The New York Cosmos are one of the most iconic sports teams in the history of sport in the United States. When the Cosmos first burst onto the scene with the likes of Pele, Beckenbauer and Chinaglia the world and New York were instantly hooked. At that time, it was extremely rare for three stars like the ones the Cosmos had to play alongside each other outside of Europe. From the time the Cosmos won their first “Soccer Bowl” in 1972 until the time the NASL folded in 1985, the Cosmos were the class of the league. Once Pele dawned the white Cosmos jersey for the first time, average attendance for the team jumped from under 5,000 to over 25,000 in the span of about 2 years. When the Cosmos were at their peak the NASL seemed invincible and unfortunately the league thought the same thing. The NASL tried to take the success of the Cosmos and use it to boost the league to rival the bigger sports in America but it was never going to work. The NASL tried to grow too fast too soon and it ultimately ended in the cancellation of the 1984 season and the league ultimately folding in 1985. Multiple attempts were made to revive the Cosmos brand in the 90s and early 2000s, mainly as a MLS team, but they were unsuccessful. Finally in August 2010 it was announced that the New York Cosmos would be returning to their old stomping grounds, forming a team for the recently revived North American Soccer League.
On August 3rd the New York Cosmos played their first game in almost 30 years when they faced their old rival Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Shuart Stadium on the campus of Hofstra University. In the days leading up to the game, I was somewhat surprised at the apparent lack of fanfare the game and return of the Cosmos was generating around Long Island. But once game day came all those ideas of the people of Long Island ignoring the return of the Cosmos were immediately put to rest. The buzz in the stadium during the pregame ceremonies, where the Cosmos honored legends Pele, Carlos Alberto and the late Giorgio Chinaglia, was unlike any I’ve ever witnessed. The Cosmos drew a sold-out crowd of close to 12,000 people to their first game. Unfortunately, as could be expected, the quality of soccer during that game was very low. I’m sure the enormity of the occasion led some, if not all, of the players to play with some kind of nervousness and who could blame them with soccer icons like Pele and Carlos Alberto watching from the stands. The game did provide some exciting moments though. Peri Marošević scored the first goal for the Cosmos just before halftime off a deflected clearance off a corner kick. This ignited an energy in the crowd that carried through the remainder of the game. Once the Strikers tied the game it seemed like the game was destined to end in a tie. But there was one last gasp of excitement for the 11,000+ fans at the game. In the 2nd minute of 3 stoppage time minutes Alessandro Noselli got on the end of a miscue from a Strikers defender and slotted the ball through the goalies legs and into the goal to give the Cosmos an exciting 2-1 victory over the Strikers.
Being as big of a soccer fan as I am, I was extremely excited for this game and I felt honored to be able to be at the first Cosmos game that has been played in my lifetime. But sadly, I don’t think my feelings resonated with many people in attendance. Now I obviously can’t say for certain, but when walking around the stadium both before and during the game I got the sense that not many people at the game really understand the significance of the occasion. It felt as if no one truly understood what the Cosmos meant to American soccer. The New York Cosmos showed just what soccer had the potential to become in America. Although many of them probably new who Pele and Carlos Alberto were they didn’t truly understand the story of the Cosmos. Now this is probably the soccer nerd in me coming out, but the story of that game went beyond the Cosmos for me. For me, it was a chance to see one of my favorite players of all time, Giovanni Savarese make his head coaching debut. Savarese played with the Metrostars for about 3 years scoring 41 goals in 85 games and until recently was the clubs all-time leader in goals scored. In addition to Savarese, other US soccer legends on the Cosmos staff include former US international Carlos Llamosa and Alecko Eskandarian (whose father Andranik also played with the Cosmos).
All-in-all the New York Cosmos are back and present a great opportunity for Long Islanders to support a sports team once my beloved Islanders leave the island in a few years. Take a trip out to Hofstra and catch a Cosmos game, you’ll be glad you did.