The New York Cosmos, currently lying in the bottom half of the NASL, take on league leaders Jacksonville Armada this Saturday, 22nd April, 7pm at MCU Park, Coney Island.
At first glance, that sentence may seem a little alarming. But, this is the weird and wonderful world of the NASL 2017 Spring season. We are just three rounds of games into a league featuring only 8 teams. So with a handsome victory, the NYC Originals can leapfrog the early leaders into the top half. And if results go their way, we could even see the Cosmos finish the weekend top of the table.
But let’s not get carried away just yet...
While a vengeful victory in Miami two weeks ago settled nerves and finally got some goals on the board, the Cosmos have started slowly and have been rudderless in attack. The big difference so far this season has been goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, who is almost-literally single handedly responsible for the Cosmos having any points at all. Gio Savarese even went as far as tipping the stopper for a national team call up.
But the optimist in me is keen to remember that this squad is still barely a month old, with a number of new (and old) signings still working towards full fitness. Captain Carlos Mendes has been cleared as fit to play this week, but Gio will wait to make the call on his inclusion. And though Eugene Starikov did indeed play a full 90 minutes for the first time last week, we’re told he’s still working towards 100% fitness. It has appeared as if Gio has still been experimenting in the first few games of the season, so perhaps he’ll find the right formula on Saturday.
But for me the worry remains the lack of a potent goalscoring threat. The starting eleven in the previous two matches has been lacking a real out-and-out striker and it doesn’t appear so far that either Amauri or Irvin Herrera will provide the kind of talismanic presence that the team needs.
This Saturday’s game is billed as ‘Greek Heritage Night’, with a section of the ground being dubbed the ‘Greek Area’. Club historian David Kilpatrick explores the club’s links to the Greek disapora here. Meanwhile the club also announced that a portion of ticket sales will go towards Life’s WORC and Autism Speaks as part of the club’s ‘Autism Awareness’ night. And finally, the first 2000 fans will receive a free Pele t-shirt as one of four t-shirt giveaways throughout the season.
It will be interesting to see how this week’s attendance compares to opening night at MCU three weeks ago. There is always the expectation of a drop-off in attendance after the home opener. But as the weather warms, and the team gels, hopefully the crowds continue to come out to Coney Island.