2016 Season Preview: New York Cosmos

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by JAKE NUTTING

The New York Cosmos begin the 2016 NASL season as essentially the kings of the NASL.

Not only has Head Coach Gio Savarese and company claimed two Soccer Bowl trophies in only three seasons, they’ve also captured every other piece of hardware the NASL has to offer — Spring Season title (2015), Fall Season title (2013), and the North American Supporters’ Trophy (2015).

Despite achieving so much in a short time span, the Cosmos are showing no signs of regressing in the upcoming season. Gone are the headline-grabbing Raul and Marcos Senna, but the club has managed to acquire quality players of a certain profile in their own right with attacking midfielders Juan Arango and Niko Kranjčar.

The Cosmos also had to contend with losing two of the NASL’s best wingers, Walter Restrepo and Leo Fernandes, this offseason. Fernandes led the club in goals across all competitions last year, while Restrepo led in assists. Savarese leaned on his Venezuelan roots, though, and found an exciting winger with Bundesliga experience in Yohandry Orozco, who showed high upside and a creative flair in preseason action.

New attacking firepower wasn’t just limited to the midfield. Bolivian international Yasmani Duk and Costa Rican veteran Jairo Arrieta were also brought in to push the lone returning forward Lucky Mkosana for the starting spot up top. All three strikers are relatively undersized, so they’ll need to rely upon pace and wits if they hope to find success.

One trend that the Cosmos wish they did not have to deal with again this year is the injury woes of centerback Roversio. Knee problems have once again sidelined the Brazilian. The silver lining, though, is the fact that the Cosmos have maintained the core of a defensive unit that was only bested last year by a historically good Ottawa Fury FC defense. Jimmy Maurer returns after narrowly missing out on the NASL Golden Glove, and in front him will be the familiar faces of left back Ayoze, center back and captain Carlos Mendes, as well as right back Hunter Freeman. To help fill the Roversio-sized hole in central defense, the Cosmos have secured the return of 2014 loanee Jimmy Ockford from Seattle.

2015 Finish:

1st (Spring), 3rd (Fall), 1st (Combined Standings), Championship Final Winner

Incoming Players

Defenders: Jimmy Ockford, Gabriel Farfan*, David Ochieng, Alexis Velela*

Midfielders: Michael Lahoud, Juan Arango, Niko Kranjčar, Yohandry Orozco, Eric Calvillo

Forwards: Yasmani Duk, Jairo Arrieta

* denotes a player that can play in defense or midfield.

Outgoing Players

Defenders: Samuel Caceres, Hunter Gorskie

Midfielders: Marcos Senna, Walter Restrepo, Leo Fernandes

Forwards: Raul, Haji Wright, Gaston Cellerino

The Schedule

Scheduling conflicts at James M. Shuart Stadium have forced the Cosmos into scheduling the bulk of their home matches on Sundays again. While that will be a disappointment to supporters seeking convenience, they can’t complain about what appears to be a favorable Spring schedule. The Cosmos open the 10-game Spring Season with two home matches and their toughest away stretch comes in weeks six and seven when they must travel to Miami and Edmonton back-to-back. The true endurance test will be the start of the Fall Season when the Cosmos will need to take the field seven times in July, including a three match road trip.

Players to Watch

Ruben Bover: After earning NPSL MVP honors with Cosmos B and working his way into the lineup for the run to the championship final, 2016 looks to be tailor-made for Ruben Bover to progress even more. The departure of Marcos Senna has left a power vacuum in central midfield and the skill set Bover has demonstrated working from box-to-box could be just what’s needed to fill it.

Yasmani Duk: No newcomer’s stock has risen more than Yasmani Duk’s has this preseason. His loan from Sport Boys Warnes took some extra doing on the part of the Cosmos, but if his showing in the preseason and recent World Cup Qualifiers are any indication, the effort was well worth it. The 28-year-old bagged three goals in the preseason and also appears to have entrenched himself with the Bolivian national team after only debuting last year. He’ll be asked to deliver on one thing: finishing. While the Cosmos took home several accolades last year, they were forced to rely on the defense when inconsistent finishing became an issue in certain stretches.

Cup Dreams

With every piece of NASL hardware resting on their mantle, the Cosmos still have one major achievement squarely in their sights: the U.S. Open Cup. They’ve fared better than most of their NASL counterparts in the competition over the past two years, but the fifth round has been their stumbling block each time. NASL teams will enter the Open Cup in the third round on June 1 this year, and the league’s midsummer break in June will provide a window for teams who progress past that round to focus solely on the knock out competition.

The Cosmos front office is high on this year’s roster from top to bottom, so this year’s Open Cup expectations have not diminished in the slightest.

Questions

How Long will Niko Kranjčar stick around?

The Cosmos earned justified kudos for the pick up of the Kranjčar, but the Croatian international is only under contract for the short Spring Season. Both sides have left open the possibility of the former Premier League attacker signing on for the Fall Season in the future, but that would require more roster maneuverings from the club. Signing Kranjčar was only made possible by the club moving Roversio to the injured reserves list to free up an international roster spot. The Cosmos would need to find another spot once Roversio returns to fitness.

A home of their own?

With scheduling and location issues at James M. Shuart Stadium hampering many of the team’s ambitions, the renewed promise from the state capital that a final decision on the proposed Belmont stadium site is coming is welcome news. The Cosmos remain steadfast in the belief that their bid is the best of the bunch, but what happens if the decision they’ve been anxiously waiting over three years for goes against them? The team has said they have a list of back up sites in case worst comes to worst. But how actionable are those sites? If the Belmont decision goes against them, what becomes the new timeline for an already severely delayed project?

Predictions

Continuity, particularly in defense, will see the Cosmos to a second straight Spring Season title. They’ll fall back to the pack in the Fall Season as the rest of the league finds their groove after another offseason full of turnover. The Cosmos will fall short of clinching home field advantage in the postseason and will ultimately lose away from home in The Championship Final.

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  • Gib

    Looking forward to another fun year.
    Need to resolve stadium issue soon.
    Enough slow rolling.

  • Steph

    Bringing our drums to home opener!
    Cosmos Country Baby!!!!!!!!!!!’

  • William

    LETS GO COSMOS LETS DEFEND OUR TITLE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • slowleftarm

    Here’s the preview: Cosmos will play a bunch of teams from small towns who spend 1/10 as much as they do, will maybe beat them,then brag about how many “championships” they’ve won. They’ll lose in the Open Cup to the the first MLS team that takes the competition seriously and average about 4000 a game at the lacrosse stadium. Meanwhile MLS will take its pick of whatever NASL markets it wants because every other NASL team is desperate to move up to the first division.

    • slowlefttroll

      Here’s my preview for this year: you’ll continue to be consumed by the Cosmos and will post the same tired junk over and over and over.

      • William

        Yet while posting next to nothing about her own team – at a rate of about 30 to 1. Such a perverse personality that is a very tired act.

    • William

      again incorrect the average was about 6471. You are a fountain of misinformation just like the queen Larry. Are you 2 lovers ? BTW where is Larry weren’t the Cosmos moving to Hartford this year ? Larry I don’t hear ya where are u ?

      • slowleftarm

        According to Wikipedia it was 5062 but 4000 was my prediction for 2016. Pay attention instead of angrily smashing the keyboard, William!

        • Dr. Freud

          Your are obsessed with the Cosmos. You would be better off worrying about the Red Bulls poor on and off field performance thus far this year.

          • slowleftarm

            If it wasn’t for me paying attention to Cosmos, no one would. And it’s not like I can improve RBNY’s performance by worrying about it.

            As usual, Cosmos fans don’t respond with anything substantive, they just engage in personal attacks. Typical.

            • Realist

              But mostly why do you care?

              I’m not being sarcaztic, but, really, why do you?

              Man, I’m a Red Bulls ticket holder and I don’t get your need to comment on every Cosmos article.

              • slowleftarm

                I don’t get why every response to what I write on here is a personal attack. Why?

    • Anthony

      Thank God slowleftarm gave us his unconsolidated opinion…we were all waiting with baited breath for him to weigh in on his favorite team to follow.

      • slowleftarm

        Sorry I didn’t “consolidate” my opinion. Whatever that means.

    • Greg

      I predict slow saying “That’s so Metro” after his team of walking billboards choke once again in the playoffs.

      • William

        It is so Metro sure the Harrison Metrostars. Meanwhile the idiot never acknowledges Savarese was involved in developing players and Stover help build that tin can in the middle of nowhere.

  • Kevin

    I was going to predict slow left arm would be one of the first to comment on the NY Cosmos, but I wasn’t fast enough to get this out. Thanks for always obsessing about them. You should stick to predicting that Red Bulls will not be winning another championship for the 21st year. At least you have some consistency there.

  • Yadda Yadda

    See you at the game, guys!

  • William

    Disagree with EOS I believe the Cosmos will defend their title – back to back !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!