We’ve seen Gio be very successful in this role in the past, but with the limited timeline in front of him, Gio himself said, “we aren’t starting from zero, we’re starting from minus five.” As the club now tries desperately to secure a stadium and build a roster for the 2017 season before April 1 (and likely far before then), we take a look at some potential acquisitions for the Boys in Green.
The professional soccer landscape is a vast ocean of leagues, agents, and players around the world at varying levels, all trying to make a name for themselves and secure a contract that pays them (on time, preferably) to play the beautiful game at a high level. Because of this, Silly Season is known for wild rumors and unfounded speculations about where players could end up moving based off team needs, transfer history, and rumors planted by agents in an attempt to have a bargaining tool when it comes contract negotiations for their players. These factors, combined with the fact that we don’t know how much Commisso is willing to spend on player salaries, means there is a strong possibility (and likelihood) that none of the players we look at are signed to the Cosmos for next season, but where is the fun in that?
While the delays and uncertainty that plagued the off-season for the Cosmos have taken a toll of the roster from last year, goalkeeper seems to be the position that is most likely to stay the same. Cosmos mainstay Jimmy Maurer remains out of contract, and even tweeted last week about leaving his native Atlanta to head back to New York, to sort out the future.
Wheels up to NY. Been a great three weeks in Atl. Back to business and sort out what the future will bring.
— Jimmy (@JimsMaurer) January 5, 2017
Hopefully that involves another year in green, although Jimmy would be a great pickup for any team, including NYCFC and Red Bulls. Kyle Zobeck and Brian Holt also remain without clubs and are good targets for a return. The casualties in Rayo and Ft Lauderdale, along with Minnesota’s jump to MLS, mean several NASL starters from last year are without clubs, including Sammy Ndjock, Daniel Fernandes, Bruno Cardoso, and Diego Restrepo.
We learned in the conference call that the Cosmos have already signed 2016 regulars Ryan Richter and David Ochieng for the upcoming season, adding a bit of familiarity along the back line. Jimmy Ockford has signed with USL newcomers, Reno 1868 FC, and stalwart left back Ayoze said in December that he was close to coming to terms with a move to MLS. No news has come out about captain Carlos Mendes, who has been the keystone in the Cosmos back line since the reboot. It wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone to see Mendes return to the club, especially on short notice and in a time of need, but at age 36 retirement could also be something on his mind. The center back partner to Mendes has been a revolving door of players, including the promising, yet injury-plagued, Roversio. While the club could give Roversio one more go, last season proved to be frustrating and disappointing when it came to his appearances, most of which ended in an early substitution.
A possible target with plenty of NASL experience could be 31-year-old Brazilian, Rafa Alves, formerly of the Ottawa Fury. Former Strikers regular Gale Agbossoumonde could fit in well, and is only 25. USYNT youngster Alexis Velela would be another welcomed returnee. We could also see the Cosmos dip into the reserves for depth, continuing with late season addition Kyle McTurk, or even bringing back former Cosmos B captain, John Neeskens, who has been without a club (and apparently modeling) since being released from Galaxy II last May.
Hopefully, Ayoze returns in a fullback role, along with David Diosa, who filled in there at times as well. If not, this is where I imagine we see one of Gio’s connections come through.
Most of the off-season changes from last year took place in the Cosmos attack. Arguably the best NASL player since the reboot, Juan Arango, and fellow countryman Yohandry Orozco have signed with Venezuelan club Zulia FC. Danny Szetela and Adam Moffat have made their way cross-country to California, where Szetela will lead the San Francisco Deltas in their inaugural season while Moffat will play with Sacramento Republic FC in USL. The loss of these four leaves major holes to fill in the middle, especially with Sebastian Guenzatti still recovering from a major injury (who would be good to see the club give a contract and help him continue in his recovery, but that is up to Gio and Commisso). US Youth National Team regular Eric Calvillo is another player already under contract with the Cosmos for next season, and will continue to grow with the club.
Ruben Bover, Andres Flores, and David Diosa should arguably be the first people Gio tries to get on the phone (assuming he already hasn’t), to provide familiarity in the middle. All three are versatile attackers who played regularly for the Cosmos last season. Former Minnesota playmaker, Ibson, could provide the spark and experience left by Juan Arango at a cheaper price, but the player still is open to a jump to MLS with MNUFC. Michel, another Brazilian veteran, adapted quickly to the NASL with Rayo OKC. A versatile player with a knack for free kicks could be an even better Arango replacement. Richard Menjivar is another intriguing prospect left over from Rayo. The 26-year-old also played regularly for OKC, as well as the El Salvador National Team, where he could already have a relationship with Flores.
Former Cosmos Leo Fernandes and Walter Restrepo are out of contract with the Philadelphia Union, and would be welcomed back into the ranks. Leo is still in negotiations with the Union for a 2017 return, but nothing has been signed. Both of them were key pieces in the Cosmos 2015 campaign, starting on both sides of Raul and providing plenty of excitement from the wings. Their experience and familiarity with Gio and the club could help this transition period run more smoothly.
There were no survivors up front for the Cosmos after the uncertainty of the holidays. Lucky Mkosana has signed in Finland, Jairo Arrieta has returned to Costa Rica, and Yasmani Duk made the move to Saudi Arabia.
Another former USMNT player, who was also linked to the Cosmos before the 2015 season, has been released by the MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders. Herculez Gomez made 21 appearances for the Sounders last season and is another player who adds some name recognition to the club, but at 34 is another older player who may just retire, especially considering his bright future in broadcasting.
Former NASL Golden Boot winner, Stefano Pinho could be a quality piece to offset an older player at only 25 years of age. After a frustrating season that saw him only score 5 goals following the 16 from his 2015 campaign, a change of scenery could help him regain some of that old form (as well as not being surrounded by other attackers). Former Real Salt Lake and Rayo OKC pairing, Robbie Findley and Devon Sandoval, could bring depth and experience with their different playing styles, along with former Cosmos target Georgios Samaras, who is also linked with a move back to Scotland.
Gio probably has something up his sleeve for the attack (likely someone none of us has ever heard of), but the club’s big signing could be Dimitar Berbatov. A very successful and experienced player, currently a free agent after a successful stint in Greece (and lightly rumored to be a target for a return to the Premier League), Berbatov brings name recognition and ability despite being 35 years of age. His price could be too steep, but maybe he wants one more adventure before hanging up the boots following a very successful and prestigious career.