Jimmy Maurer on Cosmos owner Rocco B. Commisso (above): “He’s a very strong guy. He’s a very passionate. He’s going to tell you like it is and he’s going to be there.” (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer Photo)
By Christian Arnold
Front Row Soccer Writer
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Danny Szetela sat in a chair in the social room of the One Hotel with the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline in the background Tuesday.
The Comsos defender fielded questions from reporters during the team’s annual media day, but just a few short months ago it was a big if whether or not the event, and the 2017 season, was going to take place at all.
In fact, Szetela didn’t think the day would happen at all with the Cosmos all but folded in December.
“If I did I don’t think I would have ever signed with the [San Francisco] Deltas as quickly as I did,” Szetela said. “Obviously, the team was financially in trouble, but the team took a big step in a positive direction with Rocco [Commisso] and Rocco owning the team now. I think it’s going to be great for soccer in general in America with Rocco owning the Cosmos.
“Obviously, he loves it, he loves the sport. He’s a fan of the sports, so I’m really excited about this year.”
And it’s been full speed for New York’s most successful soccer franchise since Commisso took control of the team Jan. 10. The Cosmos have new jerseys, a new home stadium, a new TV rights deal and a majority of the team’s players from last year’s championship team have returned to New York.
Most importantly, there is a feeling of stability for the players that wasn’t there last year.
“Rocco comes around, he’s always shaking everyone’s hand,” Szetela said. “He wants to be involved with the team and with the players. I think that’s important for a team. We didn’t see the previous owners much, but with Rocco he’s always involved and doing whatever he needs to do to make sure that the players are happy.”
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has met Commisso that his ownership style is a stark contrast to the team’s previous one. Commisso is passionate and certainly not afraid to speak his mind when there are microphones in front of him, and even when there aren’t any.
“Rocco is a very different guy than the old ownership group,” goalkeeper Jimmy Mauer said. “He’s a very strong guy. He’s a very passionate. He’s going to tell you like it is and he’s going to be there. As players we don’t worry too much about that, we just want to make sure things are steady and gonna be there for us, but we’re just excited to be back playing again.
“We’re just excited for this opener this weekend and then April 1 to open up at home.”
While there has been plenty of excitement for the start of the new season, it comes after a whirlwind two months that saw head coach and sporting director Gio Savarsese quickly put the club back together. It was something the players expected once Commisso bought the team and the NASL announced it would play a 2017 campaign.
“At that point it was OK let’s get back to work,” Cosmos captain Carlos Mendes said. “We knew there were going to be some things thrown together last minute, but we’ve had plenty of time. It’s a long season, we have a lot of experience and a lot of guys that have played at every level. I think that will show throughout the year.
And compared to the chaos and uncertainty following the team’s championship win last November, the current situation is nothing compared to that.
“For me the most difficult time was right after the championship where we didn’t know and everything kind of went south,” Mendes said. “That was the difficult period, but now once everything fell into place and we have a new ownership group. And coach Gio came back and a lot of the coaching staff, that was it. We move forward from there.”