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Stoppage Time: New York Cosmos deserved better on their return

While the team pulled out a victory in its first game back, Cosmos fans deserved a better relaunch than Hofstra University's college soccer field.

HEMPSTEAD, NY-- At the peak of their powers, the New York Cosmos were rock stars, with icons like Pele, Carlos Alberto and Franz Beckenbauer drawing 80,000 fans a night at Giants Stadium.

Relaunching 29 years later, this iteration of the franchise is akin to an garage startup band that tours at neighborhood pubs. Sure, the ideas are good but there will be a lot of work needed if the Cosmos are to regain relevance in the American soccer landscape.

The Cosmos deserved a better reboot than this.

It's not to say that the team didn't have bright moments in its 2-1 result for the near-sellout crowd at Hofstra University's 15,000-seat soccer stadium, James M. Stuart Field. The team had a suspenseful finish, securing a victory in the 90th minute thanks to an unassisted goal by forward Alessandro Noselli.

New York striker Peri Marošević's 44th-minute goal - the first goal in the new Cosmos era - was a nice moment to spark some energy from the stands. New York's star addition of former Villarreal midfielder Marcos Senna looked like an inspired purchase, playing a lively first half before fading in the second.

But overall,  the atmosphere felt like a minor league affair.

Perhaps it was the team's stadium, a college soccer field filled with Hofstra logos with the Cosmos's crest only visible in the stands. Maybe it was the team's surprisingly young crowd, which appeared confused on whether to clap or cheer and had plenty of uncomfortable periods of silence throughout the match. Or it could be the quality of play overall, where two of the three goals scored came from multiple defensive mixups and an insistence on long balls made MLS look like Serie A.

It may work for seven of the NASL's eight teams. But not the Cosmos.

Team legend Alberto appeared to allude to as much, promising better days ahead before being shushed by team mascot, sorry, former player Shep Messing.

"I believe the Cosmos are going to have a great team in the next two years," Alberto said through a translator. 

For those who weren't around during the magical era of Cosmos during the mid 70s [myself included], that time almost seems like a folklore legend. Whether it was an image of Pele and Alberto entering Studio 54 or the underrated dominance of Giorgio Chinaglia on the field, even if it was just for two years it seems astonishing that soccer was at one point at the forefront of the American sports landscape.

When the Cosmos announced their ambitions to renew the franchise three years ago, it appeared that younger generations of soccer fans might finally get a glimpse of what the team was about. Aside from Pele, Alberto and former goalkeeper Messing being in the building, the game felt like a bad remake to a classic movie. Vince Vaughn's take on Psycho.

Considering the global pull that Cosmos continue to insist they have, why didn't the Cosmos consider a high-profile friendly as their reboot at one of New York's many outdoor professional arenas?

It may have only been for one game before starting play in the NASL, a second-division league according to U.S. Soccer, but at least the Cosmos could have put on a show that their fans expect.

It's a telling sign that Pele, the club's most important icon, jetted immediately after postgame, refusing to talk to reporters after the match. He has a habit of being honest.

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