Despite Delay, Arango Feels As if He Never Left Cosmos

Late season arrival Juan Arango has just a couple months to replicate his magic from last year and help the Cosmos reach the postseason. Photograph by New York Cosmos

Cosmos logoThe New York Cosmos finally have their man.

Technically, they had him in late July when Juan Arango put pen to paper to rejoin the team for the back half of the North American Soccer League Season, but political turmoil in his native Venezuela kept last year’s NASL Golden Ball winner from obtaining his visa until last week.

“Although it wasn’t supposed to be a seamless process because of the political turmoil, it was definitely not supposed to take this long,” Arango said. “The club and I really wanted this to go through, but when politics are in the way, there is not really a whole lot you can do but to obey the rules and do everything the way is supposed to.”

Arango, 37, left the Cosmos at the conclusion of his contract last season, having bagged 15 goals and 7 assists to propel the Cosmos to their third Modern Era NASL title. He returned to his first professional club Zulia FC in Venezuela and kept producing at a high level, but Cosmos Coach Giovanni Savarese never gave up on bringing him back into the fold.

As the political and economic situation in Venezuela worsened, a return to the Cosmos made even more sense.

“My country is going through a very harsh period and it is definitely not easy to adapt to everything that is happening,” Arango said.

“I’ve never stopped talking to Gio since last season,” he said. “We both wanted to make this work and it was a very easy decision for me to finally return to the Cosmos, since we accomplished so much last year. I had a good season with Zulia, but in my mind, the Cosmos were always a top choice for me to continue my career.”

Waiting for Arango when he arrived at Cosmos training last week were many familiar faces. Savarese and the rest of the Cosmos staff rebounded from the tumultuous off-season to either hold onto or reacquire 13 players from last year’s championship squad, eight of whom appeared in the championship final.

“It feels like I never left,” Arango, said joking. “I spent the whole ’16 season here and we achieve great things. Seeing and playing with these guys once again has been great for me. I can’t wait to step on the pitch to help the team. The ‘new guys’ don’t really feel new at all, since this team has always been about family. Therefore, I feel like I just joined my old squad where there are a few new faces that have already made me feel part of the team.”

Arango must hit the ground running if he is going to have a significant impact as the Cosmos have just 11 matches left in the season to secure a postseason spot. At the moment they are in fifth place in the Fall Season standings, but they are in a more favorable position in the Combined Season race with 30 points, only two points behind the second place San Francisco Deltas.

Savarese could select Arango for this weekend’s home match against the Jacksonville Armada, though the veteran has some catching up to do after his month in limbo waiting on his visa. Arango trained on his own over the last month in Venezuela, but it’s impossible to replicate the environment of an actual match in training. With his last competitive match for Zulia now over two months behind him, Arango will likely be eased into the Cosmos lineup at first.

“I am here to bring as much as Gio and the coaching staff demand of me,” Arango said. “They know the type of player that I am and I have full trust in their capabilities to come up with a game proposal that helps us obtain better results,” he said. “It’s been a difficult season so far and we had let go some valuable points, but it’s not only up to [Jimmy] Maurer, [Carlos] Mendes or [Emmanuel] Ledesma to bring those points back. It’s up to the whole squad to work hard as a unit and finish the season strong to earn a spot in the Championship.”