When the 2015 New York Cosmos season came to a close with a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Fury, the fanbase knew that they were saying goodbye to the clubs two biggest names. As it played out, Marcos Senna and Raul weren't the only Cosmos players that wound up leaving the club over the winter, with four more key attackers also departing.
Haji Wright's departure didn't come as a surprise to many, as most understood that the US Youth International had joined the Cosmos last March in order to facilitate an eventual move to Europe. Indeed, Wright will be joining Schalke, where he'll look to refine his skillset to compliment his considerable physical gifts. Gaston Cellerino, who scored a vital hat trick in his final match with the club, wound up joining Club Bolivar over the offseason, which combined with the departure of Wright and Raul, left the Cosmos with just Lucky Mkosana as a returning option at striker.
The club also lost a notable pair on the wings, with heavily used loanee Leo Fernandes being returned to the Philadelphia Union, where he'll be joined by Walter Restrepo, who has stood out with every North American Soccer League club that he has played for. That pair combined to make a whopping 64 appearances for the NASL champions last season, leaving another massive hole to be filled.
For most of the early months of the offseason, it was assumed that Georgios Samaras, who had been in New York training with the Cosmos for months, would be one of the signings. In the end, however, the Cosmos opted to pass on the Greece international, due to concerns over his long-term health. Instead, Savarese opted for a pair of very different forwards to lead the New York attack, signing MLS veteran Jairo Arrieta and Bolivia international Yasmani Duk.
With Duk and Arrieta on board, the Cosmos situation up top looks very different than it did a year ago. Instead of an aging forward with tremendous skill, but questionable mobility, a traditional, powerhouse number nine, and a gifted but raw teenager, the club will have two new options with far more balanced skillsets, one of whom is in the prime of his career. That balance should make it far more difficult for opposing center backs to mark Cosmos' strikers out of the game, and make the attack less predictable by providing more versatility.
Service to the striker will still be critical, however, as Duk and Arrieta's ability to exploit space won't count for much if they aren't regularly found with the ball. Savarese and the coaching staff did some great work to make sure this shouldn't be an issue, using three more international roster slots on attacking midfield players. New additions Yohandry Orozco, Juan Arango, and Niko Kranjcar will all be regular starters for the defending champions, and if they develop some chemistry early on, could make the attack one of the best we've ever seen from a club in the United States.
Arango's addition will be a key in replacing Marcos Senna, as the 35-year old will likely take over as the club's set piece specialist, and should be one of the best in North America. His experience and vision will be crucial from open play, as well, as he's certainly not as fast as he once was, but should still have the ability to pick out his teammates in space. That skill will be extremely valuable with the striking trio the club currently have.
Kranjcar is a known commodity that's only contracted for the spring season, and could potentially be returning to Europe in the summer if he proves to be fully fit. That said, if healthy, he's still close enough to his prime that he would be one of the elite players in North America during that time, offering a high level of skill and tactical versatility far beyond most NASL or MLS players' ability to cope with.
Orozco is the wild card of the bunch, as a diminutive player that's still yet to reach the prime years of his career. He's been off the radar for the past few seasons, having returned to his native Venezuela (with a short spell in the Middle East), but already has high level experience in both Europe and internationally at a very young age. How he fares in the NASL will be interesting to watch, as he's the sort of talent that could struggle to adapt, but just as easily, could take the league by storm and run away with Player of the Year honors. Orozco's adaptation will be one of the stories to watch this spring, for certain.
That trio will be joined by returning players such as Sebastian Guenzatti, Andres Flores, and Ruben Bover, all of whom would feature heavily for basically every other team in the league. It's an unbelievably deep and talented unit, which should be the Cosmos biggest strength as long as they find some chemistry early on.
While the slow start to the offseason had me fairly worried for much of the winter, in the end, I'm very optimistic about the Cosmos' attack in 2016. Since the reboot, the club have often found themselves struggling to create chances despite dominating possession, and the new additions should really help Savarese's 'build from the back' tactics flourish. In addition, the depth this season looks better than it has ever been before, which might not be a big factor during the early portion of the Spring Season, but should be vital as the summer and fall bring fixture congestion when the matches could become more important.