Attending every home match this year has been an overwhelmingly gratifying experience. Watching the Cosmos dominate the league and win match after match has been icing on the cake. So where do you place the additional opportunity that the team’s front office gave to me unselfishly last night as a “Club 71” member?
I was fortunate enough to attend a Q&A with Coach Giovanni Savarese and Cosmos COO Erik Stover last night at Hofstra University in a small setting that overlooked a quiet and empty Schuart Stadium. The Q&A was part of a thank you to “CLub 71” season ticket holders. Club 71 ticket holders are those that made a committment to the team beyond the fall 2013 season. For me this was easy to sign up for. I waited 30 years for this team to come back. Memories of the original team from 30 years ago are one of the few recollections I have from my childhood still today. When signing up for my CLub 71 package, I never would have imagined that it would have given me the opportunity to be in a room with the coach and COO.
As I arrived for the evening, prior to the start of the event, I took a few minutes to look out at the stadium and reflect on what a great season it has been. I could see Pele again walking out to the center of the field prior to the first match and waving and blowing kisses to the fans on Opening Day. I remember being in the stands opening day and going crazy with my oldest daughter when Peri Marosevic struck the first goal of the reboot era and going even crazier when Alessandro Noselli won the match in the 92nd minute. I recall Henry Lopez doing the same a couple of weeks later also in stoppage time – I could see the cross from Senna and Lopez striking it into the net. I remembered coming with the family on a several occassions, tailgating with them and spending good family time together in the Five Points Section chanting and screaming. I could also see Coach Gio over by the sidelines yelling passionately at this team from his usual spot. Visions of the Cosmos Girls racing around flashed by and of course, who can forget the electricity that usually comes from the opposite side of the field represented by the Borough Boys and La Banda Del Cosmos. What a year it has been!
Soon enough Michelle Gearity of Cosmos TV would start the night by introducing Coach Gio and Erik Stover. It was a small setting and they asked us to write questions on an index card and hand them in. Michelle would flip through the cards and pick which questions to ask all the while asking the person who originally submitted the question to stand and say hi to Erik and Gio.
Gio and Erik answered a number of questions from the audience. I could go on for pages and pages here talking about their conversations (hope I don’t). They discussed the league and how they are confident that the league would continue to grow. Stover was enthusiastic to see the ticket sales of the Indianapolis Eleven, an expansion team that will be entering the league next season. According to him they have already sold 6,000 season tickets for next season and their team has not stepped on the field. He felt optimistic down the road about Oklahoma City as well who is slated to start a team in the NASL. He is optimistic that the same type of enthusiastic fans that sell out every home NBA basketball game in that city will likely also help to boost ticket sales for their soccer expansion team. When asked about the home attendance this year, he mentioned that the attendance has been good but thought that it could be better. I agree with him on this point. One would simply think, if you have a 25,000 seat stadium on your mind, averaging 7,000 a game probably doesn’t sit too well with you. Hey no one is perfect, they have work to do in this department.
One of the questions that I had the chance to ask Erik was about the proposed stadium at Belmont. Since I have enjoyed watching the club so much this year, part of me wants to make sure that they have something built even if Belmont does not become a reality. So my question was “What is your Plan B if Belmont doesn’t happen?”. Stover didn’t hesitate one bit and said “There is no plan B”.
His thought was that he has never seen a proposal such as the one that the Cosmos are proposing for Belmont. He adamantly accentuated many of the selling points that have been released about the stadium: the jobs that it would create year round, the shopping center that would help the neighborhood, the year round soccer grounds that it would provide for the community youth and of course the state of the art home of the NY Cosmos. As always the fact that this is not using tax payer dollars and that it was privately funded instead makes it all the more probable that this will be approved. The team would pay taxes to Nassau County which would provide a revenue boost to the county. He confirmed that the field would be FIFA regulated and that there is no question that this will be a grass only field. How can this not be approved Cosmos Country?
Next Gio had the opportunity to answer some tactical questions around how he coaches the team and his managerial style with the Cosmos. Listening to the passion in his voice when discussing this made it clear that he loves his job! He stopped himself at one point and mentioned that he could discuss tactics all night if you let him. Enthusiastically he moved onto another question; this one around the acquisition of Marcos Senna. He pointed out that the reason they liked Marcos Senna was because of the type of person he was an not so much the player that he was. Sure he was a legend in Europe with Villareal and played on the Spanish National team and while that was an added bonus, Gio pointed out that Marcos is just a genuine person on and off the field and those were qualities that he wanted to bring onto the team to help the young guys on the team. One of the last things that won Gio over on Marcos was how he wanted to make sure that Villareal would still remain a top team in La Liga even if he did depart from the team. Marcos would have never come to the Cosmos if he couldn’t be certain of that. His character and dedication to his craft is why he is a member of the Cosmos today. Again, the fact that he is a great player is icing on the cake.
I was fortunate enough to talk to Gio later on in the night and got a chance to ask him among other things if he hears the Supporters Section during the match and his eyes opened wide and emphatically said “Oh Yes!” He said that he appreciated all of the support and that the supporters section definitely give the team the push they need at home when they are struggling to find the back of the net. He hopes that they will be around for many years to come and I expressed the same about his spot as manager on the team.
Finally Eric & Gio talked also about their process with respect to recruiting players. He said that even though the team is in first, there will be acquisitions next year to improve the team. He said a “marquis” player could be signed but re-iterated that doesn’t mean that it had to be a “big name” but rather someone who was best for the team given the vision that they currently have – just the way they signed Marcos Senna. Its comforting to know that this team is not content given their success, they are striving to be the best soccer club around. They talked about their desire to create lower levels of the club to develop talent not only for the Cosmos club but for US National team as well. He mentioned how they do similar things in Barcelona FC and how many of those players play on the Spain National Team. Their vision is that the Cosmos one day serve as an organization that builds talent on many levels all the way up to the US National Team.
After the Q&A session came my favorite part of the night and that involved having nine players of the team enter the room and meeting and greeting the fans and even sitting down to have dinner with us. One thing that Gio had pointed out before the team entered was that this event was completely voluntary for the team. As opposed to other team events this one was not a requirement for them to attend. He was happy to see that nine of them attended and he noted its because the team genuinely appreciates their fans. The players in attendance were Diomar Diaz, Danny Szetela, Ayoze, Peri Marosevic, Paulo Mendes, Hagop Chirishian, Chris Rodd, Juan Gonzalez and Satoru Kashiwase.
I’ve been a die hard fan of the NY Mets and the NY Knicks for years and with the exception of having Edgardo Alfonzo (Mets, year 2000) visit my barber shop a few years back and talking to him for almost an hour, I have never had the opportunity to hang out and converse with members of any of my favorite teams. It was a genuine good time with the guys to see what their likes are off the field and hear their views on the year. Each one of them took the time to thank us one by one as we met each other for the support the fans have given them. One of the things I asked each of them was “Are you ready for Atlanta?” All of them, regardless of language said the same thing “Edmonton first, we need to get to the soccer bowl first”. This team is focused as This Is Cosmos Country always says “One Game At A Time!”, I was extremely happy to see that. We told jokes, they shared stories of what its like to basically live with each other day in day out and they all agreed that its great to be a member of the Cosmos. They all had genuinely good things to say as well about playing for coach Gio.
In talking with a group of the guys I asked them about Marcos Senna. It was clear to see that alot of these guys are very young, most in their early twenties. I joked about how they play on a college campus and commented that they likely have alot of fun hanging out in social settings being that they are so young. They agreed and then I felt compelled to ask “Do you ever take Marcos Senna out?” They laughed at the question and said that when they do hang out with him its usually on road trips and that its great to just listen to him and that he serves as a great mentor to them. They enjoy learning about playing the beautiful game but also hearing of his experiences while playing around the world. They appreciate learning about the importance of playing as a team and valuing one another as teammates. This echoes exactly what Gio and Stover talked about during their Q&A and why they brought Marcos Senna to the NY Cosmos.
The final enjoyable part of the night was interacting with other fans at the event. Always a staple at any Cosmos event were the Borough Boys and La Banda Del Cosmos. Both had members at the event and while there was no chanting on this night, they were comfortable with just interacting with the team. I enjoyed speaking with other fans and hearing their experiences with following the team not only this year but many years ago as well. I look forward to writing about them in the future as they agreed to share their stories for this blog. I also had the opportunity to meet Michelle Gearity, the new spokesperson on Cosmos TV. I think she brings great personality to the team and she mentioned that she has alot of fun things in store for this season and next on her segments on Cosmos TV. I look forward to those and you should too! If you haven’t done so already, subscribe to her videos on you tube via Cosmos TV. You can also follow her on twitter and Instagram on @MGearrityNYC.
Man I have written way too much here! Hope you enjoyed my recap of the night. But even this much writing does not do the experience justice. Thank you Cosmos for not only a great night but for a great season. Of course we want to win the Soccer Bowl but even if we don’t, to me, they have set the framework for what I hope will be many many years of being a fan and following this team!
Here are some more pictures from last night: