New York Cosmos 2014 Season Review

IMAGE, NYCOSMOS.COM

SEASON TOTALS:

SPRING SEASON: 6-1-2, 19 points, +11 (second place)
FALL SEASON: 5-8-5, 23 points, -1 (fifth place)
COMBINED: 11-9-7, 42 points, +10 (third place)

TOP SCORER: Mads Stokkelien (8 goals)
TOP ASSISTS: Mads Stokkelien (4 assists)


 

IN A NUTSHELL …

The New York Cosmos showed the very best and worst aspects of their club this season.

A marauding jaunt through the Spring nearly saw the club earn their third trophy in two consecutive seasons.  A staunch defense choked the life out of NASL sides across the board, putting New York in contention for the split season title.  Marcos Senna and Danny Szetela bossed the midfield while the Cosmos backline denied opposition any opportunities on goal.

The Fall season saw a fall from grace.  With all the luster practically gone from their inaugural campaign, the Cosmos saw opposition brazenly pressure them both home and away.  Key injuries to Marcos Senna and Roversio put the club in a tumultuous state, struggling to find competent bench options to ease their losses.  Loanees Connor Lade, Danny Mwanga and Jimmy Ockford each  served as stop-gap solutions in those areas.  While finding a modicum of success, none, with the exception of Lade, could consistently produce for the club.

With injuries subsiding, New York managed near-full health by season’s end.  By then, however, it was too late.  While they managed to do just enough to maintain their postseason spot, they looked porous on defense without Roversio and were exposed by a leaner, more disciplined San Antonio side in extra time of the Championship semi-final.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • The Spring Season: When fully healthy, the Cosmos demonstrated their ability to boss NASL competition.  That was on full display in the Spring season.  Allowing all of three goals in nine matches, New York nearly clinched their way towards a third modern-era trophy, and a spot in the NASL Championship series.
  • U.S. Open Cup: No, the Cosmos did not win the tournament, but they showed their ability to compete at the top level.  The Cosmos dispatched both the Brooklyn Italians and the New York Red Bulls in dominating fashion.  That victory over their MLS counterparts generated a buzz around the club, and validated the work of the team’s front office.  All of that was undone against Philadelphia.  Nevertheless, the Cosmos set a standard in Open Cup competition — one they hope to replicate and surpass in 2015.
  • Jimmy Maurer: There was little confidence in the keeper to start the season.  The former Red Bull supplemental pick-turned-journeyman seemed a steep drop off from the MLS-bred Kyle Reynish.  Nevertheless, Maurer became an important part of the Cosmos defense — particularly as his linemates fell injured.
  • Raul.  Signing the Spanish legend is an enormous leap for this second division side, and with his involvement long term, the club gains a recognizable and marketable face for their club and coming academy.

WHAT WENT WRONG

  • The Offense: The Cosmos went through forwards like tissue paper, with the lot of options failing to establish consistency.  Mads Stokkelien proved their best scorer, but was streaky.  Andres Flores had no time to gel with the club.  Hans Denissen never recovered from his injury bout.  Alessandro Noselli departed the club in the Spring season.  Stefan Dimitrov disappeared.  No one could fill the gap up top, and that, ultimately, contributed to this team’s downfall.
  • Injuries: The Cosmos were derailed by a series of ailments to several key players, most notably Roversio and Marcos Senna.  Diomar Diaz, a vibrant part of the team’s wing attack, was sidelined most of the year.  Hans Denissen came into the club injured and struggled to find his place throughout the season.  Even loanee Connor Lade suffered an early injury into his Cosmos campaign.
  • Attendance: The Cosmos averaged 4,915 fans a match through nine games in the Fall season.  That pales in comparison to last year’s Fall numbers — 6,859 through seven matches.  That is a 28% dip in attendance over the course of a year.  The Red Bull victory did little to move the meter, and a series of rainy home matches deterred fans from making the trek to Hofstra.  Still, if that trend continues, New York will be in existential trouble come 2015.
  • Discipline: Savarese has always been an emotional player and that has been a hallmark of his teams throughout his tenure.  His technical staff led a rowdy season for this club, with several brawls ensuing on the field and a handful of ejections sending each one of the team’s coaches to the lockers early.  In some instances, the angst was understandable; poor calls seemed to haunt New York this year.  In other cases, it came off petulant.  No, these outbursts did not directly sway matches either way, but it did cast a shadow on an organization which prides itself with professionalism.
  • Raul.  New York clearly lacked fire power, and Raul was supposed to address those issues for the Fall.  Offers from Qatar and Real Madrid stalled that arrival, and dragged out his signing.  By doing so, New York lost the Spanish forward for 2014.  Further, his arrival was muted by the lengthy process of negotiations, eating away at the potential splash his signing could have made within media circles.
IMAGE, NYCOSMOS.COM

IMAGE, NYCOSMOS.COM

EOS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Hunter Freeman

With the defense torn asunder, the New York Cosmos needed a backline leader.

Hunter Freeman answered the call.

The 29-year-old fullback became a vocal locker room figure and a team-first contributor on the field.  Not only did the veteran defender corral the young Americans on the roster, he also wore several hats in order to cushion the team’s injury losses.  He and Ayoze formed the most formidable defensive bookend in the league.  Further, Freeman was a visible part of the Cosmos community outreach, becoming a quick fan favorite in the process.

Both on and off the field, Freeman met and surpassed expectations.

Honorable Mention: Danny Szetela

EOS MATCH OF THE YEAR: New York Cosmos 3-0 New York Red Bulls

TURNING POINT OF THE YEAR: Marcos Senna’s injury

Senna fell injured against Indy Eleven in May of the Spring season.

The club never managed to recuperate from that moment.

With the U.S. Open Cup and Fall Championship on the horizon, Senna’s absence slowly ate away at the Cosmos campaign.  Yes, they were able to discard of the Red Bulls, but they clearly lacked identity in the midfield against eventual U.S. Open Cup finalists, Philadelphia.  That identity crisis carried over into the Fall campaign, where New York simply could not harness their once indomitable ground possession game.

A LOOK AHEAD

Despite the way 2014 ended, the New York Cosmos look towards a hopeful 2015 season.  With Raul in tow, their scoring woes already have a vibrant solution waiting on the wings.

Bigger questions, however, remain to be answered.  Captain Carlos Mendes was a quiet leader in this year’s campaign, but he will turn 34 next month.  His partner, Roversio, has also been damaged by injury concerns.  Signing a centerback or two will certainly be on the agenda, with the possibility of turning Jimmy Ockford’s loan to a permanent deal in the cards.

Wing play was also sorely lacking.  Target forward Stokkelien led the team in assists this season.  That is not good enough for a ground based attack.  Sebastian Guenzatti has been vibrant in his chances, and Diaz has proven a game changer when healthy.  Jemal Johnson fell short of expectations after an injury plagued 2013.  Savarese will surely look to upgrade in those positions and add depth to the midfield.

There is the question of Stokkelien and Jimmy Maurer.  Both enjoyed strong moments for the club.  Both also fell short in tight situations.  Will Mads be the ideal partner for fellow target man Raul?  Is Maurer the keeper New York needs long term?  Both questions will be answered this offseason.

Finally, there is this little matter of a stadium in Elmont to follow.  The bid is now going into its second year of consideration by the Empire Development Corp.  There is a feeling with the elections over, that politicians would be more willing to consider the Cosmos ambitious plan.  That remains to be seen.  However, Cosmos fans will be glued to the team this winter in hopes of the best.