New Neighborhood, New Possibilities for the Cosmos

Russia - Aleksandr Kerzhakov

by JAKE NUTTING

New home, new neighbors.

The New York Cosmos want to be good neighbors in their new community as they move to MCU Park in Brooklyn for the 2017 North American Soccer League season.

Having a roster that is representative of the significant cluster of Jewish residents in the borough, or the concentrated cluster of Russian and Ukrainian immigrants in and around MCU in Coney Island is a potentially good first step toward establishing a presence in the area.

MCU Park

MCU Park

The Cosmos’ new owner Rocco Commisso seems interested in the prospect of his roster reflecting the neighborhoods near the team’s stadium, at least according toby his comments at last week’s news conference announcing the signing of Amauri, the Italian former international.

“I told Gio [Savarese] ‘you gotta get me some Russians, some Ukrainians, some Caribbean players.’ You know, we’ve gotta get everyone front and center on the team, so he’s trying very hard,” Commisso said with a knowing smile.

The Cosmos have always had a reputation as a team with international flair. Thus far, they’ve mainly attracted players from Spanish-speaking countries, but there’s no reason to think they can’t extend their reach to other regions to better appeal to Brooklyn’s unique, diverse demographics.

Below is a wish-list — realistic andobvious long shots — that could help the Cosmos safely parachute into their new environment.

Russia

Aleksandr Kerzhakov – With 30 international goals for Russia, Kerzhakov is his country’s career leading scorer. A similar recipe worked well for the Cosmos last year with Venezuela’s leading scorer, Juan Arango. At 34, Kerzhakov’s time in the top tier of Russian soccer appears to be winding down. He has had two separate stints at Zenit St. Petersburg and has scored 114 goals, but his last double-digit year was in the 2012-13 season. The former Russian Premier League top scorer could be available this summer when his contract with Zenit runs out.

Andrey Arshavin – This one would fall squarely in the long-shot category. Arshavin, 35, is under contract at Kairat in Kazakhstan through the end of the year. After openly contemplating retirement, he scored 8 goals last year for Kairait, more than Arshavin had recorded in his previous six years combined.

Ukraine

Oleg Gusev - Ukraine

Oleg Gusev – After more than 10 years with Ukrainian powerhouse Dynamo Kyiv, Gusev is in search of a new team. The good news is that the veteran’s agent says his client’s top preference would be to move stateside. The bad news is his agent also claims several MLS teams are interested in the former Ukrainian Premier League Player of the Year. Gusev ranks third in appearances and is also tied as the fourth-highest scorer for his country.

Eugene Starikov – Of anyone on this list, Starikov appears to be the most likely to actually put pen to paper with the Cosmos considering he’s already with the team as a trialist. Born in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic a few years before its dissolution, Starikov, 28, grew up in the U.S. after moving with his family. He signed his first professional contract with Zenit St. Petersburg in 2009, but spent the entirety of his five-year stint at the team out on loan. He moved on from Zenit last year to join Chornomorets Odesa, where he notched two goals in 10 appearances. Before joining the Cosmos training camp, Starikov was on trial with Minnesota United.

Israel

Yossi-Benayoun - Israel

Yossi Benayoun – As the most capped player and the second leading scorer in the for the Israeli national team, Benayoun is about as distinguished as it gets when it comes to Israeli soccer. The former national team captain plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv, but he has a résumé full of stops at places like Liverpool, Chelsea and West Ham United. His style as an attacking midfielder lurking in the space directly behind the team’s striker is similar to the role that Raúl and Arango successfully filled during their time with the Cosmos. Benayoun’s current contract is scheduled to conclude at the end of June.

Tal Ben Haim – Another distinguished member of the Israeli national team currently suiting up at Maccabi Tel Aviv, Ben Haim could bring valuable experience to the center of New York’s back line. Apart from Carlos Mendes, the Cosmos are lacking seasoned options at center back. Ben Haim is just shy of 100 caps for the national team and has experience at a high level in England with Chelsea and Portsmouth. His current deal runs through June.

Adi Gotlieb – A younger and perhaps cheaper option at center back. cGotlieb, 24,. The defender has more than 100 appearances for Hapoel Acre in Israel’s second division, but moved up to the top league with Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2015. While he has yet to crack the senior national team, Gotlieb previously featured for Israel’s U-21 squad.

Kobi Moyal – The Cosmos look set with defensive midfielders for the moment, but Savarese has shown a habit of stacking up at this position past years. At 29, Moyal has plenty left in the tank and would likely earn the respect of the supporters for his tenacity and work rate in the center of the field. With his contract at Beitar Jerusalem expiring in June, he could be looking to make a move soon.