In this moment, there are no words that could be more fitting.
Here we stand, Cosmos Country. What are we to make of our time together?
In the beginning, there was hope. Pele adorned advertisements galore, nostalgia ran through our collective conscious, and we gathered as one at Shuart Stadium on August 3rd, 2013, to celebrate our club’s rebirth into the American soccer scene.
Then, exuberance of the purest form. A steamroll campaign to Atlanta, a trip some of us may never forget (or remember), and a title. In a matter of months, a championship caliber professional soccer club sprung up in our backyard. I, myself, often reflect of the feels of that cold, tense night in November. Fewer feelings in my life will compare to the moment of running on to the pitch post game. I turned to Alessandro Noselli as he walked towards us, hugged him as he were my brother, and exclaimed gibberish in Italian that, to this day, I will never understand. It was the beginning of the brotherhood that we now refer to as our Cosmos Family.
2014, our forgotten year. Our sophomore slump. A year of hard work seemingly gone with the movement of a leg by our Captain, oh our Captain. We collectively came crashing down to Earth that year. We realized that existence would be a struggle. We knew life here in the NASL would not be sunshine and rainbows.
In the same breath, however, we knew that we would move on. Our club was introduced to the Open Cup. The sweet, sweet feeling of a brace by our own Norse God. Triumph in it’s purest form over our most hated enemy. And yet, a brawl in Philadelphia would leave us wanting more, so much more. Next year, as the Brooklyn Dodgers used to say, was our year.
2015, one for the ages. The coronation of two kings of the soccer universe, Raul and Marcos Senna, right in our very backyard. A new enemy in NYCFC came to town – one that was handled in the same manner as Red Bull the year before. Another disappointment on the country-wide soccer stage, but in the league, triumph. A proper send off for our legends. We all went home knowing that next year would be different, but deep down we had an idea that it would be the greatest.
That brings us to 2016, oh 2016. A year with such promise. Niko Kranjcar, Juan Arango, and Yohandry Orozco came in to our ranks. Michael Lahoud was to be groomed into a club legend. This would be the year that the club, our club, would reach glory.
But yet, here we are, on a cold night in December, with nothing more than our thoughts and memories. I, personally, am staked out in my school’s library, holding back the tears.
What am I to make of my club’s death?
Shall I weep, grieving with the death of my memories, fearing for my beloved sport’s future? Am I to sit at my window, night by night, fist at the sky, cursing the names of Gulati, O’Brien, and Garber? Will I sit here, numb to the pain, and try to move on? What can I do?
For the moment, at least, I will reflect and be thankful.
To my fellow members of TICC Podcast: Nicky, Lou, Mike and Eytan. Thank you for letting me be a part of this wild ride. This has been an absolute honor, one I will never forget. The future is weird, but I am so proud of your work and the bonds that this team has forged this season.
To the members of the New York Cosmos staff, the wonderful worker bees of this club that kept it what it was. To Sofia Parkes, a woman so skilled in operations of a game day experience that she could probably sense a ball boy out of place before him even running away. To Jason Lind, a man who’s work I admire so much that I hope to emulate it some day. To Dee Kundra, a woman who could get us Niko Kranjcar on five minutes notice one day and tell a joke the next that would kill everyone in the room. To Kyle Feller, a man who I’ve had a good relationship with since the Cross Island Crew party in 2014. To all the untold and told heroes of this club. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We’ve had such great memories, and the fact I even got to meet you people, let alone be considered a colleague, was an honor and a privilege.
To the players and coaching staff of the New York Cosmos, specifically ones I have not had the pleasure of getting to know personally this year. To Alessandro Noselli, a man who I will always consider my first “favorite player” in football. To Marcos Senna, the man who put my club on the map. To Mads Stokkelien, the man who made me cry like an absolute child at the first Red Bull Derby. To those I have gotten to know:
Jimmy Maurer, the brick wall of the Cosmos. One of the finest people I have ever met. After the 2016 Soccer Bowl, I went up to Maurer to congratulate him. He yelled “Steve!” and pulled me in for a hug like I was his brother. Your glove from the NYCFC derby is now a family heirloom. Thank you for giving me a reason to believe that night.
Danny Szetela, one of the strongest people I’ve ever know. Despite your past, you still managed to be one of the most joking, jovial people on gameday and in training. I hope this is not the way your story ends, my friend. Thank you for all that you have done.
Lucky Mkosana, the man himself. Few people are kinder in this world than Lucky. Many practices throughout the end of this season, while injured, Lucky always came over, said hello, sat down and had a brief chat. The best in your recovery, my friend.
I can sit here all day and write to everyone (which I probably will do in the coming days), but I will spare you some time with a shorthand. To the players as a whole of the 2016 New York Cosmos, thank you for letting me into your space, even the smallest bit. We’ve shared laughs, tears, and inside jokes. I love you all like a family and I will never forget our memories.
To Giovanni Savarese, the heartbeat of the New York Cosmos. A man who carved a club out of a logo and a dingy practice facility in Long Island. You always made the fans believe, no matter the score. No matter the circumstance. No matter the opponent. Every game was a final. You were the priest when we come to worship our club, our collective voice that told us that everything would turn out okay. I will never forget when I stepped up to you, hands shaking my iPhone nearly to the ground, to do my first interview. You are class personified and will surely be a great manager at a great club soon enough.
To Alecko Eskandarian, the fearless leader of the inaugural ‘Mos B boys. There have been few funnier jokes I have heard in my life than those that Alecko has cracked on a training pitch. Thank you for always entertaining, thank you for your love of the game, and thank you for all that you have to a club that runs in the veins of the Eskandarian family.
To Mike Miyamoto, our keeper from Street Soccer USA. Every training session, every game, this man would make sure to seek me out and shake my hand no matter what. Anyone who covered the Cosmos can attest to his warmth and kindness. He wasn’t too shabby as an athletic trainer, either.
All of these players, coaches, and staff members will sadly move on. The memories and crest, however, will not. So, what is the club’s legacy?
Sadly, I believe is it twofold. First, this was a club of ambition beyond bounds, and of struggle. No matter our status in the “pyramid”, we strived to be the best we were able to be. We hunted for the biggest names, tackled the biggest opponents, and fought tooth and nail for survival. The ceiling we were tossed under, as much as we tried, could never be broken.
This, sadly, will also be remembered as a club of mismanagement. For the second time in a lifetime, the Cosmos stand humbled, ready to shut their doors to the world. The ambition that plagued Cosmos 1.0 was sought after by 2.0 with means that simply were not sustainable. This should not shadow any bit of accomplishment, but I fear that this will be a way my club will be (and deserves to be) remembered.
Ultimately, I am grateful. My story with my club begins with me being a nervous, close-minded boy on the sidelines of Hofstra University, and ends up with me discovering new passions, making new friends, and living more than I ever thought I could before. The amount that my club has given me has been unquantifiable, and it is a debt I will never be able to repay.
However, like C.S. Lewis alluded to, I feel like a part of me has been ripped out. No matter where or when, this club was there for me. I have lost a lot in my life: my health, friends, loved ones, and even family. Through it all, the Cosmos sat like an old friend on a park bench, patiently waiting for my return so I can discuss the formation or swoon over new gear. With my time at TICC, it has become a new escape: that of creative work. Throughout the year, I have been able to make art out of soccer, escaping reality and letting my brain roam free and explore its creative capacity. With the club’s death, I have almost lost two homes in one. I feel a lesser, lost man because of it.
Uncertainty lies ahead, Cosmos Country. Players and staff alike must search for a new place to continue their careers. We as fans, however, must face a more awkward foe. We have lost our club. Our sense of home. Are we to switch sides and erase this journey from our minds? Shall we take to our bunkers, leaving the domestic version of the beautiful game to continue on without our participation? Is there a right or wrong way to go into the darkness?
There is not. I leave you with these few words.
Whatever is to happen, do not forget what has taken place here. Do not forget how this club made you spring out of your seat, and made you sink into your chair, cup of wine glued to your mouth. Do not forget the derby wins, your favorite player being sold, or the monsoon game against Jacksonville. Don’t forget hugging your best friend at the end of a win, or crying in the arms of the loved ones after a loss. Don’t forget the rage in your fists when you saw Sunil Gulati after the Soccer Bowl, or the tears on your face standing arm in arm with Danny Szetela moments earlier. Do not forget your scarfs, your kits, and the memories born from these stands and from this badge. Do not forget the debt figures, Marcos Senna, the cutbacks, or the coronation in 2013.
Do not forget the New York Cosmos.