The New York Cosmos were once a thriving team. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, as part of the North American Soccer League (NASL), they were one of the most exciting teams in New York with the likes of Randy Horton, Giorgio Chinaglia and Pelé wearing the three-bladed crest on their uniforms. The league and team ceased operations in the mid-’80s.
Luckily, the Cosmos were revived, joining the new NASL in 2013. They won three championships in the five seasons that they were a part of the league, trying to rejuvenate the local love for the franchise. But an antitrust lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) for not keeping the NASL at a Division II level led to the cancellation of future North American Soccer League seasons, leaving the Cosmos without a league to play in.
The Cosmos found a home with the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) after the main players moved to the organization’s reserve team in 2018. Leading the team is head coach Carlos Mendes, Mineola native and longtime professional soccer player.
“Obviously, it’s been difficult at times, but I think the most important thing is that we’ve had an amazing owner,” said Mendes. “[Rocco Commisso] has been very committed. He’s doing the right thing for the club and the players, so that’s the most important thing. It’s been difficult not knowing what’s happening for everybody. It’s good knowing that someone’s behind you and pushing. He’s given us every possible resource.”
While Commisso continues to fight the battle of rebooting the NASL for future years, the New York Cosmos continue to compete in the NPSL. They’ve started out 5-0 in spring league play and made it to the second round in the 2019 U.S. Open Cup.
“I think this year we’re a deeper team,” said Mendes. “I think overall the level is a bit higher. We have players with a little bit more experience, but it’s still a challenge. We have 17 to 18 new guys coming in, they have to understand what we want as a staff and we get to know them as players. We’re still working on that and getting to know each, other but these are great players and people.”
Mendes, who played for the Cosmos until he was promoted to coach in 2018, has learned from a lot of coaches. The previous Cosmos coach, Giovanni Savarese, is no exception. He left the organization to coach Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers, but continues to stay in touch with Mendes today.
“He was an amazing coach to play for,” said Mendes. “I was fortunate to play for five years for Coach Gio and I took a lot out of how he managed players, how transparent he was and things that I try to do as well. I also and learned a lot from.”
Among the team’s most valuable players is Aaron Dennis, Elmont native and seven-year veteran who joined the team this year. He opened up the season with goals in the first three games of the year and has been a reliable starter for the team throughout the course of the spring.
“We play a lot, so that has helped me gain the confidence I need in front of the net,” said Dennis. “My teammates [have helped] as well. A lot of us are willing to win, so even if that requires the next guy to score, I think we’re doing that.”
For a native of the New York area, being on a Cosmos team with a rich history is a dream come true. The 26-year-old forward returns to the area for the first time since playing for the Long Island Rough Riders in 2012.
“I’ve always wanted to play for the Cosmos even before I went away for college,” said Dennis. “I had to wait a few years, but now is the time and I am going to make the most of the opportunity.
The Cosmos currently play their home games at the Mitchel Athletic Complex, located behind Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. Mendes says that it’s important to have a sense of community and he hopes to field a team that the local fans can be proud of.
“We need to keep on improving,” said Mendes. “You have to continue to grow as a team. You get into the challenge now of having a lot of games coming up, so you are going to need everybody to contribute. You want to be firing on all cylinders and clicking at the right moments.”
This year, the Cosmos will begin playing in a new professional league that will start with the franchise’s participation in the NPSL Founders Cup from August to November. For more information, visit www.nycosmos.com.