By RYAN TOLMICH
Since the start of 2015, the New York Cosmos have turned a major eye towards finding the game’s future stars, and that search is beginning to pay off.
On one hand, the Cosmos have made major splashes in signing two established U.S. youth internationals while, on the other, the club’s creation of a reserve team has paid immediate dividends in the form of a championship victory.
Most recently, the Cosmos made waves in signing U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team fullback Alexis Velela. Pairing the fullback with fellow U-17 star Haji Wright, the Cosmos have added two of the country’s premier prospects, something that head coach Giovanni Savarese takes great pride in.
In both Wright and Velela, the Cosmos get players that have drawn plenty of interest and eyes from around the world. Looking to help the two teenagers reach the next level, Savarese says that the Cosmos are a team that is excited by the idea of helping these young prospects grow into legitimate international players.
“Definitely. It’s a direction that we’re taking,” Savarese said in a conference call. “We want to be a team that caters to a mix of young players, veteran players, local players. We want to be a complete team.
“Youth is very important to the future of the club and we also want to help the U.S. federation with their national teams in having players continue to grow and develop and do more someday for the national team.”
Despite all of their talents, Savarese and the Cosmos know that both of the youngsters are ones for the future. Wright, who made his first start with the first team this past week, has primarily featured with Cosmos B while learning from players like Raul and Marcos Senna.
Velela, meanwhile, will spend the fall with the U.S. U-17s and isn’t expected to link up with the Cosmos fully until after October’s Under-17 World Cup. However, in Velela, Savarese believes he has found a special player, one that is ready to contribute all over the field.
“He’s a young, talented player. He’s very versatile,” Savarese said of his new signing. “He has the skill to play different positions and the knowledge to perform in different ways, and that’s something that we like from him and what we saw from him.
“He was with us one week and we’re excited to have him start with the team.”
While much of the focus has been on the internationally-experienced duo, the Cosmos youth efforts have seen tangible progress with the creation of Cosmos B.
This past weekend, Cosmos B claimed the NPSL title in the club’s first ever campaign with a 3-2 victory vs. Chattanooga FC in the league’s final.
For Savarese, that result wasn’t completely unexpected. Under the guidance of Cosmos assistant Alecko Eskandarian, players like Wright, Ibrahim Diaby, Cristhian Hernández Hernandez, Ruben Bover and Julian Stahler were given chances to shine while earning valuable minutes on the field.
Savarese always knew he had a talented group, and while the aim was to get that group first team ready, the Cosmos head coach was glad to see the hard work put in rewarded with a trophy.
“To be honest with you,” Savarese said, “first I have to say that everything that we do we always do it in a way that we feel is going to be the best way and with all of the attentions to do what is the priority. For us, the first concern, the main priority, was to develop players, to be able to provide a team to see young players that can grow and first team players that can get back into shape.
“The mindset was to be as professional as we could,” Savarese added. “We worked very hard, and in the end, when you work hard and you see that you’re able to win a championship, it’s good because of the work that they had to put in.”