The Cosmos might have a slightly different look next spring. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
By Michael Lewis
In wake of an underperforming fall season and National Independent Soccer Association Fall Tournament, the Cosmos plan to make some changes for the spring season.
A day after the Cosmos were eliminated from the Fall Tournament, Chief Operating Officer Erik Stover Tuesday expressed the club’s dissatisfaction with the team’s performance.
“This was a very disappointing fall season,” he said. “We didn’t live up to our expectations and the expectations of the fans and we will have to make some changes in preparation for the spring season.”
Stover would not say what specific changes that might be made or talk about the future of head coach Carlos Mendes, who has directed the team for the past three years.
The Cosmos have enjoyed a storied history, winning eight North American Soccer League titles, three after their reboot in 2013. A level of excellence is expected by the team, players, coaches and fans. Anything less than a championship is considered failure.
The team’s offseason won’t officially begin until Oct. 10, when the Cosmos host FC Baltimore Christos in a 3 p.m. make-up match of the NISA Independent Cup, a preseason game postponed from the summer. The contest will be played at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y., a closed-door encounter due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will use that extended offseason to analyze everything and set out a plan for moving forward,” Stover said.
“We’re only partway through the 2020-21 season, so the good news is that we have time to get things corrected to compete for a championship.”
There was little doubt that several players did not play up to expectations during the shortened four-game regular season (1-1-2) and three-match Fall tournament (0-2-1). The Cosmos’ combined record was 1-3-3.
New York scored only once in the Fall Tournament – Shavon John-Brown’s stoppage-time score in the 2-1 defeat to the Los Angeles Force Monday. During the regular season, the team tallied five goals.
Forwards Isaac Acuna, Bledi Bardic and Aly Hassan did not play up to their potential. There was no great playmaking force in the midfield. The future of former Albanian international defender-midfielder Ansi Agolli, who turns 38 on Oct. 11, must be determined.
While every team in each sport has been forced to deal with the pandemic, some clubs and players thrived while others didn’t. The Cosmos took the pandemic seriously, working closely with the Nassau University Medical Center to test players on a regular basis.
Stover praised NISA for staging a COVID-19-free tournament, to date, which has been played essentially in a bubble at Keystone Stadium in Hamtramck, Mich.
“NISA did a nice job pulling together the fall season given all of the difficulties,” he said. “It’s a young league, there are new teams and a global pandemic making every day a challenge. Keeping all of that in mind, it’s pretty remarkable that the fall tournament was a success and that we had a great partnership with beIN Sports.”
The Fall Tournament will be completed this week, with the semifinals Wednesday and the final Friday. So, it too early for the Cosmos and NISA to announce any solid plans for the spring at this time because the pandemic continues to make life quite fluid for sports and the general population.
“COVID-19 continues to play havoc with pro sports,” Stover said. “It’s been very hard for the league, the staff and the individual clubs. At the moment, we don’t know what the spring season will look like or if we’ll be able to start selling tickets again. Unfortunately, that leads to more uncertainty heading into 2021, but we are committed to finding solutions.”