By Matt Levine
The New York Cosmos, on their return to the North American Soccer League, are a team built on virtually 28 strangers. One would be forgiven if they were skeptical about what the club could achieve in their first season.
Unlike the rest of the league, the Cosmos didn’t have the luxury of having the spring season to come together and only had a short preseason to prepare for their return to the league.
It’s uncommon for an expansion team to find this much success and so early on. However, for the Cosmos, they have played like they are a team much more established in the league.
“We were able to find great players, but most of all great people and when you find the type of people we’ve brought into the club, it’s easier for us to be able to form a family,” said head coach Giovanni Savarese after the team’s trophy presentation at the Mitchell Athletic Training Complex on Tuesday.
The Cosmos 2-1 victory in San Antonio clinched their place in the Soccer Bowl and stretched their unbeaten streak to 10 games, which dates back to the first victory against the Scorpions by the same score on Aug. 24th. If that run continues, they will find themselves as the Soccer Bowl champions.
Although the Cosmos finally found their form as the season wore on, there certainly were hurdles to overcome on the playing field in the early parts of the season.
“It wasn’t easy in the beginning, there was a question about goal-scoring, a question about a full 90 minutes of quality,” said chief operating officer Erik Stover.
However, the Cosmos had a style of play in place before a ball was even kicked.
“We weren’t going to play direct and try to get results, we were going to do it differently than what we think most clubs in this country are doing and he [Savarese] stuck to it.”
The persistence to come in as an expansion team and try to play an attractive style of attacking soccer eventually paid off for the rebooted Cosmos.
The team began to unlock their potential over the second half of the season, culminating in the fall season title clincher against the Scorpions last weekend.
Although the team’s attack became alive after the 2-0 victory against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on Sept. 21st, scoring 12 goals in the next five games, Saverese didn’t see it as a turning point.
‘For some they say it was Tampa, some say that it was Fort Lauderdale Strikers. I just think that from the beginning as soon as the team got together they were able to be very committed and you saw signs that they were hungry to win a championship,” said Savarese.
Although the Cosmos had eyes on returning to the halcyon days of the 70’s and 80’s and lifting Soccer Bowl trophies, they never lost focus on what was in front of them.
“We took it one game at a time. We never thought about what would come in the future. We thought about every game, we had to come and play the best possible way to try to get a win, to try to do what we’re supposed to do and we’ll accumulate [points in the table].”
The Cosmos now head to Atlanta to play the Silverbacks on November 2nd in a dress rehearsal for the Soccer Bowl on November 9th.
With already so much success this season and the club’s first trophy under their belt with the fall season title, they will look to hoist the Soccer Bowl trophy for the first time since 1982. Playing the way they have up to this point, the Cosmos could very well shake the expansion team tag and replace it with 2013 Soccer Bowl Champions.
Matt Levine is a regular contributor to www.bigapplesoccer.com
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