fifth overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft by FC Dallas, but he never could produce up to expectations. Now, the 24-year-old is hoping to prove that he can play and score regularly as a professional in the NASL.
Along with Marosevic, Henry Lopez is already a member of the Guatemala national team, and Satoru Kashiwase has played for Japan at the youth levels.
The key to the Cosmos season will be their ability to develop chemistry. Learning how to play with new teammates is never easy, and on an expansion team where everyone is learning about each other, those who can adapt the quickest will earn places on the team and look to lead the Cosmos on the field.
While the chemistry continues to build, the team can look forward to finally getting the season underway after months of buildup.
“There’s been a lot of hype, and I was the first player signed, so to see the whole team come together and now it’s time to play and this is what we love doing,” Mendes said.
“We’re ready to play now and I can’t wait to get out there.”