When the Cosmos signed Marcos Senna last summer, I think most fans immediately expected the midfield to be a strength. Even in the twilight of his exceptional career, there was little reason to doubt that the former Spanish national would be the best player in the league. It really shouldn't have surprised anyone, then, when Senna was named to the North American Soccer League's Best XI, despite the Cosmos missing out on the entire spring campaign.
Senna was typically partnered in the central midfield by one of two players. Joseph Nane opened the season as his primary partner, offering size, strength, and defensive ability which allowed Senna to be relatively free of any positional shackles. Danny Szetela took over as the Spaniards primary partner midway through the campaign, and an area of strength quickly became an absolutely dominant pairing. Hagop Chirishian also saw some time alongside Senna during the fall season, performing well enough when called upon.
Gio Savarese alternated between using a trio of attack minded players in front of that pairing, and using two strikers with a pair of wider midfield players. Paulo Mendes was particularly useful when the manager went with two forwards, while Dane Murphy was often an available option as well.
2014 will likely look awfully similar to last fall, as the same six-man unit is returning intact. The club didn't feel the need to add competition to that group, and it's hard to complain too much about that based on the way they performed down the stretch.
Szetela and Senna will likely make this unit as formidable as they were last season, but with 27 regular season games to be played in addition to a U.S. Open Cup campaign, keeping players fresh and healthy will be a major key to repeating as champions. Senna's minutes will need to be managed, Szetela will need to stay healthy, and Nane will need to control his aggressive style and avoid picking up too many cards. If they do just that, there's little reason to believe this won't be the strongest midfield unit in the NASL.