Just over five months since their clash in the 2013 Soccer Bowl, the New York Cosmos will once again take on the Atlanta Silverbacks, this time at Shuart Stadium.
In their return to the NASL last fall, the Cosmos posted an impressive 9-4-1 record en route to the Fall Championship and a berth to the Soccer Bowl where they defeated the Silverbacks 1-0.
As the 2014 season is set to get underway, Cosmos Assistant Coach Alecko Eskandarian is hoping his squad can start 2014 the same way they ended 2013, but doesn't look at the game as a Soccer Bowl rematch.
"That was last year, this is a completely different season. We have new players, they have new players and they also have a new coach. So it's going to be interesting," Eskandarian said.
The 2013 Spring Champion Silverbacks will be looking to avenge their Soccer Bowl defeat on Sunday. In their three meetings in 2013, Atlanta fell to New York twice, and drew in their only previous meeting at Shuart Stadium. With United States National Team legend Eric Wynalda at the helm, the Silverbacks are poised to be one of the league’s top teams this season.
“Oddly enough, this will be our third straight game against the Cosmos dating back to last year, and the only advantage that I think we have is the fact that we know who they are, but they don’t know who we are," said Wynalda. "We’re a brand new team, and they haven’t seen a lot of our guys. It’s always a special occasion when you play against the Cosmos. Hopefully we can change our fortunes around this time and be on the other end of the result.”
While both found their share of success in 2013, there were things both squads needed to improve upon as well. The Cosmos and Silverbacks have made some noticeable changes throughout their respective rosters.
For a New York squad that struggled to find production from their forwards, the Cosmos have welcomed in a pair of talented strikers to bolster their attack in the form of Hans Denissen and Mads Stokkelien.
Denissen, a 2013 NASL Best XI selection with the San Antonio Scorpions. and Stokkelien, a Norweigian Tippeligaen veteran, will be tasked with lightening the scoring load from 2013 team leaders Marcos Senna and Diomar Diaz.
On the opposite side of the field, New York has also added former American Athletic Conference Defender of the Year Jimmy Ockford. On loan from the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer, Ockford impressed during New York’s trip to Dubai where he made a significant impact against top local competition.
Meanwhile, the Silverbacks boast a Seattle loanee of their own, as striker David Estrada joins the club. The two-time U.S. Open Cup Champion is set to lead the line and help to offset the departure of Pedro Mendes (twin brother of New York midfielder, Paulo Mendes), who tallied eight goals during the 2013 season.
With two talented teams going head to head, this match may well be decided by which set of strikers can finish their chances. In their previous matchups, the two sides seemed evenly matched. If not for a moment of brilliance from Marco Senna, the Soccer Bowl final could have gone in favor of the home team.
Both sides are raring to go after a long offseason and will be looking to start 2014 on a winning note. With a rowdy crowd sure to be on hand once again, it’s only a matter of time before we see if the magic that typified most home matches in 2013 can be replicated for this upcoming season.
“We have had a long preseason this year," said Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese. "We are looking forward to the start of our 2014 season against a quality opponent such as Atlanta at Hofstra Stadium this Sunday and defending our NASL title. We’ve added some quality players and we feel very confident in our team.”