This is Cosmos Country Blog — August 11, 2013 at 12:14 pm

A Rowdies Fan Perspective


Image Credit: Tampa Bay Rowdies

St. Petersburg, FL - The New York Cosmos 2.0 feels like your girlfriend’s cool ex coming back to town. Everything was going fine. Love slowly grew from an organic place. You’re comfortable and happy.

Then the Cosmos screeched in on a motorcycle wearing a Fonzie-esque leather jacket. He turned the jukebox on with a single punch and your girlfriend’s knees buckled. With the big time shirt sponsor and known stars, she was easily wooed. A legacy of cool engrained in the club’s DNA. The New York Cosmos are the NASL popular kids.

I’m obviously bitter about the franchise. This has less to do with the team itself and more with the NASL’s marketing. They turned the 2013 Fall season into the Great Cosmos American Tour. The other teams become the Washington Generals to New York’s Harlem Globetrotters.

The league wants the team to be champions again and the games themselves seem like nothing more than formalities. Charles Cole, leader of Tampa Bay Rowdies supporter group Ralph’s Mob, saw it differently. He believed rising tides lift all ships.

“They are making a return and doing it with great fanfare. It appears like they are coming in looking like they are willing to spend the kind of money it’s going to take to raise the profile of division 2 soccer and the NASL”

When questioned about the NASL’s take on Cosmos return, Cole felt more compassionate then harsh.

“It is possibly setting them up to fail. They have expectations on their shoulders as a club that no matter what anyone says they’re there. It adds to that, unnecessarily and irrationally. We’ll see how they react. I feel like it’s up to them”

The curmudgeon in me faded away as the stadium bulged with an impressive 7,032 fans in attendance. I filled with an inexperienced nostalgia. To simply hear the names Tampa Bay Rowdies and New York Cosmos blasted over the loud speaker during the warm ups made me think of times at Giants Stadium or The Sombrero I never witnessed. Pele, Beckenbauer, and Marsh reinserted into the veins of American soccer culture.

The game itself was a tough and grueling match. It became a battle of soccer philosophies. Rowdies’ compact and workman style versus Cosmos’ quick flowing wide play. These two very different views canceled one another out, which lead to the 0-0 draw.

The stadium boiled in the heat and the high humidity turned the air to water. This transformed the crowd into the castaways from Lord of the Flies. After a few questionable fouls that went New York’s way, they seemed moments away from chanting “Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood”

Diego Restrepo’s great goalkeeping performance, along with Tampa’s sturdy backline, stopped New York from running the score up in St. Petersburg. He withstood New York’s barrage of attacks and made multiple last minute saves.

Rowdies front pair of Hristov and Cort, and later Hristov and Barbara, made nothing of their chances. They became isolated as play dissolved at midfield.  Rowdies coach Ricky Hill combines Hristov with a large target man. Cort, who is often able to bully center backs, couldn’t break down Cosmos defenders Mendes and Gorskie.

They outmuscled Cort on every corner and cross. Hill, during the post-game press conference, spoke of his frustration with the limp performance by the forwards.

“I was never happy throughout the game with our ball retention and the occasions where we gave the ball away cheaply. Which for me is unacceptable. We don’t train like that. We don’t work like that”

With only a single game on their record, New York looked incredibly well organized and sharp. The team played with an understanding that many longer existing NASL teams still don’t have. Head Coach Giovanni Savarese is to thank here. He created a system for his team where players can express themselves. The two standouts on the roster were Alessandro Noselli and Marcos Senna.

Noselli with the ball at his feet is simply just fun to watch. His presence evoked danger, even if the attack petered out to nothing. He snaked away from defenders with ease. It turned into an unwinnable game of Whack-A-Mole for Tampa Bay. Noselli materialized everywhere on the field and frustrated the Rowdies. I imagine they won’t be the only team he does this to.

Senna added another angle to the attack. His long passes and perfectly weighted lobs terrorized Tampa’s back line. Every ball played landed beautifully at his teammates’ feet. The Brazilian’s presence drew my eyes to him constantly.  His experience helps add a level of patience to the Cosmos’ play. Together with Noselli’s energy, they have a very well rounded attack.

During half-time, legendary Rowdies defender Mike Connell surrounded himself with other ex-players. The organization retired his number.  In his fantastic South African accent, he gave a speech. The loud cheers drowned him out. I watched as these now old men hugged and smiled at one another.

Their time with the Rowdies meant everything to them. The glory days of the American soccer boom in the 70’s may be over but the love built to those fans and players, who truly cared, lived on. Pessimism is easy. Sincerity is hard. I’ll stand by sincerity. Welcome back New York Cosmos. We’ll see you in Hofstra Stadium.

Julien Llerena covered the game for us last night. He expressed that last night’s renewed rivalry between the Cosmos and Rowdies was was fun and one of the best soccer experiences of his life. You can follow him on Twitter at @JulienLlerena.


  1. Nice perspective and analysis from a Rowdies fan. Enjoyed.

  2. Last night’s game against the Rowdies was the Cosmos “State of the Union” game. They truly played like a well seasoned and experienced team against the current champions. Yes, welcome back, Cosmos! Good work!

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