New York Cosmos Academy: Better Form But Uncertain Future

The New York Cosmos Academy U18 (white) defeated Match Fit Chelsea U18 (blue) 1-0 at Aviator Field in Brooklyn on April 21, 2012. (image source: christopher dobens)

On Saturday, April 21, 2012, the Borough Boys descended upon Aviator Field in Brooklyn to watch the New York Cosmos Academy U18 side take on the Match Fit Chelsea U18. There was only a handful of us, as we couldn’t have picked a worse day for such an adventure - Arsenal vs. Chelsea in the morning, El Clasico that afternoon, both the Mets and Yankees in action, and a lovely day to boot. But it was a lovely day to watch a game, even though it would be the only Cosmos action we’d see for some time.

An aerial battle in the box between the New York Cosmos U18 and Match Fit Chelsea U18. (image source: christopher dobens)

Our boys did not disappoint. They dominated throughout the match, testing the woodwork on several occasions. Strangely, though, they refused to play the ball wide - especially on the far side of the field. It is a development team, so perhaps they were under instructions to work the ball up the middle, and they seemed intent on doing so - even though Match Fit Chelsea defended it well, and the young Cosmos had neither the room nor the touch for that sort of short passing game.

Around the 76th minute, a long ball came in from the far side of the field (imagine that!) and one of the Cosmos players (I thought it was Gabriele Vincenzo Maurello, wearing the #21 jersey, but the official report credits Kevin Cerdas) delivered a well-placed header into the back of the net. The Cosmos took the lead, 1-0, and held on to the final whistle. Glory in Brooklyn!

Cosmos Closing Development Academy
But that glory is tempered by the news that, at the end of the season in June, the New York Cosmos will be withdrawing from their role as sponsors of the academy. Whether BW Gottschee continues to participate in the US Development Academy program, retains its affiliation at the BWG Cosmos pre-academy level, or even continues to use the Cosmos name all remains to be seen. As does the future of Academy Director Gio Savarese, who would be a tremendous asset to any program.

The rash reaction to this news would be to assume that this is yet another signal of the demise of the New York Cosmos. But the truth is that the only way for the Cosmos to make it to Major League Soccer is to flush the last vestiges of the Kemsley regime, and that would be the sponsorship arrangement he made for the Development Academy.

True, there’s a long road to that dream of a second MLS franchise for New York City, and whether or not that team will be flying the Cosmos colors remains to be seen. But keen observers will note that there have been some recent developments on that front that give cause for optimism.

One of the Cosmos U18 players dribbling into open space. (image source: christopher dobens)

Whether or not you think Pier 40 is a viable location for an MLS stadium (it is), the fact that MLS have sat down and discussed it with city officials and community leaders is a big step closer to that dream. And the far less visible visit to New York City of Seamus O’Brien, who is the chairman & CEO of the Singapore-based World Sport Group and rumored to be the new leader of the evolving ownership group behind the Cosmos brand, signals that business is finally being attended to - issues being addressed and plans being made. And, while O’Brien’s company is a regional sports marketing enterprise much like Sela Sport, he did play a key role in the recent development and construction of the Singapore Sports Hub.

The word from the Cosmos is that they remain committed to the pursuit of an MLS franchise in New York City. Rather than investing in a youth academy, which is only producing players for other teams at this point, the new ownership group is taking a far more streamlined approach. The flamboyance and excesses of the Kemsley era have been replaced by patient practicality.

“As we near the end of the academy season, we wanted to give BW Gottschee sufficient time to put their own future plans in place,” said Sofia Sanchez, marketing and communications manager for the New York Cosmos.

One of the Cosmos U18 players releasing the ball before the challenge. (image source: christopher dobens)

It’s tough for the kids, but they will not suffer much. BW Gottschee ran a great program before the Cosmos cut them a check. And they will continue to run a great program, even if future jerseys aren’t quite as cool as the Cosmos kit.

The Cosmos have said that they will reinvest in an academy - most likely when a stadium site has been selected and a franchise awarded. Whether or not that partnership will be made with BW Gottschee is unknown, but they now share a history and philosophy, and that may very well triumph over any frustration created by this rocky road.

For the Cosmos U18, which has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence under assistant coach Jack Gaeta, repeated attempts to tiki taki up the middle against Match Fit Chelsea on Saturday proved fruitless. In the end, they had to push the ball wide and try a different approach to goal before they found the mark.

So too seems to be the case for the Cosmos organization. After repeated attempts to push up the middle of the park towards an MLS franchise, they’ve opted to pull back and try a different approach. Only time will tell if they manage to hit the mark.

This story also appears on Total Footblog: The Crossroads of Global Football & American Soccer. It is a soccer blog written by Christopher Dobens that offers a wide range of commentary, from the local pitch to the global stage.

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One Response to “New York Cosmos Academy: Better Form But Uncertain Future”

  1. John B
    April 27, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    BWG is one of the founding members of the Dev Academy. They of course will go back to BWG and be successful. The old regime was a disaster including Saverse. BWG will be stronger than ever and hopeful the Cosmos become a professional team in NY.

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