Juan Arango would love to be in the middle of things with the Cosmos very soon. (Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
After returning to his native Venezuela last year, Juan Arango says he always had an eye on the Cosmos.
He spoke to head coach Giovanni Savarese several times, which helped pave the way for his return to the 2016 North American Soccer League champions.
“I’ve never stop talking to Gio since last season,” Arango said in a recent email interview. “We both wanted to make this work and it was a very easy decision for me to finally return to the Cosmos, since we accomplished so much last year.”
For the Cosmos, that was their third Soccer Bowl title since returning to competition in 2013.
For Arango, it was NASL MVP honors.
So, it was not surprising that Arango kept an eye on the Cosmos during the spring season.
“I’ve followed the team all along,” he said. “The coaching staff has a strong idea of the type of soccer they want the team to play but it was difficult to put a team together so fast at the beginning of the season. The Cosmos are traditionally the team to beat, but this year other teams like Miami have shown a lot of quality, as well.”
While it was not certain how much he could play when New York hosts Jacksonville Armada FC at MCU Park in Brooklyn at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Arango admitted he did not know how long it would take to get back into match fitness.
“It’s hard to tell,” he said. “I’ve been working the whole time on my own and training with the team since last week. However, I must get into the habit of things and start playing with my teammates to see where we are. I have some catching up to do, but I am working very hard to be competitive and to help the team.”
The 37-year-old Arango said he last played competitively with Zulia in Venezuela, “not too long ago.”
He said his experience there “was phenomenal.”
“We had the opportunity to play Copa Libertadores and that is always rewarding,” he added. “Playing against Chapecoense was a unique experience, as well, given all the unfortunate events that surrounded their team last year.”
Chapecoense is a Brazilian team whose plane crashed, virtually wiping out the entire team.
Arango’s goal is simple: hold the NASL Soccer Bowl trophy again in November.
“Without a doubt, winning the NASL championship,” he said. “Being named MVP is always an honor for any professional soccer player, but that doesn’t compare to bringing a title to the team and its fans. I would also say the many friendships I built with my teammates is something I cherish.”
“The Cosmos are always one of the teams to beat. We play attacking-minded soccer and always want to bring a good game, wherever we go. The Cosmos are also a winning team and the fact that some results have been adverse this year doesn’t mean that we are not a competitive group.”
Venezuela has gone through some tremendous political and social upheaval in recent weeks, making life uncertain for many of its citizens.
“The situation in Venezuela is very difficult, as you may be aware,” Arango said. “My family is fine but many other people’s families aren’t. Everybody knows someone who’s struggling and you can’t help feeling upset because of this terrible situation.”