Marcos Senna, Retrospective Pt. IV: How The Hardest Year Led To Signing Raul

IMAGE, MARCOSENNA19 INSTAGRAM

[colored_box color=”green”]Beloved New York Cosmos midfielder and Villarreal legend Marcos Senna is counting down the days to the end of his illustrious career.

Sunday will mark his final match with the Cosmos. Before he heads into the NASL Championship game, EoS takes a look at Senna’s 2014 season.[/colored_box]

by DAVE MARTINEZ

Marcos Senna’s career with the New York Cosmos started out like a fairy tale. After all, who else can say they took on an expansion project with one of the world’s most recognizable team brands to a league Championship after playing only half a season?

Not many. Maybe no one at all.

But even as the club geared up for 2014 — a season Senna says was his hardest under the Cosmos name — the reigning NASL champions felt they needed to improve, particularly on the offensive end.

“Before you even look at 2014, you look back to 2013 and we had trouble scoring goals,” Senna tells EoS. “I mean, when I am your leading scorer, you know you have a problem!”

It was an issue that both Senna and club manager Giovanni Savarese agreed needed to be addressed.

Ever a club of ambition, their discussions veered towards one of the most recognizable names in world football. Raul Gonzalez, then 37, was winding down the final months of his deal with Qatari outfit Al Sadd.

Of course, the celebrated Spanish striker is best known as one of the most revered figures in the history of Spanish powerhouse, Real Madrid, leading his club to six league titles and three UEFA victories over his 16 years with the club. Like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo today, Raul was considered amongst the very best players of his generation – and that is putting it mildly.

With Al Sadd, Raul began his career on the right foot, leading them to a league trophy. However, over time, he was beginning to consider his options and perhaps explore the prospect of trying something different.

Knowing of a potential opportunity with the star striker, both Senna and Savarese took a detour from their preseason training camp in Dubai to travel to Qatar and speak to the legendary Spanish striker (and former Senna teammate!) about a possible move stateside.

“Gio spoke about the [Cosmos] project, Cosmos B, the Academy and what I told him was that Gio is like a friend. I have total liberty with him. It is totally different from what I have lived in the past, the type of liberty I have with Gio,” Senna recalled. “[Raul] didn’t have the liberty there that he could enjoy here and that was part of what he wanted to do; come, be free, and be happy.”

Once in Qatar and with Raul, conversations immediately began about a possible future in New York.

“I had no idea they were going to talk figures,” Senna said with a smile. “I had gone to the bathroom, came back pretty quickly and was going to excuse myself but they both told me to come and be part of the conversation. ‘Stay here’ they said.”

While both sides found common ground throughout the meeting, Raul’s contractual obligations meant such a move could not be realized until July of that year. With nothing left to discuss, Savarese and Senna left Qatar — with the hope of a mid-year swoop on the horizon.

“THE HARDEST YEAR”

While they awaited the arrival of Raul, the Cosmos wrapped up preseason training and began what Senna labeled his “most difficult” year with the organization.

“After we had won our first championship, everyone just enjoyed the moment with the maximum happiness possible,” Senna recalled. “After 30 years and to win the championship in our first year was a tremendous source of happiness and pride for us. We enjoyed the moment, went to Spain to play Villarreal — it was unforgettable.

“Then came the hardest year,” he continued. “A lot of things piled up, we were over confident. In today’s world of football, you can’t be overly confident because everyone is well prepared and they will run you over”

The 2014 season wasn’t always so bad. The Cosmos fell one point short of the Spring Championship title to Minnesota United, suffering only two losses on the nine match campaign. As that competition came to a close, the Cosmos were also turning heads in the U.S. Open Cup. They began the third round of the tournament handily beating the Brooklyn Italians before facing the New York Red Bulls in arguably one of the most memorable and important matches in franchise history.

But while the Cosmos organization was gearing up for a run at the Open Cup trophy and the combined championship, Senna had to watch on from the sidelines. That is where his personal trials and tribulations began — and where the team’s collapse followed. The 37-year-old midfielder, who rarely suffered injury throughout his career, picked up a hamstring knock against Indy Eleven that forced him out of the final two games of the Spring season — and the team’s epic encounter against the Red Bulls.

“You always want to play. In my case, it is harder. With age, it is hard to recover your form so everything is that much harder,” Senna explained. “Then there is the other side with experience, you know you will recuperate and play. That balances things a bit more. But when a player is not playing, it is always hard.”

Senna was forced to watch on as the Cosmos played what he describes as “the best game of the year,” beating the Red Bulls 3-0 in Shuart Stadium. Likewise, he suffered in silence as the team was later ousted by the Philadelphia Union from the Cup competition at PPL Park.

“It’s complicated. When you don’t play, when you don’t train, when the team loses, it is really hard,” he said. “It would have been a big jump for the club in terms of our confidence and a major moment for our fans to enjoy, but it wasn’t like that, and it is a shame.

“The club keeps growing with a lot of confidence in the idea that we will get there, that we will do big things. That served as a great experience.”

Senna’s injury problems leaked into the Fall season and it helped contribute to a deep malaise for the Cosmos. After earning six wins in nine matches in the Spring, New York only picked up three victories in the first nine matches of the Fall. In their worst season of the modern era, New York finished sixth in the 10 team NASL table with an unsightly 5W-8D-5L record.

Eking their way into the playoffs, the underachieving side were quickly shown the door in the semi-final playoff round, falling to the San Antonio Scorpions at Toyota Park by a 2-1 scoreline; a painful end to a painful season.

“It was a culmination of things,” Senna said of the team’s shortcomings. “I remember when we first got together at the beginning of the year, I told the team ‘with the experiences I have lived, every time a team wins a championship, their second championship is much harder to achieve. Why? Because teams focus in on you, study you more,and teams get comfortable.’

“I think it was the hardest year I had with the Cosmos, mostly due to the injuries I suffered. After we won the title, the second title, everything got more difficult because the team’s came out much harder when playing us, because I had a delicate injury, and even because of ourselves, because we were overly confident since we were so much more superior to other teams in our first championship. So it was a lot of things that resulted in the team’s failings.

“That is what happened.”

BACK TO RAUL …

While the Cosmos suffered through a brutal 2014, Raul kept balancing his options. Hopes of his arrival in July quickly dissipated as Raul chose instead to serve as a manager for the Qatari youth program in an international tournament shortly after departing Al Sadd. Reports also had Real Madrid tempting their star striker with a technical position within their club. As those rumors swirled, an odd period of silence from Raul’s camp led many within the Cosmos to believe he wouldn’t be joining the club at all.

But things changed as the Fall gave way to Winter.

“After 2014, we knew we needed a solution and that solution was Raul,” Senna said.

Eventually, both camps reunited and picked up on their midsummer conversation.

After a year of flirtation, the Angel of Madrid was finally convinced to continue his career in the United States — and according to Senna, the team has been better for it ever since.

“What Raul is doing here is amazing,” Senna said. “We can talk about age all you want, but he is playing hard, working hard and really, he is exactly what we needed. Not only is he a quality player with a name, but in terms of football, he is what we needed.

“Raul arrives and he changes everything. Our quality jumped up immediately with him. And this year, he has scored goals and made his teammates better. Seba (Guenzatti), Leo (Fernandes) … he brought quality to the attack. In fact, I believe the players today are doing things they didn’t do before his arrival. Perhaps in my case, the midfielders that played alongside me have learned about the positioning, about touch, but to play in attack – that is not me. That jump in production came from Raul, with more goals, teaching the young players about movement etc.

“I told him this club is a family and that motivated him to come,” Senna said. “And he has helped us ever since.”

[colored_box color=”eg. blue, green, grey, red, yellow”]Here are the previous installments of the Marcos Senna Retrospective:

PART I: How Senna Joined The Cosmos

PART II: Coming To America

PART III: An Unforgettable Season[/colored_box]


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  • Anthony

    Great article Dave, we Cosmos fans were lucky to have Senna. A class act and still a quality player.

  • Cosmo

    I wonder who the cosmos are gonna go for once Raul and sena leave.
    They have to get about 2 or 3 known players no matter what, but the question is who and will they want to play for a D2 and fake grass.
    How about riquelme, tevez, Santa Cruz, even Ronaldinho.

    • Jordy

      I think Samaras is still the most likely bet to replace Raul. It would be cool if the Jermaine Jones rumors turned out to be true, plus he would leave open the extra international spot. Tevez is in a new contract, but Riquelme and Santa Cruz would be solid pieces. My money has Ronaldinho going to Miami FC.

  • Cosmo

    Hopefully MLS will reconnect with cosmos one day and bring back the boys in green to D1.
    We all know cosmos and MLS have their differences but cosmos doesn’t make that much money on their own, only when they play their friendlies and I don’t think they are making millions with their jerseys or sponsors.
    We need cosmos in MLS and red bull out……l

    • REAL OpenCupFan Knows mls fans are Suckers

      An mls sucker in sheeps clothing.


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