Ansi Agolli: “We can say nothing now. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
By Michael Lewis
Several Cosmos players and their head coach want to return to the club next year, but they know their fate and decision is out of their hands.
After completing their NPSL Members Cup season last week, the team has wound up playing another game — the waiting game.
They are waiting to see if the club will put in an application to join the National Independent Soccer Association is approved by the organization’s board of directors and U.S. Soccer.
The application deadline is Friday, Nov. 1 and those players who were interviewed this week said they want to return to the club as long as the team wants them back. Those interviewed included captain Danny Szetela, veteran defender-midfielder Ansi Agolli, center back Matt Lewis and head coach Carlos Mendes.
Szetela, 32, who returned to professional soccer and the Cosmos in 2013, after a knee injury threatened to end his career. He hoped a decision will be made sooner than later.
“Yeah, I definitely want to play,” he said. “It all depends on what’s going to happen. I can’t wait forever. That decision hopefully will be made soon. If the club wants me back, I want to be back to play, but also I’m going to look for other opportunities to make sure I can provide for my family. I can’t wait forever. I’m not 25-year-old anymore.”
Three years ago, after it appeared the Cosmos had gone to the great soccer league in the sky, Szetela signed with the San Francisco Deltas, an expansion team in the North American Soccer League. When Rocco B. Commisso purchased the Cosmos in January 2017, the Deltas allowed Szetela to return to the club prior to that season.
Agolli, who at 37 is the oldest and the most experienced player on the team as a former captain of the Albanian national team and a UEFA Champions League participant, admitted he wasn’t ready to start planning for next year just yet.
“At this moment I don’t like,” he said with a laugh. “At this moment, I would like to go on holiday.”
He played for two teams over two continents – Qarabag in Azerbaijan and then the Cosmos — from January through Oct. 19. And now it was time to rest his body.
“For sure, my first goal is to stay here, to stay with the Cosmos,” Agolli added. “Let’s see how the things go. If things go in a good way, I will try to stay here. I will try, if the club wants. It’s not only in my hands. Let’s see what happens. We can say nothing now. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Let’s wait and we’ll talk again.”
Lewis, 23, who played the 2018 USL Championship season with Swope Park Rangers, joined the Cosmos this year and was a regular in the Starting XI. He also would like to return in 2020, but he felt a decision must be made soon.
“Kind of taking it day by day,” he said. “I don’t know anything about the future of the Cosmos. I’m just going to prepare myself this off-season, the best I can, to see happens next year. Wherever I may be, I want to be at the top of my game, ready to play. Obviously, I would hope it would be with the Cosmos, but I don’t know. I just don’t.”
Mendes, who has guided the team the past two seasons in the National Premier Soccer League and Members Cup, is keeping his fingers crossed as well. The Mineola, N.Y. native was the first player to sign with the club when it returned to competitive soccer in 2013. Mendes captained the team the next five seasons as it won three Soccer Bowl titles.
“I love this club, very lucky to be coaching a great group of players,” he said. “On and off the field, great people in this locker room. I would be very honored and happy if I could get the opportunity to come back. It’s key for us.”
Mendes felt he has a core of players from which to build a team have a successful season in 2020.
“It’s vital if you have a base, if you know that you path forward, you can build on the group you have,” he said. “It will make a big difference because you’re not starting from scratch and not trying to put a team together at the last minute. We’ll see what the future holds. Hopefully, it’s best case and its positive.”