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Cosmos Still Struggling to Gain Local Publicity, Even With AC Milan's Help

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The New York Cosmos and AC Milan stand side-by-side prior to an afternoon training session.
The New York Cosmos and AC Milan stand side-by-side prior to an afternoon training session.
Christian Arnold

It was a unique -- one could even say surreal -- day on Wednesday afternoon in Uniondale.

A small gathering of fans gathered outside the Cosmos Mitchel Field practice facility to try and get a peak of the private training session being held. Some fans were even trying to see in by standing on a dirt mound just behind the fencing that surrounded the practice field.

But they were't there to catch a glimpse of the Cosmos, rather they were there to see New York's guests of honor for the afternoon training session; AC Milan.

"These things are special," Hans Denissen said following the training session with the Italian club. "We're a big team in the United States, but AC Milan is a big team all around the world. You can see with how much people they travel with and what they do, and how professional it is. We can learn from these teams...

"We can learn from this as a coaching staff, as a club as players and as front office even. It's a great opportunity for us to show where we train, what we do and that's great."

The original plan was for the two Emirtates Air sponsored clubs to scrimmage during the closed door practice, but ultimately that scrimmage never happened. A small contingent of fans were allowed to watch the practice, but the Cosmos had asked that the details of the event be kept secret.

AC Milan Supporters reportedly broke the secrecy via twitter.

It's not too often a sports club with such an international following graces the playing fields of Long Island and unfortunately for the Cosmos it still was not enough to bring out the local press in force. A handful of local soccer outlets -- print and online -- along with News 12 were there, but that was it.

And the big draw was AC Milan, who as Howard Megdal of Sports on Earth noted wanted little to do with the local media:

It was all pretty high and mighty from a team that finished, let's not forget, eighth in Serie A last year, and will miss out on tournament soccer -- UEFA Champions League, and even soccer's version of getting the game show's home version, the Europa League -- for the first time in 16 years.

Still, we were moved near the end of the practice, just after we were told Balotelli wouldn't talk and just before we were told Milan wouldn't scrimmage, from the field to a barrier behind which we stood, a small Cosmos bracelet all that identified us as press to the Milan players who cared to look. (Not that they did.)

The Milan press person never addressed us, but helpfully shouted at us as we walked to our holding pen, "Move! Move! Move!" "Back! Back! Back!" "Stay behind the line! We're running here!"

It was almost as if Milan was indifferent to the kind of reception it would get in the Long Island press.

AC Milan made only two players available -- Keisuke Honda and Sulley Muntari -- only one of whom knew anything about the Cosmos. Honda bluntly said, "I don't know about the history." Muntari was a little more well versed about the Cosmos.

"It's great being here. The Cosmos is one of the historic club in the world. So, pleased to be here," he said.

The one thing Wednesday's event did was shed some light on where the Cosmos are in the landscape of soccer in New York and New York Sports in general. Despite the draw of an international juggernaut like AC Milan, the story fell to the waist side.

Part of it may have had to do with a bigger story happening the next day in Frank Lampard signing with NYCFC. Which likely was much more appealing to editors than just a scrimmage, which turned into just a training session, with AC Milan.

It's hard to say if the Red Bulls held a similar event if the media coverage would have been as lax as Wednesday, but being an MLS club would have made it slightly more appealing. The Cosmos have done a good job of integrating with the local community, but still are not looked at in the same light as an MLS club. And the coverage and fan reception reflect that. (Thats not to say Cosmos Fans are not as passionate and loyal as any other fan base.)

Fans lined up around barricades -- set up to allow both clubs players to walk back to the locker rooms with ease -- screaming for AC Milan Players to just take a quick picture or sign something. Only a handful wanted any attention from the Cosmos players leaving their own locker room.