Status quo for 2017 with Jimmy Maurer, Kyle Zobeck, and Brian Holt all re-signing with the team. At least that gives us all one less position to worry about.
Captain Carlos Mendes officially made his return along with Jimmy Mulligan and Alexis Velela, who join David Ochieng and Ryan Richter to make a total of five defenders on the roster. The word is still out on Ayoze. In December, he claimed he was close to signing with MLS, however we learned after the Mendes signing that he was also talking with the team again. With many key players coming back, adding Ayoze could help the team not only take another step forward in this season of change, but help push for their third consecutive NASL title.
Regardless of whether or not the Spaniard re-signs with the team, depth is still an issue out of the back. Velela’s only appearance last season was to relieve an injured Ayoze on an away trip to Ft. Lauderdale, when an injury-plagued Cosmos roster was at the end of its rope. Mulligan was called back from his loan to Swope Park Rangers in USL to help provide more depth, and he ended up starting through most of the Fall season, with Richter taking the spot for the final few games and postseason after signing with the team upon completing his contract with Bethlehem Steel in USL. Ochieng should definitely have a chance to make a name for himself this season after showing strong flashes last season, followed up with some unfortunate miscues. Hopefully Mendes and his durability will continue, but he may have begun to lose a step or two.
What remains to be seen is how Mr. Commisso is going to spend on his roster and take things from here, as we will find out if the rest of the defense is filled out with depth and youth, or if there are a few more players who could make a push for a starting position. Kyle McTurk is still available, and John Neeskens even recently posted a picture of himself on Twitter from back in his Cosmos days. Outside of them, the pool of former Cosmos who are available for the back line is pretty slim, and we should see some new faces soon. Along with some of the NASL veterans we mentioned previously, New York native and former NYCFC Centerback, Jason Hernandez could be an option after being released from NYCFC back in November.
There were no shortage of surprises in the middle for this silly season. Heartbreak was felt by all the supporters when club favorite David Diosa announced he was making the most to OKC Energy this season. This pain was coupled with the news that former starlet, Leo Fernandes had signed with Tampa Bay Rowdies. Finally, another key midfielder was lost as Ruben Bover returned to Europe, signing with Barnet FC in League Two. Defensive midfielder Juan Guerra is the only new player announced to have signed with the team so far, and he should help fill the void left behind be Adam Moffat. Andres Flores is the first attacking piece to have resigned with the club, and the El Salvador captain could be the main man in the middle this year. To the surprise of everyone, Danny Szetela was sold back to the Cosmos by the San Francisco Deltas. Danny’s leadership and experience are great pieces to have and he recently said on TICCPod that he doesn’t want to play anywhere else for the rest of his career.
All of those things are great, but one aspect of the move could be a negative, as it is unclear how much was given to buy back Danny, and was it necessary to spend a transfer fee on him? Hopefully, this means Rocco is willing to spend a bit in order to obtain talent, and not that the player pool is already so thin that they are paying for players to return from last season. Another example was the signing of former Minnesota United attacker Ben Speas by Indy Eleven. While it may not seem like much, it was rumored that the Cosmos were also after Speas, but eventually lost out to Indy. What his reasoning was, we may never know, but it is never fun to miss on potential targets.
It can’t be overstated how difficult it will be to replace Juan Arango this season, especially if the team decides not to bring in a big name player. Most of the potential midfield targets we mentioned previously have either signed with other teams around the league or landed in new leagues altogether. Former Cosmos Walter Restrepo still appears to be on the market and would be well received in a return to green and white. Cosmos B midfielder Trey Williams could be another reserve player set to jump up to the first team. A replacement from Venezuela could be Luis Manuel Seijas, who has been linked with a move to Internacional in Brazil in an attempt to get promoted back into the first division. Another option could be midfielder Ramon Nuñez of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The Honduran international was a midseason addition, but noticeably made a difference in the Strikers’ attack.
Some fans have noted the chance to appeal to the Russian influence should the club play at MCU Park. Andrey Arshavin could bring the veteran presence into the midfield that the Cosmos are used to. Last season with FC Kairat Arshavin made 37 total appearances through all competition and scored 11 goals.
Since last time around, many of the potential targets have moved on or are trialing with other clubs. Herculez Gomez retired and became an analyst for ESPN, Stefano Pinho signed with Miami FC, Dimitar Berbatov wants to return to England, and Robbie Findley is trialing with Red Bulls.
Continuing with the idea of some Russian influence, 34-year-old goalscorer Aleksander Kerzhakov seems to be on the move from Zenit St. Petersburg, rumored to be considering a move to Arshavin’s FC Kairat. Kerzhakov is the Russian National Team’s all time leading goal scorer, and landing and Arshavin would definitely bring attention back to the club. Former Cosmos trialist Kenny Cooper could provide some depth up front, although he hasn’t played a professional match since May of 2015.
The calibre of forward brought in by Gio could be a big indication of how Rocco is willing to fund the team moving towards the future.