The Cosmos open their spring campaign on Sunday against the Atlanta Silverbacks, an opponent that they have played (and defeated) in each of their last two competitive matches. While both of those matches were 1-0 victories played in Atlanta, this meeting will take place in New York.
The Cosmos and Silverbacks met three times in total last season, with only one of those three played at Hofstra. The contest in New York ended in a 1-1 draw, and was the only match between the sides where the Silverbacks managed to score.
While New York will look very similar to the team that won last season's Soccer Bowl, they will likely have a welcome new addition starting up front. Mads Stokkelien was one of the two new strikers brought in over the winter, and will be hoping to get off to a fast start in 2014. Jimmy Maurer will also be making his first start as the team's top keeper, though he did keep a clean sheet against this Atlanta side in his only appearance last season. Maurer spent the 2011 season as a member of the Silverbacks.
For Atlanta, this will be a vastly different squad than the one we saw last season. Gone will be Joe Nasco, Milton Blanco, Danny Barrera, Pedro Mendes, Richard Menjivar, Brad Stisser, and Ruben Luna. Eric Wynalda has gone outside of the NASL to replace them, bringing in players like Derby Carrillo, Junior Burgos, Deon McCaulay, and Junior Sandoval from some of the smaller countries in the region, while adding David Estrada on loan from Seattle Sounders FC. It's an interesting approach to building a team on the cheap, and it will be interesting to see how they perform this season.
Between the squad stability of the Cosmos, the massive turnover of the Silverbacks, and playing at Hofstra, New York should be heavily favored to come away from this one with a win. With a semifinal spot being reserved for the side with the highest point total after the season's first nine games, that ding just that would be awfully nice.
Opponent: Atlanta Silverbacks, 2013 NASL spring champions, Soccer Bowl runner up
Venue: Shuart Stadium, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
Date and time: Sunday, April 13, 2014 at 5:00 pm ET
Forecast: 64 and sunny during the day with temperatures dropping into the high 50's tomorrow evening. Only a 10% chance of rain.
New York squad news: The Cosmos are mostly healthy for the opener, with only forward Hans Denissen expected to miss while he's recovering from a knee injury.
Atlanta squad news: The SIlverbacks are a bit more banged up than the Cosmos, and have three players that will be out of action for the opener. None of Abdul Bangura, Borfor Carr, or Alex Harlley are expected to take part.
Television and streaming: One World Sports will carry the game on your television, and you can find out where the network is located in your area by clicking this link. NASL Live will stream the game for those without OWS, and while they'll be charging for that service this season, you'll be able to watch for free until April 20 by signing up.