Danny Szetela: “Every year brings an opportunity to win a championship. Our goal every year is to win the championship. … I think the team is ready to go.” (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
Front Row Soccer Editor
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — One of the more interesting parts of the Cosmos’ mini-fashion show in introducing their new uniforms Tuesday was the top part of the back of their jerseys.
Above the numbers of the “model’s” respective numbers were eight stars, each one signifying the club’s eight North American Soccer League championships.
Sure looks like there is more than enough room for a ninth star.
Whether the Cosmos will be able to add another star for the 2018 incarnation of their shirts remains to be seen.
“I’m sure we can fit it in if we can put the work in to earn again,” goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer said.
“Yeah, definitely,” veteran midfielder Danny Szetela said on media day at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge Tuesday afternoon. “Every year brings an opportunity to win a championship. Our goal every year is to win the championship. That is our goal against his year. Even though the preseason started a little later, it’s still a long preseason compared to other leagues do. I think the team is ready to go.”
The two-time defending champion Cosmos return to a league that has been altered considerably. Instead of 12 teams there are eight, which could very well mean that clubs are stronger.
“It’s going to be a really tough season,” said Maurer, one of the three “models” along with captain Carlos Mendes and left back Ayoze. “It’s a condensed league with eight teams. It’s an almost a more talented league with less teams. There was a lot of player movement, a lot of players available. Every team is really strong. We’re going to be playing the teams four or five times. It’s going to be a grueling season. It’s going to be tough. Nothing’s going to come easy. We’ve got a long way to go to worry about that star right now.
In light of being the Phoenix of the NASL coming back from the dead of winter to actually field a team this year, just battling for a playoff spot just might considered an accomplishment.
“I don’t want to make any bold predictions,” said Mendes, who still was optimistic. “We have quality. We have players who have won at every level and I think this year we’ll have the talent,” Mendes said, before echoing what Maurer stated.
The Cosmos open their fifth season since their 2013 reboot at Puerto Rico FC Saturday night.
In contrast to the last four years, the Cosmos do not have a “name” player in the orbit of a former Spanish international midfielder Marcos Senna (2013-15), Real Madrid and Spanish standout Raul (2015) or Venezuelan international midfielder Juan Arango (2016), the NASL MVP.
“As always, we have said we are going the most competitive as we can be for the first match,” head coach Giovanni Savarese said. “We never start the season saying we’re going to win championships. We’re going to be prepared for our first match and that’s what we’re doing. There is still work to be done.”
The Puerto Rico match will be the start of a 32-game season that will be played over the spring and fall seasons. The Cosmos will host Miami FC in their home opener at MCU Park at Coney Island Saturday, April 1.
The long season won’t end until Saturday, Oct. 29, when the Cosmos host Puerto Rico at MCU Park in Coney Island. If they win either the spring or fall NASL titles or finish one-two in points, New York would play in The Championship semifinals the week after. And it they win that, the Cosmos will reach Soccer Bowl once again.
But that’s seven months down the road.
“Hopefully, we will be peaking at the right time and at the end of the year playing our best soccer and competing for the cup,” Mendes said.
Even the legendary Cosmos’ teams of the seventies and eighties never won three consecutive championships. Those Cosmos won NASL crowns in 1971, 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1982.
“It’s going to be a grueling season,” Maurer said. “Nothing’s going to come easy. We’ve got a long way to go to worry about that star right now.”