Bljedi Bardic and Chris Wingert will give the Cosmos B team a professional feel. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
By Michael Lewis
Chris Wingert hasn’t retired from soccer after all.
The Babylon, N.Y. native and former Real Salt Lake and New York City FC defender is returning home to play with Cosmos B in the National Premier Soccer League as he signed with the club Thursday.
Forward Bljedi Bardic, who played with the Cosmos in the North American Soccer League in 2017, re-signed with the club for NPSL season.
Wingert and Bardic joined veteran midfielder Danny Szetela, who played with New York last season, on the Cosmos B roster.
The Cosmos are not playing in the NASL in 2018 as the league has gone into hiatus.
“I’m very happy with these additions to our club,” Cosmos B head coach Carlos Mendes said. “I’ve known Chris a long time. He’s a quality player that will bring a lot experience and leadership to our younger players.
“Bljedi is a versatile goal scorer that can help us in many ways in our attack.”
On Feb. 19, the 35-year-old Wingert announced his retirement from RSL.
“After 14 years of Major League Soccer, it is time to move on,” he said on Twitter at the time. “Bittersweet as you can imagine. On one hand, I am extremely sad to walk away from the game that has seemed to define me (at least at times) up until this point. I literally don’t know a life without soccer.”
Well, he still has a life with soccer.
During a conference call to preview the Red Bulls-Real Salt Lake game Thursday, Wingert’s former coach in Utah, Mike Petke, was asked about Wingert continuing his career with Cosmos B.
“I wasn’t aware of that,” Petke said. “I didn’t hear of that yet. Wow.”
Petke was told that Wingert’s signing had been announced by the Cosmos and Cosmos B an hour prior.
“I think Chris has a lot left in his tank, to be honest with you,” Petke said. “The thing about Chris is that he is somebody that you want in your locker room. He’s an unbelievable professional. He’s a great mentor for young players. He knows the game and he definitely has a lot left to give.
“I’m glad. If Chris wants to continue to play, he should play.”
As it turns out, Wingert was in Sandy, Utah for Saturday night’s game between RSL and the Red Bulls. Petke said that he had planned to talk to him.
The 2003 MAC Hermann Trophy winner after a standout career at St. John’s University, Wingert played most of his Major League Soccer career with RSL, winning the MLS Cup title in 2009. He performed with RSL from 2007-2014 and the last two seasons, after wearing the sky blue colors of NYCFC in 2015.
Born in Bar, Montenegro, the 26-year-old Bardic played several matches for Cosmos B last year before he moved to the Cosmos first squad, scoring twice in 10 appearances. He also performed with the Puerto Rico FC (NASL) in 2016 and with the Clarkstown SC Eagles of NPSL in 2013.
Cosmos B start the NPSL season at Boston City FC at Brothers Gilbert Stadium May 7, at 7 pm ET.
The team will host its home opener against the Brooklyn Italians at a stadium to be determined May 15 at 8 p.m.