New York Cosmos reboot the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 2-1

by David Harris

Alessandro Noselli celebrates his game-winning goal with Hunter Freeman

Hempstead, NY - The New York Cosmos returned to action last night with a thrilling 2-1 victory over the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. Alessandro Noselli scored in injury time to clinich the win and three points for the Cosmos. Peri Marošević opened the scoring for the Cosmos, tapping in a loose ball past Strikers goalie Richard Sanchez. The Strikers responded in the second half with a goal by Walter Restrepo that nearly spoiled the occassion for the majority of the 11,929 fans, a sellout crowd at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium. However, Noselli was able to get the winner that the majority of fans outside of Ft. Lauderdale were hoping for.

The win was just one of the stories though as one of the most heralded soccer franchises in the game took the field in a competitive game once again. To celebrate the occassion, Pele, Carlos Alberto, Shep Messing, and Teófilo Cubillas attended the game along with George Chinaglia, representing his dad and former Cosmos great Giorgio Chinaglia.

Pele greeting the crowd at the Cosmos home opener

Having Pele, arguably the greatest player the game has ever seen, greeting the crowd and taking the field like it was 1977 once again was going to be hard for any players or team to live up to. The new New York Cosmos play in the current incarnation of the North American Soccer League (NASL), which is the second division of American soccer. Marcos Senna is a player known throughout the world and still very talented at 36 years old. Many of the players such as captain Carlos Mendes, defender Hunter Freeman, and winger Ayoze, are experienced and talented players. Fans coming to the game with realistic expectations understood that they weren't going to see a modern day Pele in the form of Messi or Neymar. The new New York Cosmos however, brought professional soccer back to Long Island, which can only be good for the local game, described as "the hotbed of soccer in the United States", by Shep Messing during his induction speech at the Long Island Soccer Player Hall of Fame dinner in March.

Cosmos defender Hunter Gorskie with family after the game

Cosmos defender Hunter Gorskie is from Marlboro, N.J., a little west of Long Island. Seeing him celebrate his first game as a professional player with his family afterwards brought home exactly what the new New York Cosmos are all about - bringing the professional game back to an area that sorely needs it. And what better way to do it then with a franchise, a brand that is known worldwide and that originally started on Long Island? After the game, Gorskie described how "it means the world to him" to be able to play in front of family and friends."

Cosmos fans working on their chants before the game

The sellout crowd of 11,929 included many vociferous supporters who had longed for this day to come. Supporters groups including the Borough Boys and Sagan's Army were in full force to cheer on their heros, new and old. Prior to the start of the game, many of them behind the opposing goal determined that their chant to welcome the opposing goalie would be "Shep's your daddy". The support from the fans remained strong throughout the game, even when the Strikers tied the game at 1-1. When Noselli came through in injury time with the winning goal, they erupted in excitement.

Shep Messing and Carlos Alberto after the game

After the game, Shep Messing described the excitement all of the former Cosmos players felt about seeing the team return. Messing then summed up the Cosmos return by saying, "What we wish for this team is we want them to be very proud of our history, but we don't want them to be burdened with our legacy. We want them to create their own identity and I think we saw the first step in that tonight."

Messing went onto to describe how the original incarnation of the Cosmos were built, "Before Carlos came and helped us win championships, I played my first professional game in this stadium. And the Cosmos becoming one of the most famous teams in the world didn't happen overnight. We had 1,500 fans, 2,000 fans, 3,000 fans. Then came Pele. And so once the great players came, the Cosmos caught the imagination of New York, the United States, and the world. I wish we had a crowd like this at my first game for the Cosmos, but it'll be one step at a time to reach hopefully the heights that we had before."

Hunter Gorskie in action for the Cosmos

After the game, captain Carlos Mendes described how "It's an honor to play for this club. To get the three points today was very important. You could feel the energy and atmosphere in the stadium so it was great to be a part of."

Hunter Gorskie described the night as "Surreal, amazing. I thought we played well and showed a lot of heart getting those two goals, one at the end of the first half and one at the end of the second. I thought the fans were awesome, they gave us that extra boost."

Defender Hunter Freeman stated, "We played well. The only time they were dangerous was on counters. Overall, with everything that's been going on leading up to this week, everybody was anxious to get on the field. It feels great to finally get that first game under our belts. It was a fantastic atmosphere and we couldn't ask for anything better."

Cosmos starting XI before the home opener

Hopefully, the new New York Cosmos have a long run ahead, much longer than the first incarnation lasted, but with as much excitement and success. Perhaps the top players in the world will once again return to New York to play for the Cosmos, but until then, Long Island has a professional soccer team once again to call it's own and that was ultimately the major success of this game.