New York Cosmos will use their short stop in Bermuda as final preparation for their North American Soccer League season, which starts next weekend
The two-time defending NASL champions travel to Puerto Rico for their season-opener next Saturday before playing Miami on April 1 in their first home match at their new home field in Brooklyn. They arrived in Bermuda on Thursday and enjoyed a light session at the National Sports Centre yesterday before a practice match later against a local select team before tomorrow’s match against a Bermuda Select XI at 3pm.
“First, we’re very content to be here and very happy with the way we’ve been treated,” said Giovanni Savarase, their Venezuelan head coach, after their morning workout in breezy conditions at the North Field.
“Everyone in Bermuda has been fantastic, especially Randy [Horton] who played for the Cosmos, in the day we’ve been here so far. We’re happy to find beautiful weather in this beautiful country, even more so to find a beautiful field to train on. We’re very content to make the decision to come here.
“We’re playing the Bermuda team on Sunday and looking for it to be a competitive match, which is what we need to prepare for next weekend when we play our first match in Puerto Rico.”
The Cosmos, a team from the original NASL in the 1970s when Horton (1971-74) and Sam Nusum (1975) played for them, also spent time in the Dominican Republic, where they beat Atlántico FC 1-0, Atletico Pantoja 2-0 and the Dominican Republic national team 5-1.
“Now we have the chance to be here and in one more week we’ll be ready to play,” said Savarase of the season-opening matches. “We’re still trying to put some pieces together. We have a lot of new players and now they have to understand our philosophy and the type of team we want to be.”
The Cosmos won back to back titles in 2015 and ’16 but faced an uncertain future when they looked like folding a few months ago after failing to secure a new stadium amid financial issues. They released their entire squad after winning their third NASL title in four years since the team was resurrected in 2013. However, cable TV magnate Rocco Commisso purchased the club to ensure there will be a 2017 season for them in the North American second tier.
“At the Cosmos, we’ve always conducted ourselves as a family, so the last few months have been extremely difficult on many levels,” captain Carlos Mendes said recently on the Cosmos website. Mendes was one of the players re-signed by the club, at the age of 36.
“With Mr Commisso’s purchase of the club, I feel reassured that the team will continue in the direction we had always planned, bringing good quality soccer to the field and helping to grow the sport in our country.”
Another veteran player for the Cosmos is striker Amauri, a former Italy striker. This is his second campaign in NASL after six months with Fort Lauderdale Strikers, scoring five goals in 13 games.
“The New York Cosmos is one of the most storied soccer clubs in the world, as well as the defending NASL Champions,” Amauri told the official club website.
“I look forward to helping the team win yet another championship.”
The 36-year-old spent most of his career in Italy at Parma, Napoli, Piacenza, Empoli, Messina, Chievo, Palermo, Juventus, Fiorentina and Torino.
“Amauri has had an extended career in European soccer and his experience will definitely be an asset to the club,” Savarese said. “He is a difficult forward to play against because of his size, speed and technique.”
The Cosmos team is made up of players from Italy, El Salvador, Venezuela, Colombia and Kenya, along with several American-born players. Andrés Flores, the El Salvador captain, is one of three players from that country with the Cosmos. Midfielder Andrea Mancini, the son of former Lazio, Fiorentina and Manchester City manager, Robert Mancini, is another key player for the Cosmos.
“The players were able to win three titles in four years, we’ve been very fortunate to have a good group of players,” Savarase said yesterday. “We had some [financial] challenges but the new owner, Rocco Commisso is a fantastic person and giving us everything we need to rebuild the club. He saved the Cosmos in the league, we had a very difficult time in December, for sure.”
Despite being one of the most prestigious names clubs in North American soccer, the Cosmos have no plans at present to move to Major League Soccer.
“Right now the main thing is we rebuild, become strong,” Savarase stressed. “In the future we’ll see what it will bring, but at the moment the MLS is not for the Cosmos.
“The venue [in Brooklyn] is a lot easier to arrive at, more access with the subway lines. Brooklyn is a borough that has grown so much in the last few years and it is exciting for us to be there. I think we’re going to have greater support.”