2013 will be a tough act to follow for the New York Cosmos. After entering the league, somewhat confusingly, in the Fall Season the Cosmos dominated throughout the second half, earning a Soccer Bowl berth and eventually beating the Silverbacks in the championship.
Many NASL fans threw up their arms in distress, wondering why the Cosmos were allowed to completely skip the first half of the season and still be eligible for a championship. I can’t think of a decent explanation. I know the Cosmos retuningto prominence is huge for the NASL; that much is certain. Perhaps the league were willing to bend the rules to make sure that the Cosmos’ season not only happened, but wasn’t a waste. Meaning, they let the Cosmos play in the Fall Season and made them eligible for the Soccer Bowl despite only playing half a season, getting the national attention they so desperately craved.
All that being said however, the Cosmos made it easier to accept for some fans because of just how good they actually were. They were clearly the best team in the Fall Season, making it easier to swallow. Although I still thinkCarolina got screwed, I’m glad that the Cosmos didn’t just sneak in. They played their way in.
Entering 2014, the Cosmos did what any smart reigning champions would do. They retained the majority of their roster. The club added little pieces here and there like former Scorpions striker, Hans Denissen, but most of their efforts in the offseason were to keep their championshiproster together. Its not a bad idea considering that roster swept away all challengers on their way to the title. The Cosmos enter the upcoming season as the favorites to reach one of the four Championship postseason berths. Fans can still be upset that they are called reigning champions because of the short path they took to get there, but the Cosmos now have their chance to prove that it was no fluke.
Was it a fluke? Were the Cosmos buoyed by emotion and momentum in the Fall Season? Did they successfully utilize the many more months to prepare and take advantage in the Fall Season to reach the Soccer Bowl? Or…are the Cosmos just really this good? Thankfully we should have the answers to these questions come the end of the season. The Cosmos players and staff will be looking to prove that it was no mistake that they were in the Soccer Bowl in 2013, and the best way to do that is to win on the pitch. Its something they are all familiar with at the moment, so we will see whether it continues in such consistent fashion.
Hans Denissen – Hans Denissen had a career year with the Scorpions in 2013 and was rewarded with his big contract from the Cosmos. Denissen led San Antonio in goals last season wit 12, which also ranked third in the league. He missed the last few games due to a knee injury that he is still recovering from in New York. It doesn’t look like he will be ready for the start of the season, but when he does come back; he will be able to help the Cosmos attack. Denissen happens to find himself in the right place at the right time too often, and is a clinical finisher.
Mads Stokkelien – Stokkelien is a prolific striker who has been successful in his home country of Norway. The 6’2 target man scored 18 goals in 48 appearances with Stabaekfrom 2012-13 and will bring his aerial prowess to the Big Apple (or more like Long Island). It remains to be seen if he can quickly adapt to the American game, but he possesses all of the talent to do so.
Jimmy Ockford – Ockford was a second round pick of theSeattle Sounders in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft and agreed to a deal with the North West club. The Soundersimmediately loaned him to the Cosmos where he will spend the upcoming season. Ockford is a strong central defender who has a knack for scoring goals on set pieces, as he has demonstrated this preseason. If he gets the time on the pitch, he should be able to make a difference for New York.
None. Seriously. I can’t find many players at all that aren’t returning to the Cosmos, much less one that will really make a difference. If any of you notice one, please God let me know.
Potential Wild Card Player
Jemal Johnson – Johnson has plenty of experience at this level, but his debut season with the Cosmos didn’t go as expected as he only registered 18 minutes. A knee injury was the main cause of his disappearance, and it didn’t help his cause that the team played so well without him. Johnson is a pacey winger who can cause problems on the flank, and if he is healthy he could be a great player to come into the game at 60 minutes to offer something new. Keep an eye out for him.
It has to be squad retention. The Cosmos are decently strong in defense, midfield and attack, so there is no pointin highlighting one of those areas. I think it is really understated how big it is for the Cosmos to keep the players that they have. Not having any key departures makes for consistency among their talent. Having this group of players continue to get to know each other personally and professionally is a big asset for a club chasing their second consecutive title.
Most Glaring Weakness
Would it be a “cop-out” to say pressure? The Cosmos have a solid goalkeeper, a talented defense, a good midfield and a dangerous attack. I could find a weakness or two in there but that would be nitpicky of me. I mean, everyone’s defense could be improved I guess. But, I really think the biggest problem that could occur for the Cosmos is the pressure to win. They will have a target on their backs after last season, and despite being reigning champions, many in the NASL still feel they have to prove their worth by winning consistently over a full season. Will they stay composed or crack under this pressure? Time will tell.
The New York Cosmos are one of, if not the best team in the NASL. They have been able to build a talented squad that they kept together after their first championship. They have added a few quality players to that roster, and they have had a successful preseason. Right now, the Cosmos are set up to continue their winning ways in 2014. Granted they will have to stay consistent over a much longer period of time, but that shouldn’t make too much of a difference as it seemed they gained more and more steam with each game played in 2013.
New York should have strength all over the pitch, from defense to attack, but that’s not to say they can’t be beaten. I don’t want the main point taken away from this article to be “The Cosmos cannot be beaten”. They certainly can, and they will plenty of times in 2014. The thing that will make them good is their ability to bounce back from defeat and quickly resume winning ways. Teams kept up with New York in 2013, but the Cosmos seemed to have just that extra ounce that separated them at times. Teams in the NASL have gotten better for this season, so perhaps that ounce gap has closed, but the Cosmos are the favorites until they aren’t. If you know what I mean.
I think the Cosmos absolutely earn one of the four Championship spots. My best guess would say that it is because they win either the Fall or Spring Season. They are the favorites to take home the Soccer Bowl trophy until they are beaten. There are a few teams in this league that can overcome New York and make their own title run, but it will be a difficult challenge for a talented team that is high on confidence. Could Gio Savarese’s men have a 2013 title hangover? Maybe. But either way, the Cosmos are top dogs in the NASL until another team knocks them down.