Cosmos COO Stover touts Raul’s present, future impact for the club

Raul New York Cosmos

Empire of Soccer had a chance to speak with Cosmos Chief Operating Officer, Erik Stover. Amongst the many discussion points from our conversation, Stover explained the importance of signing Real Madrid legend, Raul. Here is the first part of our three part interview.


Spaniards have served as key milestones for the modern-era New York Cosmos.

First, there was Ayoze; a second division Liga player in his prime whose signing embodied the reach and power of the once dormant football brand.  Then, there was Marcos Senna; a legend in his own right that demonstrated the present commitment of the club to the NASL competition.

Now, the Cosmos look towards the future with 37-year-old Real Madrid legend, Raul Gonzalez, set to join the fray.

New York are set to debut their star catch Tuesday in Midtown Manhattan at the Four Seasons Hotel.  While pomp and circumstance will follow the event, the Cosmos see practicality in the signing of Raul.

“He is 100% coming here to be a player and score goals for us and help us win championships,” Cosmos COO Erik Stover tells EOS.  “But he will be spending a good amount of time helping us build a foundation so that when he does retire from playing, he can take a more active role running the academy.”

Much is riding on the broad shoulders of the Madrid native, and the added dimensions of his deal draw intrigue to an already impressive acquisition.  The Spanish goal scorer brings with him a plethora of knowledge and skill that the Cosmos are eager to exploit.  On the field, he has seen unbelievable successes, winning six La Liga titles, three UEFA championships while earning a record five recognitions as La Liga Player of the Year and breaking records for goal scoring across all competitions.  Off the field, however, the Cosmos will be putting all their chips behind the decorated striker to show them the proper way to build an academy system — an impact that will be felt way after his playing days are over.

“He is [currently] a technical adviser [for the academy] and I am not sure there is a better player in the world that can come to the United States and say this is how it’s done around the world,” Stover explains.  “Having grown up in Madrid in youth systems there and ultimately be the youngest player to ever put on a shirt for Real Madrid to that point, that is incredible experience. He know what the curriculum was like at 12-years-old and what the competition was like and what works and what didn’t work from first hand experience.

“It’s first hand experience from a world class player so there is added credibility tow everything we do moving forward.”

Like their on-field endeavors, the Cosmos have ambitious plans for their coming academy, due to start in 2015.  Raul will be a central figure in that process, guided by the knowing hand of Giovanni Savarese; a man many consider to be the architect of today’s Red Bull Academy.

Already, the duo have begun to develop a relationship, bridging gaps between the American way of running youth academies and the experience Raul brings to the table.

“[Raul] is very engaged. When he was here a few weeks ago it made a lot of news. He spent some time on fields with youth teams, watching with Gio the nuances we have in the United States, the pay to play model, which most European people would not understand, some of the labor laws and how contracts work and obstacles in MLS, in certain relationships in US Soccer,” Stover began.

“He will be involved. This is not some sort of ‘in name only’ decision. It is something important to him, something he wanted it be involved in,” he continues.  “His insight will be tremendous as we start this thing from scratch and we build it in a way that is sustainable and works better than all other academy’s we have seen around the United States.”

As that process takes shape, Raul will have another monumental task at hand; bringing the Cosmos back to the NASL Championship Final.  New York surprised everyone with a half-year jaunt towards the Soccer Bowl in 2013, but injuries and scoring woes slowed their progress for the better half of the 2014 split season.

Raul bridges that gap.  While his production took a severe turn for the worse in Qatar, several sources tell EOS motivation was an issue, with the lack of competition, infrastructure — and the cultural shock of living in the Middle East — playing into his woes.  With his family firmly behind the striker’s decision to dedicate a long-term future to the Cosmos, Raul finds himself in a more comfortable situation, able to concentrate on both the on and off-field building of the club.

He also brings an added spotlight to the Cosmos after a season where it seemed to fade away following a disappointing crash from the U.S. Open Cup.

“It comes at an odd time — an announcement at the end of the season like that,” Stover concedes.  “Things slow down in the soccer world in this country in December and January.

“However, since the announcement, it’s been news here in New York, news throughout the U.S. and absolutely global news which is exciting for is because we have global aspirations.”

Despite the timing of his signing, Raul did manage to attract new eyes towards the Cosmos, and that has lead to an increase in ticket sales.  While not the boon the club expected, the Cosmos feel that his gate impact will be felt closer to his debut next season.

For now, New York looks forward with bright eyes and high hopes, putting the future of the organization in the hands of one of football’s all-time greats — and hoping for the best.

“He is a tremendous guy and a wonderful family man. His family is great and they are all very excited about this opportunity. If you look throughout our organization, it’s not by accident; we are looking for players staff and coaches that are first class individuals both on and off the field,” said Stover.  “We are very happy Raul has bought into our vision and plan. He checks that box.”

  • Fred

    Didn’t Ayoze get introduced to the media in a storm? Someone needs to tell those Spaniards to leave the “furia” on the field because my commute was shot today.

  • And the money quote… “We were champions, in my world that means we’re division one”

  • Tiago Patrício

    And in MY WORLD He is right Leo