January 7, 2017
Cosmos must sprint to the starting line before they can embark on finishing their 2017 marathon
By Michael Lewis
Giovanni Savarese will have to build a competitive soccer team in less than three months.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Given what has transpired in recent North American Soccer League seasons, the Cosmos should open on the weekend of April 1-2 (OK, spare those April Fool's Day jokes already, please).
That gives the two-time defending Soccer Bowl champions (and three titles in four years) a mere 83 days to get their act together as cable TV magnate Rocco B. Commisso is poised to finish his purchase of the team.
That includes getting some back-pay issues out of the way for the front office staff and players, finding a place to play and oh yes, finding some players to play at a new venue.
Sounds more like the beginning of the 12 Labors of Hercules, soccer style, doesn't it?
Somehow, things will get done.
From what I have believed, those owed monies will receive their back wages.
The team will secure a stadium. Whether it will be MCU Park in Coney Island in Brooklyn or at Robert K. Kraft Stadium (yes, the New England Revolution owner) at Columbia University, or perhaps somewhere else, that remains to be seen (the team had been in preliminary discussions with officials at the minor-league baseball park before the late-year financial crisis hit the team, so that was placed on the back-burner).
Perhaps the biggest task is getting the band back together or at least a new version of it.
That charge falls to head coach Giovanni Savarese and his staff (assistant coaches Alekco Eskandarian, goalkeeper coach Guillermo Valencia, technical director Luke Sassano and head scout and analyst Dane Murphy, assuming they will be back).
That won't be easy putting together the pieces and getting them ready to defend their title in less than three months. Heck, the team had planned to kick off preseason on Feb. 7 and that's only 24 days away with no players under contract.
Impossible to pull off?
Maybe, maybe not.
Then again, Savarese's reputation as a master builder precedes himself.
Remember, he put together a team that not only was a competitive side in the Cosmos' first year back in the NASL in 2013, he built a championship side. True, the team played only the fall season, but they won that title and then the whole enchilada in the postseason.
And of course, then there's the three NASL championship in four seasons (the only "failure" was a semifinal elimination in 2014, which many teams could consider a successful year).
Constructing the Cosmos' 2017 version will be a challenging task and a half because the Cosmos already have lost six players after the entire team was released at the end of last year.
Gone are MVP Juan Arango and forward Yohandry Orozco (both with Zulia FC, Venezuela), midfielder Danny Szetela (San Francisco Deltas, NASL) and forwards Jairo Arrieta (Herediano, Costa Rica), Lucky Mkosana (FK Mariehamn, Finland) and Yasmani Duk (Al Ettifaq, Saudi Arabia).
All six players made their own unique contributions to a championship side that was playing under ridiculous conditions and pressure off the field.
The loss of Arango and Orozco might not necessarily be as huge as you think. Arango, 36, was likely going to be a Cosmos for a year. Orozco was with the club, trying to regain his fitness and form to impress another team.
My gut feeling is that many of the players from last year’s Cosmos will return. The big challenge will be to get a couple of impact players, domestic or international.
Savarese, who recently vacationed with his family in Venezuela, where he earned his stripes as a soccer player, must roll up his sleeves and get to work to restructure the team.
Knowing him, he probably started planning things in the back of his mind, even before the news of Commisso's negotiations to become majority owner became official.
And knowing Mr. Savarese for so many years, I wouldn't bet against him from not only creating a competitive side, but a championship one as well.