June 19, 2015
Cosmos make a big dent, but there's much more work to be done especially with attendance
By Michael Lewis
The Cosmos barely had enough time to celebrate their comeback and ultimate shootout win in one New York derby when they discovered they would be participating in yet another within two weeks.
On Wednesday, the last North American Soccer League team standing in the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup dispatched New York City FC in a fourth-round encounter. The Cosmos certainly made it interesting and dramatic, overcoming a two-goal, second-half deficit to record a 4-3 penalty kick shootout win over their Major League Soccer rivals.
Some 11 hours later, they learned they were playing a team they embarrassed last season in the cup, the Red Bulls, in the Round of 16 at Red Bull Arena on July 1 in yet another derby clash.
While some quarters are hailing the Cosmos the best professional soccer team in New York, they will have to prove it on the field against the Red Bulls. If they prevail, then should be no doubt.
At times, it has been difficult to determine what the Cosmos' end game is, although global branding certainly plays a big role in it. During the preseason, they played in Hong Kong and El Salvador and most recently on June 2, they became the first American pro soccer team in 37 years to play on the Caribbean country and the first USA pro sports club to perform there in 16 years.
Reaching the 2016-2017 CONCACAF Champions League by winning the Open Cup would be another important step toward global branding, at least in North America, Central American and the Caribbean.
There is little doubt that the Cosmos have to be considered a team to be reckoned with in the United States. While they have talent, their heart desire to win was on full public display in the second half and extratime at Shuart Stadium Wednesday night, they did not not let panic set in while trying to dig themselves out of two-goal hole.
While the Cosmos are thinking globally, they still have some work to do to establish themselves domestically.
They captured the NASL spring season crown undefeated at 5-0-5, generally following a dyed and true soccer prescription for success for the most part -- win at home and draw on the road.
Off the field, it is an entirely different matter altogether.
Attendance is up 25 percent this season over 2014, which certainly is a sizable leap.
However, a team that is in its third year of competition it should be filling up Shuart Stadium on a regular basis, or at least close to that.
Out of five games at the stadium this season -- not counting the NASL match in Brooklyn on May 2, their average attendance is about two-third of the venue's size (12K).
In case you're wondering, I broke down the home attendance numbers three ways:
* Four regular-season games at Shuart Stadium -- 7,079
* Five Shuart matches, including the Open Cup -- 7,949
* Six home matches, including the game at MCU Park in Coney Island -- 7,504
For the NASL that might be considered a decent amount, but given the quality of the team and recent history, there should be more fannies in the seats.
That should be the Cosmos' next challenge, so they can truly demonstrate they deserve to be playing in a stadium -- a 25,000-seat stadium -- that they can call their own home.
As for a decision regarding that new soccer ground, well, that's another matter on another playing field as the state of New York has embarrassed itself by dragging its heels.
In January 2013 the Cosmos unveiled a proposal for a soccer stadium at Belmont Race Track in Elmont, N.Y.
Since they have been waiting -- patiently and now much more impatiently -- over 29 months for the Empire State Development Corp. to make a decision one way or another.
Shame on the Empire State Development Corp. for working at a snail's pace.
If this was a soccer game, the agency probably would have been awarded at least a couple of yellow cards for delay of game, if not more. But unfortunately, on this tilted playing field, that organization makes the rules.
A little more than month ago the Empire State Development Corp. reportedly relayed to Newsday that a decision would be made soon.
Soon is too vague a word with so many connotations.
The Cosmos deserve better treatment than this, regardless if the answer is yea or nay.
They're ready to move on to bigger and better things -- at least in the Open Cup.