The New York Cosmos last competitive soccer match in the North American Soccer League was on Sept. 15, 1984, against the Chicago Sting. Now, almost three decades later, the New York Cosmos are throwing their hat back into the professional soccer ring, and the NASL. Make no mistake, these aren’t the Cosmos of Pele, Beckenbauer, and Cantona, but don’t hold that against them. If anything, this newest edition of the legendary club is hoping their storied past will help them form a new identity, for a sustainable future. The roster includes a mix of young and old, domestics and imports, and it’s most recognizable face is midfielder, Marcos Senna, former captain of Spanish outfit Villareal, and the Spanish national team.
On Monday night, media and fans crowded the Football Factory at Legends in New York City for the official 2013 Cosmos Media Day. The entire Cosmos roster and coaching staff were eager to meet the world, and present the new face of an historic franchise. Head coach, Giovanni Savarese, entertained reporters, and gave every indication that his squad would be ready for their season opener on Saturday night, against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The Cosmos will call Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium home for now, but with the proposal for Cosmos Stadium at Belmont Park already submitted, the future looks bright for the New York’s newest professional team. We caught up with a few members of the team for their thoughts on what it means to be a part of such a fabled organization, and how to manage expectations for the upcoming NASL season.
Interviews by Adam Silvers (@silversurfer103)
What does it mean to be a part of the Cosmos historic return to the North American Soccer League?
Defender, Hunter Gorskie: It’s extremely exciting. This organization is full of very important, very successful people. We have a great coaching staff, a great team, a lot of great players. To come back and be reintroduced to the league through the Cosmos brand name is truly an honor for me, I think all the guys would agree that it’s an honor for them as well. We’re all excited to get onto the field and start living up to the Cosmos name.
What are your expectations this year, considering it’s your first season back in professional soccer?
HG: Our expectations are to win the title. The ownership and the coaches have done their due diligence in putting together a really strong team, getting some very talented players, but also paying attention to how those players will mix and match out on the field. I’m pretty confident it’s a good product, and a product that’s going to win a lot of games.
Do you think you’ll have trouble adjusting from the college level to the NASL?
Our expectations are to win the title
HG: I think I’ll be able to translate right away. There are older guys on the team, younger guys on the team, but really when you’re here you don’t really feel a sense of hierarchy. If you can play, you can play. So far it’s been a pretty seamless transition, everyone’s been coming out and fighting in practice every day. That’s what I like to do, come out and work hard, be focussed, and let the rest take care of itself.
What are some of the challenges of taking the coaching reins for such a storied franchise that’s been away from the spotlight for so long?
Assistant Coach, Alecko Eskandarian: There are a ton of challenges. For one, the burden that the Cosmos name carries is as much a blessing as it is a bit of a curse in terms of expectations and pressure to perform at a certain level. With that said, I think that’s what makes this job so intriguing for me. As a player I loved pressure, thrived under pressure, and as a coach it’s no different. You want high expectations, you want high standards, that’s what makes being part of this club so special. We’re starting from scratch, it seems like just a few weeks ago we were sitting at a table and we had one player, Carlos Mendez, on the roster. To see it evolve into this is truly something special, something that I’m proud of, and I can’t wait to get started this Saturday.
How are your experiences in MLS going to contribute to the growth and development of this squad?
AE: It’s huge. I feel like I have a wide array of experiences, whether it be internationally with being on trials with a lot of European clubs, having a lot of my friends playing in Europe at the moment, and playing in MLS. There are a lot of different levels I’ve been able to pull experiences from, which I think will only help me as this thing moves forward. At the end of the day, these guys are going to be out on the field on their own. It’s our responsibility to help them as much as we can in training and all that, but once you step on the field it’s those 11 guys.
Is there a firm starting 11 in place for Saturday’s opener?
AE: No. We have various candidates that can hop in and play, and for coaches that’s a great problem to have. You never want players to feel too comfortable and think that their place is cemented, think that they’re not being pushed. With this group I’m pretty happy with our depth. For the most part these guys push each other every day, and they make it hard for us to decide not just who the starting 11 is going to be, but who the 18 is going to be.
What does it mean to be able to play for such a storied franchise, pretty much in your own backyard?
Goalkeeper, Chad Calderone: I think there’s a lot of gratitude on my part, to get to have my family watch, friends watch, people I‘ve worked with, it’s just special.
Is there added responsibility on the part of the players, knowing that you’re playing for a club with such history?
For the most part these guys push each other every day, and they make it hard for us to decide not just who the starting 11 is going to be, but who the 18 is going to be
CC: I think so. First and foremost, with the coaching staff we have, and the ownership I’ve met, you want to play for people like that. Yes, it is the Cosmos brand, but it’s more than that. These guys are fantastic, the trip we just came from, we really got to know each other. The organization wants people with character, they want you to do the right thing, they want you to work hard.
What’s the goalkeeper competition been like out of camp?
CC: It’s been healthy. It’s very competitive, but I think it’s created an environment where it’s not a meathead type training, it’s very technical, very well thought out, and it’s friendly. We’re not making the decision who’s starting, so we don’t have to worry about it. We just bust our you know what, support each other, and we try and be a strong unit. The culture that’s been created here, because it is so new, is healthy.
What are some of your expectations for yourself this season, and for the Cosmos long-term future?
CC: My expectation is just what I can control, work hard, do the right thing to support these guys. I think a by-product of that is going to be that we create a winning environment. Our expectations are definitely to win, but first and foremost it’s to put the work in, and take advantage of this unbelievable opportunity.
Do you think it’s attributed to the legacy of the Cosmos name that you’ve been able to attract players from all corners of the globe?
CC: Absolutely. Everybody in the world who knows anything about soccer knows who Pele, Beckenbauer, and Chinaglia are. I think it spans generations, and just the city of New York, it’s such an attraction. I know there are guys on the team who are here not only because of the Cosmos name, but because their wives wanted to experience New York, or someone they know.