The New York Cosmos look like have some rebuilding to do if they want to defend their 2015 NASL title. We knew that the club was going to have to replace its two biggest names, Marcos Senna and Raul, but it's looking more an more likely that they'll be completely overhauling their attacking unit.
On Monday, head coach Gio Savarese spoke with Empire of Soccer about Leo Fernandes, Walter Restrepo, and Gaston Cellerino. Unfortunately, the news on the Philadelphia Union loanee wasn't what New York fans probably wanted to hear:
"As everybody knows already, [Fernandes] was a player with Philadelphia Union. He was on loan with us. We definitely had conversations with Philadelphia in order to converse and figure out if there might any opportunities for us to bring him in, but at the moment everything seems to be heading in the direction of Leo going back to Philadelphia."
While it would obviously hurt to lose Fernandes following a tremendous 2015 season, it's nice to see that the player has done enough to impress the Union front office. He's certainly got the quality necessary to contribute to a MLS side, and while I'm sure he'd look better in green and white than he will in a Philly shirt, getting a chance to watch him test himself against higher quality competition will be something that I'll enjoy.
Fernandes' departure, however, will leave another hole in the Cosmos' attack, which looks as if it's going to have quite a few. In addition to losing Leo, the boys in green and white have already lost Raul to retirement, and look likely to lose Restrepo as well (though Savarese notes that he could still return). Additionally, hat-trick hero Cellerino is still in discussions with the club over a possible reunion, but it's entirely possible that the only key returnees from the club's front four will be Lucky Mkosana and Sebastian Guenzatti, neither of whom were full time starters in 2015.
Fortunately, Savarese will have some stability elsewhere in the squad, with most of the midfield, defense, and goalkeeping core returning to defend the title. While reinforcement will still be needed in other areas of the squad, the club should be in pretty good shape with little more than depth signings in defense, already look set in goal, and have a pretty solid midfield group at their disposal. He'll also have some valuable assets to work with to fill out the group, as all of Samuel Caceres, Cellerino, Raul, and Senna leaving would open up international roster spots, which presumably could be used to bring in higher ceiling players.
Regardless, the Cosmos have some work to do ahead of the 2016 season, and it will be interesting to see how they put together their attack to contend in a rapidly improving North American Soccer League.