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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Cosmos Kick Start Soccer Revival

Cosmos Kick Start Soccer Revival

The New York Cosmos are doing two things a professional sports team rarely does — moving into Nassau County, and thinking about staying.

This development means the region’s soccer fans, starting with the Cosmos’ home opener on Saturday, Aug. 3, at 7 p.m., at Hofstra University’s James Shuart Stadium, no longer need to trek to Harrison, N.J., home of the New York Red Bulls, to see a professional soccer match. Moreover, a new stadium may be built in Elmont to house the Cosmos a few years from now, but more on that in a moment.

The Cosmos and the Red Bulls will not face one another on the playing field because the Cosmos are returning this year to the North American Soccer League (NASL) while the Red Bulls compete in Major League Soccer (MLS). The Cosmos began play in 1971 and spent 14 seasons in the NASL before entering an Austin Powers-like state of suspended animation, suddenly regaining their mojo last year when Cosmos chairman Seamus O’Brien and Saudi Arabia-based Sela Sport took ownership control of the Cosmos.

The Aug. 3 home opener against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, the first of seven games the Cosmos are playing at Hofstra as part of the NASL’s 14-game fall season, is being billed as Legends Night because a pre-game ceremony will feature a salute to three of the Cosmos’ all-time greats, Pele, Carlos Alberto and the late Giorgio Chinaglia.

The Cosmos’ current front office, like their long-ago predecessors, has signed accomplished Brazilians (Pele and Alberto also hail from that nation), such as 37-year-old Marcos Senna and 29-year-old defender Roversio, to bolster the team’s roster. Senna, a former midfielder on Spain’s national team, spent the past 11 seasons with Villarreal, a renowned professional team in Spain, while Roversio has played for top European franchises in Portugal, Turkey and Spain. Ayoze, another highly regarded midfielder, also comes to the Cosmos from Spain, where he had been playing since 2010 for Sporting Gijon, a professional soccer club in that country. Alessandro Noselli, a 32-year-old forward, was brought on board to provide the Cosmos with a veteran scoring threat on its front line. Noselli scored 38 goals over the past four seasons while playing professionally in Italy.

The Cosmos also have recruited home-grown talent, just as they did decades ago. Mineola native Carlos Mendes, who was a star player at Wheatley High School in Old Westbury, the alma mater of retired Cosmos goalie Shep Messing, has returned to Long Island after playing previously for the MLS’s Red Bulls and the Columbus, Ohio, Crew. MLS fans may also recognize two other American-born newcomers to the Cosmos and the NASL, 28-year-old defender Hunter Freeman, who was most recently with the Colorado Rapids, and 29-year-old goalie Kyle Reynish, the back-up to Real Salt Lake’s All-Star goalkeeper, Nick Rimando, since 2007 in Utah.

Recognizing Hofstra’s limited access to mass transit, the Cosmos are offering fans a free bus shuttle service to and from the Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) Mineola station on the night of Saturday, Aug. 3, as well as the other six Hofstra home games. The team has, however, identified an underutilized parking lot in Elmont with great access to the LIRR, and the Cross Island Parkway, as a potential long-term home.

In response to a Request for Proposals issued by New York State, the Cosmos expressed formal interest earlier this year in building a privately-funded, 25,000-seat soccer stadium on 28 acres of state-owned land to the south of Belmont Park and Hempstead Turnpike. More information about the compelling concept, Elmont Town Crossings, can be found at www.newcosmosstadium.com.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net