Cosmos Country has covered a lot of ground in a short period of time. We’ve gone from Hofstra and the very edge of oblivion, only to be pulled back at the eleventh hour by Rocco Commisso and find ourselves at Brooklyn’s MCU Park and a spring in our stride. We blinked, and were done in by the very soccer federation whose role it is to grow the sport. We blinked again, and now we’re in the less-familiar territory of the NPSL and its North Atlantic conference. If Luna Park had a ride with even a tenth of the shocks, bumps, heights and drops we’ve been through over the past two years, it’d be more popular than the Cyclone.
So much has happened in just a few short months that even veteran New York Cosmos supporters have had to come to a full stop and ask themselves some very important questions:
- What the hell just happened?
- What is happening off the field?
- And most importantly, what is happening on the field right now?
Others have stepped in to help to better understand and answer our questions. If you’re not already following people like Miki Turner, Steven Banks, Michael Lewis, Steve Hamlin, Kartik Krishnaiyer, Chris Kivlehan and others, you’re missing out on understanding how all the pieces move and work.
When I looked around I found that there was already great content that I was unlikely to improve upon, so I felt I should ask some of the questions that hadn’t yet been answered so much. More importantly, I wanted to find a better context for what we’d be seeing.So we reached out to Head Coach Carlos Mendes, and to the Cosmos COO, Erik Stover for some answers, and maybe for some perspective.
Up first is Erik Stover, Chief Operating Officer of the New York Cosmos organization. The answer to one of our questions had implication for yet another consequence from the USSF decision to de-sanction the NASL that perhaps did not get enough coverage: how the visa rules for professional athletes intersect with USSF rulings to discourage international players’ involvement in lower divisions. The USSF harmed everyone in the league, but those most of all who were furthest from home.
Following Erik, is our new Head Coach Carlos Mendes. As Chris Kevlahan expressed in his recent interview with him, there is no one more perfect for the job of bringing the Cosmos into a post-Gio world than Coach Mendes. He shares with us some thoughts and a message for all Cosmos supporters.
FTP: Most players from the 2017 season have found homes or otherwise have communicated their next steps. One exception, however, is Kobi Moyal. What’s going on with Moyal, and his relationship with the organization?
Erik Stover: We are currently negotiating a buyout for his 2018 contract. With the cancellation of the 2018 NASL season, we had a legal obligation to withdraw our support of his visa. US Immigration law requires that athletes with P1 visas participate in leagues and with organizations that carry a certain annual revenue base. Cosmos B does not meet that standard, thus P1 visas are no longer valid and failing to report such incidences is illegal. Hopefully, we can find a fair and equitable solution for Kobi in the near future.
FTP: Some NPSL teams have season memberships and sell tickets to their matches. At a minimum, it might raise funds to support outreach and fan experience efforts. What is the club thinking about ticket sales in 2018?
ES: We have a plan for tickets sales for Cosmos B this year and will be announcing those details soon.
FTP: Will matches be streamed/stored on youtube, or – as is used by the Atlanta Silverbacks and others – a dedicated service (e.g., mycujoo.tv)?
ES: At this point, we don’t plan on streaming our games. That may change for specific matches, but we definitely won’t be streaming every match.
FTP: A little can go a long way towards an enjoyable home match experience. Is there anyone working with this in mind, and what can we expect at our home matches?
ES: Yes, we have our ops manager planning the home schedule. Peter Schwartz will be the PA announcer again this year and while the NPSL is not a professional league, we expect our game day experience to be enjoyable for everyone.
FTP: Club-oriented soccer is paradoxically both an outlier and the bedrock of American soccer. How might supporters best negotiate the path of following the badge this year? Should Cosmos Country continue to think of Cosmos B as linked but separate to the first team? If so, why?
ES: We established Cosmos B a few years ago for many reasons that have been discussed in the past. With the challenges that we have faced with US Soccer and the de-sanctioning of the NASL, we have been forced into this awkward situation to keep our club going. The fans should consider the NPSL season just as the last three NPSL seasons. Cosmos B is not our first team and will be operated as a semi-pro club similar to the last three years. Some of the Cosmos B players are clearly of a higher standard this year. Some of that is about taking care of guys that are part of our family and some of that is about helping good players that haven’t been given a reasonable contract offer elsewhere. However, the majority of our players will be local and they will be amateurs.
Depending on how the rest of 2018 unfolds, many of the current Cosmos B players could be the foundation of our first team next year. But, we don’t have nearly enough information at the moment to provide any guarantees.
First Team Podcast: Amidst the barrage of league news and player departures Cosmos supporters may have not fully processed the implications of the end of the Savarese Era. In a recent Midfield Press interview, you touched on what we might see that’s familiar. What might we see that’s different in the Mendes Era?
Carlos Mendes: Well, it will be a new roster with a few familiar faces, but for the most part a new group that will bring their own style and attitude to the game.
FTP: What players for the 2018 season did you actively make efforts to sign but – for whatever reason – just weren’t able to? Can you share details of any of these?
CM: When I was given the opportunity to take over, a majority of the 2018 roster had signed elsewhere, so the focus was to make sure we signed available players we thought would help the club continue to move forward and be successful.
FTP: Given the move to NPSL and a lighter footprint, what can we expect in the coming weeks as far as raising awareness and leveraging Cosmos supporters in the task?
CM: For me it’s about being successful on the field and representing the club with high integrity. Regardless of what league or competition we play in, we want to play attractive soccer and compete to win championships. I hope we can continue to make our fans proud and play to the level they expect.
FTP: ‘We want the Cup!’ has been a rallying cry during the US Open Cup throughout the modern era. What constitutes success in the Open Cup this year?
CM: Last year was a difficult year for us in the open cup. We were not happy with our performance. Success for me is to play at our highest level this year and give hundred percent effort to every game. The open cup is always very difficult because there are so many rounds. You have to be a complete team but it’s a tournament we will be hungry to play in and take one game at a time. We are looking forward to it.
FTP: Our time at MCU Park brought another rollercoaster to Coney Island, but there is no question that we ended the season with more fans than we started. Seasoned supporters had good reason to feel optimistic with what they saw in the stands. The schadenfreude and framing of our club’s troubles in the media was difficult for everyone to hear, but arguably it was hardest and more confusing on those who just recently joined Cosmos Country. As our new manager, what message do you have for the newest fans in what might be a first, frustrating encounter with club-oriented US soccer?
CM: I want the fans to know that we will move forward with the same mentality and drive to continue to win championships for this club. Mr. Commisso is a very committed owner who cares a lot about the club and about the future of soccer in this country. I am excited to still be a part of this great club and looking forward to starting our season. Just want to say thank you to all our fans for your continued support!
Pre-season matches were announced! First one is Friday, April 13th 7pm at the Hofstra University Soccer Stadium (not Shuart). Hope to see you there tonight!