To be remembered as a Cosmos legend is to have your name among the stars. Simply putting on the same kit as Beckenbauer, Chinaglia, or Pele is an honor, but to be remembered on the same level as these huge players is something above and beyond. Two Cosmos players are hanging up their boots this year that will undoubtedly be remembered along with these greats: Marcos Senna and Raul Gonzalez. These two players have had a huge effect on the Cosmos on and off the field, and while their careers before and with the Cosmos may have been very different, there is no doubt that the two will go down in Cosmos history as legends, through and through.
First, let us look at Senna. The prolific midfielder has been with the Cosmos since 2013. Before then, he was a very important member of the Spanish side Villarreal, whom he helped bring back up to the first division in his final season. In 2008, he received the Don Balon, the award given to the best Spanish player of the season. His amazing form continued over the next two and a half seasons with New York, whenever his knees allowed him to remain on the pitch.
In the reboot season for the Cosmos, he lead the team in goals with six and made the NASL Best XI. He tallied four more goals in 2014 and put away three this year. But the biggest contribution to the team that Senna made was not only in goals, but in sheer experience. From his time in Spain, Senna learned how to lead a team. His valuable experience brought maturity and professionalism to the Cosmos, and he became a figurehead of the team. Senna rates among the greatest in Cosmos history not for flashy play or big ego, but because he became one of the most strong, grounded, and reliable members of the squad. He worked behind the scenes in a way; not as much the flashy goalscorer as the reliable and dynamic creator.
Raul Gonzalez Blanco had a different role to play for the Cosmos in his short but sweet tenure at the club. I don't need to say much about the Spanish legend's past, his resume speaks for its self. After debuting with Real Madrid at 17 years of age, he spent 16 years with Los Blancos, netting a club record 323 goals. He capped for the national team over 100 times, netting 44 goals for La Roja. He put away another 40 goals for Schalke 04 in Germany before signing for Al-Saad in 2012. All in all, he's won countless awards, including 5 Don Balon's, second in the 2001 Ballon d'Or and a place on FIFA's list of the top 100 living players. So when he came to the Cosmos, he not only became a huge influence on the field with 8 goals and three assists, but he became the face of the Cosmos while he was there.
Wherever the New York Cosmos brand went, he went to promote it. Scarves, t-shirts, jerseys; all were imprinted with Raul and sent away. His whole arrival and role in the club was very "Pele-esque" in the way that he took center stage in nearly every ad, media appearance, and visit. And it worked. Average attendance went up from the year before, attention for the Cosmos went up, and the team capitalized on every opportunity to bring the Cosmos brand to the world stage. In what could be considered to be the yin to Senna's yang, Raul became the flashy eye-catcher. He was the seat filler, and when those seats were filled, he put on a heck of a show.
These two players complemented each other perfectly. Senna fed the midfield, played a dynamic role, and controlled the flow of the game with experience, timing, and class. Raul, despite his 38 years, shot through the opposition, curled the ball to his teammates, and put away a few brilliant goals. Both of these players helped make the Cosmos into the team that they have become. The leadership, guidance, and skill helped lead the Cosmos find success in nearly all their ventures. East River Derby, Cuba, Spring and Combined Titles all leading up to a finish as Soccer Bowl Champions for the second time in three years and the seventh time in history.
There was no more fitting manner in which to send off this pair of legends.