It wasn’t the 77,000 that used to pack Giants Stadium back in the 70s, but from the start of the match to the end Shuart Stadium felt carnival like. The icing on the cake was when Bruce Beck, the MC for the pregame ceremony, emphatically announced, “The iconic Cosmos are back in the NASL,” the words sent chills up the spines of soccer fans.
For Steve Kochrane, Saturday night was trip back to his youth. He attended his first New York Cosmos game when he was 11 years old. “I was just a foot away from Pele. It made my day,” he said of the experience.
Now, decades later he is back with his 11 year old son to watch the reborn club.
“It’s great to see that the Cosmos are back,” Kochrane said. “I’ve been waiting for them for a long time… When they’re like, ‘Who are the Cosmos?’ I’m like, ‘This was daddy’s soccer team back in the day.’ We have the Red Bulls now and the Cosmos are back.”
It was a similar story for Will Smith, who described his best memory of the Cosmos as watching on TV when the club won the 1980 Soccer Bowl. “I was 15 years old, life was great and here are the Cosmos,” he said.
But after thirty years had passed Smith didn’t foresee a return of the Cosmos, which made Saturday’s season opening game quite the special moment.
“It’s something that’s beyond your imagination,” he described. “. You think wouldn’t that be great if happened and you go no that’s impossible. To be able to come here and go yeah we’re going to see the New York Cosmos is just an unbelievable, indescribable feeling of joy. And something I’m glad to share with my daughter because I thought it was impossible.”
It wasn’t only the fans of the previous Cosmos team that made their way out to Hempstead for the Cosmos return.
The team saw a turn out of a large number of younger fans that weren’t around during the glory day of the team. Ryan Haffner, for example, never saw the New York Cosmos during the days of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Canali and others, but Haffner is a product of what those players did for American Soccer.
During the 70s and early 80s the Cosmos were the toast of New York and put American soccer on the forefront of sports fans in the United States and helped plant the seeds for what the sport is today.
“I’ve gone to quite a few Red Bulls games and I watch [English Premiere League] all the time,” Haffner said, characterizing himself as a Manchester United fan. “Watching soccer is big and [the Cosmos are] a local team, so it’s great to come out and watch a game now.”
And then there were fans like Eric Klein who love soccer, but didn’t really know who the Cosmos are or were. “I honestly didn’t even know they existed until yesterday,” he said.
“My friends told me about it. I love soccer; I’ve played soccer my whole life. I wanted to come down to the game,” he added.
It was a memorable night for any of the fans that showed up. The attendance of 11,929 broke the record for attendance of a professional soccer game on Long Island. They watched as Alessandro Noselli scored in the 90th minute to give New York the dramatic win over their former archrival, the Fort Lauderdale Strikes. And, even if it was for just a moment, had a taste of what it was like during the glory days of the New York Cosmos.
After the game team captain Carlos Mendes called the atmosphere “incredible.”
“You could feel the energy,” he said. “I think as players that definitely gives you that extra push. It was an incredible crowd and we want to thank all the fans.”
Cosmos legend Shep messing added, “I wish we had a crowd like this my first game for the Cosmos.”
The Cosmos will be on the road for two games before returning back to Shuart Stadium on August 24 for Champions Night versus the San Antonio Scorpions.
For more information on the team fans are encouraged to click on the link below:
The rest of the 1495 Sports Cosmos Opening Day Coverage can be seen below: