[NASL SOCCER BOWL 2013] The New York Cosmos are back at the Soccer Bowl. In their first season in the NASL, the new Cosmos ran away with the fall title to set up a date at Soccer Bowl 2013 against the Atlanta Silverbacks Saturday (TV: ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, 7:30 p.m. ET). For six things to know about the Cosmos.
Six things to know about Silverbacks
RUNAWAY WINNERS. The NASL's spring campaign went down to the last day with three teams with a shot at winning the title, but the fall championship was no contest. The Cosmos, who sat out the spring season, split their first three games, winning their opener in stoppage time, then tying and losing on the road, but since then they've gone unbeaten with eight wins and three ties in 11 games. They took the league lead on Matchday 7 and never looked back, winning by eight points over second-place Carolina.
GIO REWARDED WITH LONG-TERM DEAL.Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese is a New York soccer legend. The Venezuelan starred at LIU and the Long Island Rough Riders before joining the MetroStars, where he scored 41 goals in four seasons. He career later took him back to Venezuela and to teams in Italy, Wales and England. After his playing career ended, he went into youth coaching, first with Red Bulls, then Met Oval after being controversially dumped by the MLS. He was running the Cosmos academy program when he was hired as coach for the club's first NASL season. Savarese was rewarded for the Cosmos' success in their first season with a multi-year contract extension.
SENNA DELIVERS. The Cosmos of 2013 are not the Cosmos of old in that they are not a collection of big-name talent. Many of the players are journeymen or locals who've jumped at the chance to play pro ball or continue their careers. Their one international star of note is former Spanish national team midfielder Marcos Senna, and he has delivered. The 37-year-old Senna earned NASL Best XI honors -- the lone Cosmos player selected -- with five goals and two assists in the fall campaign. More important, his leadership and experience have been invaluable on the first-year team. After Soccer Bowl, the Cosmos will head to Spain where they will play Villarreal Wednesday in a testimonial game in Senna's honor.
LOCAL HEROES.Many of the Cosmos are local products: first signing Carlos Mendes, who grew up on local and played eight years in MLS, former U-17 and U-20 star Danny Szetela, from across the Hudson River in Clifton, N.J., and back after a knee injury appeared to have ended his career, and Uruguayan-born Sebastian Guenzatti, who grew up in Queens.
SOCCER BOWL KINGS. The old Cosmos played in six NASL finals and won five of them. They won in 1972, 1977 with Pele 1978, 1980 and 1982. The only time they lost was in 1981 when they fell to the Chicago Sting in a shootout (the old NASL shootout, where shooters started at the 35-yard line). The Sting was the only other team to win more than one NASL title, capturing the 1984 championship that had been turned into the best of a three-game series.
BACK HOME AT HOFSTRA.The Cosmos played their first season on Long Island at Hofstra University -- like the old Cosmos did in 1972 and 1973. They drew a sell-out crowd for their opener -- 11,929 fans -- but never topped 7,000 fans after that. Their average of 6,859 fans a game still led the NASL in attendance, ahead of the San Antonio Scorpions (6,859).