Ayoze (on the right) : “I’ve had many discussions with Gio [Savarese, the coach] and feel confident that the club will continue in the right direction.” (Anthony Gruppuso, USA Today)
By Michael Lewis
Well, one thing is definitely clear about the Cosmos. They will have a solid backline this season.
The last piece of their puzzle on defense fell into place Tuesday afternoon when the North American Soccer League champions announced they had signed veteran left back Ayoze.
The NASL Best XI selection was released by the club during its difficult financial difficulties late last year.
As per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Ayoze’s signing solidified the Cosmos’ Starting XI back four could very well look like this: Ryan Richter or Jimmy Mulligan at right back, captain Carlos Mendes and David Ochieng at center back and the Spaniard on the left side.
Regular goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, along with his understudies, Brian Holt and Kyle Zoebeck, also have re-signed with the team.
“Ayoze brings great quality to the team,” Cosmos head coach and sporting director Giovanni Savarese said. “He is very talented with a lot of experience. He is part of the core of our defense and I’m happy to have him back with us this season.”
Ayoze, 31, was the fourth player to be signed in 2013 for the team’s reboot season after having played at Sporting Gijon.
A native of the Canary Islands, Ayoze made 29 starts over 30 appearances.
“I am happy to rejoin the Cosmos, my intention was always to be here this year so I am happy that the team survived,” Ayoze said. “I’ve had many discussions with Gio and feel confident that the club will continue in the right direction.”
Since cable TV magnate Rocco B. Commisso purchased a majority share of the team earlier this month, the Cosmos have signed 11 players.
Returnees included defenders Alexis Velela, Mendes and Mulligan, midfielders Walter Restrepo, who was signed earlier Tuesday, Andres Flores and Danny Szetela and goalkeepers Jimmy Maurer, Kyle Zobeck and Brian Holt.
Venezuelan international midfielder Juan Guerra also has signed.
Only three players remained with the team after the rest of the squad was released late last year. They were defender David Ochieng, defender Ryan Richter, who converted the game-winning penalty kick in the shootout to clinch the NASL title for the Cosmos, and Eric Carvilho.