Since the club first made its proposal in 2013, the New York Cosmos have been awaiting approval of the club’s stadium plan. Now, nearly three years later, the club sees an end in sight, for better or worse.
In the three years since their resurgence, the Cosmos have targeted land known as Elmont Town Crossings near Belmont Park. However, the club has been left playing the waiting game for a majority of that time while awaiting a resolution on the area of land, which had three other suitors.
Cosmos CEO Erik Stover says that communication between the club and the New York Empire State Development Corporation has been better than it has since the very beginning. According to Stover, those involved on the government side have been asking the Cosmos several questions in recent weeks, which demonstrated urgency to wrap things up in the near future.
“Since, that process is moving forward and we all feel very encouraged about it, you obviously pay attention to that to see the process out,” Stover told media. “We fully expect that an answer is coming. Whether it’s ‘yes’ or ‘no’ determines our next step. If it’s a ‘yes,’ then we’re pouring a lot of money to make that a reality in negotiating with the state, investing in architecture and engineering, environmental impact studies and all of that before actually putting a shovel in the ground.
“If it’s a ‘no,’ then the two or three sites that we’ve been looking at, now we have to start investing in feasibility studies. Which of those sites is the best opportunity for us? Not only from a construction and engineering or access point of view, but from a marketability point of view. There’s hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars that will have to go into that this year. It depends. There’s a fork in the road coming, and that fork will be determined by the answer from the ESD, we think, in the short term.”
Should the Cosmos receive an answer of “no,” Stover says the club currently has three backup sides in view, two if which are in the city. If the club has to begin the process of finding a new location, Stover says that number would likely rise to six before settling on a permanent area.
Here are some more of Tuesday’s Cosmos news and notes.
COSMOS PROFIT IN DIFFERENT WAY FROM WRIGHT DEPARTURE
Haji Wright is bound for Germany, and the New York Cosmos couldn’t be happier.
After spending less than one year with the NASL club, Wright is set to join German club Schalke ahead of his 18th birthday after being released by the Cosmos. According to Savarese, that was all according to plan, as the club is glad to help Wright achieve his dream of playing in Europe.
Savarese says Wright’s signing provided many short and long-term positives. In the short-term, Wright contributed an assist in a late-season Cosmos win while establishing himself as a key member of the reserve team. In the long-term, Wright’s signing made a statement, one that the club believes will benefit them vastly in the coming years.
In helping Wright achieve his goal of playing in Europe, the Cosmos believe they have been paid off with something much more important than money. Rather, Savarese says he believes the club has developed a bit of goodwill by showing that they have the best interests of their players in mind with every deal. That goodwill, Savarese says, will be crucial going forward as players and agents may begin to look at the Cosmos as a club that will handle situations like Wright’s with the utmost care.
“There are two things that are important. One, is that we care about Haji,” Savarese said. “We care about the development of the sport. We believe that some youngsters need to be professionals early enough in order to be able to be successful. With Haji, we knew he would have the possibility to move on into a team in Europe, so we felt that we could be a team that could help him be successful there and we wanted to participate in his success.
“The second thing is that this will open a trend. This will open a belief that all the players can do it. It has paid off with Alexis Velela and with another player coming in. Many other players see that we do right by players and it shows that we’re willing to do deals that, in essence, economically, at that point, they don’t benefit us, but they benefit the player. We’re willing to do this for the growth of the sport. We are patient in doing the right things. I believe when we do the right thing, eventually, we will grow the trust from the players. When they sign, they will know we mean well for them.”
U.S. YOUTH INTERNATIONAL AMONG SEVERAL PLAYERS EXPECTED TO JOIN CLUB
Throughout the offseason, the Cosmos have remained relatively quiet, but the club is nearing the announcements of several moves.
With a majority of the team’s core already locked into deals, Savarese says the Cosmos have been afforded the benefit of being patient, unlike previous years. Rather than panicking in an effort to fill out the roster, the Cosmos can pick and choose with a majority of the team’s spots already claimed.
Still, Savarese revealed that the club is in negotiations with several players, a majority of which can be expected to crack the club’s starting lineup.
As the club continues to focus on youth, Savarese says that the club has made several offers to players currently in and linked to MLS. In addition, Savarese says the team offered two players contracts that went on to accept Generation adidas deals to enter the MLS Draft.
The club does expect to make several announcements soon, one of which is likely to be the signing of a player that most recently played for the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team. In addition, Savarese says he expects to add a foreign centerback that he believes will be “one of the top centerbacks in the country,” a veteran attacking midfielder that has played in the world’s top leagues and two strikers, one foreign and one American, with the former representing his country on the international level.
Recently, the club has been linked with midfielder Juan Arango, who has most recently played for Tijuana. The Venezuelan international is his country’s all-time international appearance leader and has contributed 25 international goals.
RESTREPO, GORSKIE AMONG DEPARTURES
The Cosmos lost two starters with the retirements of Raul and Marcos Senna, but the club will also have to contend with the losses of several others.
Among those set to leave the club is Walter Restrepo, who joined the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday.
“We were clear from the beginning that Restrepo wanted to be with us this past year and that he was looking as well for something,” Savarese said. “From the moment we sit down with a player, we explain all of the good things about the club and what to expect and other things that are still improving and what are their ambitions. It’s just to show each other exactly where they are mentally.”
“That’s one of the things that we do best, I think. We understand that some of the players, their desire is to have a very good year and then to look for a different adventure. That was the situation with Restrepo from the beginning. We always knew that this year was a year where he wanted to give us everything that he had and we wanted to make sure he grew as a player and that he became better in some of the areas he was lacking to become a different player. At the end, we sit down again and understand where his mind was and help him. If he wasn’t going to be in our club, we would help him into a good situation, and that’s what we have done with him.”
In addition, Hunter Gorskie has also departed the club and is currently a free agent. According to Savarese, Gorskie is set to join a Polish second-division club where he has previously trained. Prior to Gorskie’s choice to utilize his Polish passport to go abroad, the Cosmos had negotiations with the defender before he ultimately decided to pursue a new adventure.
“Gorskie is going to move to Europe. He always has been clear with us,” Savarese said. “He’s very thankful with everything that we always do. He’s been clear from the beginning, but he’s a player where we try to sit down and try to understand for one more year, what he wants to do.
“We sat down together, but the fact that he has a European passport, and those with passports are given the interest with ‘what if I go one year there? I would like to try this,’ and Gorskie has been from the beginning with us, winning two championships and being a part of the growth of the Cosmos. He felt now that he wants to explore with what his passport can give him while not closing the door with us.”
As for NASL title-game-hero Gaston Cellerino, Savarese says his return remains “50-50” as the two parties continue to negotiate. Meanwhile, Hagop Chirishian will not return to the club.
STOVER SPEAKS ON STATE OF LEAGUE
The NASL will add three new teams in 2016, but the sudden departure of two more have left the league in a state of flux.
The San Antonio Scorpions and Atlanta Silverbacks will not be a part of the league in 2016, while Miami FC and Rayo OKC take the field in the Spring. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico FC awaits to take the field in the fall.
Stover says that, with American soccer booming across all leagues, expansion and contraction will be “volatile” across the U.S. soccer landscape as teams continue to find their place in the country’s hierarchy. According to Stover, the nation’s soccer culture is vastly different than five years ago, from the NASL to USL to MLS, and those seismic shifts will continue into the immediate future.
“I think the league has made tremendous progress over the last five years from where it started to where it is right now with 11 teams in the Spring, 12 in the Fall,” Stover said. “The contraction of two teams, or whatever you want to call what happened in San Antonio, from my point of view, is disappointing but I’m solely focused on the Cosmos.
“From a league point of view, I think the overall growth is encouraging. There are new expansion teams that I think will be announced here soon, so the league continues to grow. We’ve said all along that this process is going to be volatile and things are going to change. The investment in soccer in this country is booming and there are a lot of moving parts. I don’t think that’s going to stop for the next few years as things grow and morph into different entities.”
Had Haji Wright been a starter for the 1st team, scores several goals and had a bunch of assists, the Cosmos would have been commenting on how much he was worth to the team, or would have seen a nice transfer fee from another club. But he didn’t, so while he can go and maybe get a senior contract one day, he will have to go through a much more rigorous and competitive environment than he’s ever faced before the Cosmos or during his stay there, and while the Cosmos seem sad to let him go,but happy to further his goals, it’s like crocodile tears.
“The contraction of two teams is disappointing . . . But I’m solely focused on the Cosmos.”
Is it 1982 again?
It’s almost like he has a job that requires him to do exactly that or something
Did MLS not just contract, too?