By Peter Schwartz
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It’s been an eventful week for professional soccer in the New York/New Jersey area.
As Major League Soccer gets ready for Toronto FC and Seattle to battle for the MLS Cup on Saturday, the United States Soccer Federation is still busy trying to sort out the designation of the leagues below Major League Soccer. At the same time, the three top professional teams in our area are going about their business.
Actually make that business as usual for two of the three teams.
Gone Twice In A Lifetime?
The 2006 movie “Once in a Lifetime” chronicled the history of the original New York Cosmos from their modest start, to Pele, Giorgio Chinaglia and Franz Beckenbauer drawing huge crowds to Giants Stadium, to the demise of the team and the North American Soccer League in 1984. For the better part of three decades, the most famous soccer franchise in United States history went dormant.
That is until 2013, when the Cosmos returned to the pitch in the modern-day NASL and promptly won three Soccer Bowls in four seasons, including the last two. Combined with the five titles that the original Cosmos won, that’s a total of eight NASL championships. But it appears as if there won’t be a chance for a threepeat and a ninth title.
Amid reports that the NASL is teetering on going out of business and the Cosmos are ceasing operations, with the players being released and the staff either being let go or placed on furlough, the future of the current-day squad is very much up in the air. The team, or possibly just the name and brand “Cosmos,” is said to be up for sale, with a New York City group believed to be interested.
That could mean a few things:
• A new owner could take a year off and then find a league to play in.
• The Cosmos could move to the United Soccer League, which could soon receive Division 2 status in the United States.
• With a new owner in possession of the Cosmos name, he or she could pursue a third MLS franchise for New York/New Jersey.
But, anyway you slice it, it’s frustrating times for anyone connected to the team, including the staff, players and fans. I rooted for the Cosmos as a kid and was excited to be able to work for the rebooted club as its public address announcer for four years. It hurt to see the original team fold, and the feeling is kind of similar this time around.
I feel for the full-time employees who appear to have lost their jobs in the middle of the holiday season. They all worked hard from top to bottom as the Cosmos built themselves into the class of the league.
Hopefully they can all land on their feet, and here’s hoping the Cosmos can return to the pitch in some way in the near future.
Can you say “Thrice in a Lifetime”?
MLS Honors Are Colored Red And Blue
Congratulations to New York City FC star David Villa, who was named the MLS Most Valuable Player on Tuesday.
Villa scored 23 goals this season in leading NYCFC to its first postseason appearance. The 35-year-old received an average of 25.9 percent of the combined voting of players, management and media.
It was an all New York/New Jersey top three in the MVP voting, with the Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan finishing second and third, respectively. BWP tallied an MLS-leading 24 goals to win the Golden Boot award. Meanwhile, Kljestan, who has also been spending some time with the U.S. national team, notched a league-leading 20 assists.
Villa, Wright-Phillps and Kljestan were also named to the MLS Best XI squad for 2016. All three players received the honor for the second time.
From Green To Blue?
With all of the Cosmos players now on the open market after getting released, you can be sure that there will be MLS teams interested in many of them. In fact, one Cosmos player may not have to go far to find work. According to multiple reports, NYCFC is said to be interested in midfielder and New Jersey native Danny Szetela. The irony there is that this past season in the U.S. Open Cup, Szetela’s 88th-minute goal on a header gave the Cosmos a 1-0 win over NYCFC.
Call To National Duty
A couple of local players have been named to the United States under-20 men’s national team roster for the club’s international camp and two friendlies against the U-20 Costa Rican team on Dec. 17 and 19. Heading to San Jose, Costa Rica, will be New York Red Bulls II star midfielder Tyler Adams, who hails from Wappingers Falls, New York. Joining him will be defender Marcello Borges from Kearny, New Jersey.
You can follow me on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan.