The New York Cosmos couldn’t have asked for a better script for the franchise’s first match in 29 years. The Cosmos got a dramatic goal by forward Alessandro Noselli in extra time to defeat the visiting Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2-1.
An enthusiastic sellout crowd of 11,929 cheered throughout the game as the most famous soccer franchise in U.S. history returned to the field.
The day was a perfect blend of past and present. On hand were stars of the past including the immortal Pele, Carlos Alberto, Shep Messing and the family of deceased great Georgio Chinaglia.
Then, coach Giovanni Savarese’s club took the field for the first time against their old NASL rivals, the Strikers.
The first half was evenly played, although the Cosmos had the better of the scoring chances in the first 30 minutes. The Cosmos looked well prepared and several chances in the early going including one by Joseph Nane in the 13th minute. It was set up by a free kick by Ayoze that was loose in front of the Fort Lauderdale net but a defender was able to kick the ball out of danger before Nane could finish.
Fort Lauderdale had several chances later in the first half, but New York goalie Kyle Reynish was equal to the task.
New York broke the ice and took a 1-0 lead in the 44th minute of the game when Peri Marosevic scored the first goal in the history of the new Cosmos. He tapped the ball in past Fort Lauderdale goalie Richard Sanchez. The goal was set up by headers by Nane and Hunter Gorskie shortly after a corner kick by Ayoze. The capacity crowd was excited as the Cosmos held a 1-0 lead at the half.
The tone of the game changed a bit as the second half opened, as the Strikers were more aggressive and opened up their game to get more scoring chances.
It paid off in the 73rd minute when Walter Restrepo beat Reynish to the ball in the box and headed it into the vacated goal to tie the match at 1-1.
It looked like the match was headed to a draw, before Noselli’s dramatic final goal won the game for the Cosmos in stoppage time. A Strikers defender attempted to head the ball back to his goalie but Noselli beat Sanchez to the loose ball and headed it home. Noselli had just entered the game in the 62nd minute, replacing Stefan Dimitrov.
“From the very beginning they made it hard for us but our team started moving the ball more quickly and that was the key for us in the second half,” Savarese said.
Defender Carlos Mendes added, “To get the three points today was very important. We have to continue to work. You could feel the energy and the atmosphere in the stadium and it was great to be a part of it.”
After the match, Alberto and Messing addressed the media and warned not to have expectations for the franchise get too high, too soon while at the same time promising long-term success for the franchise.
“We are thrilled with the return of the Cosmos and very soon we will have a team similar to what we had before,” Alberto said through a translator.
Messing added, “We want this team to be very proud of our history, but we don’t want them to be burdened by our legacy. We want them to create their own identity and I think we saw the first step in that tonight.”
The new Cosmos certainly got their reboot off to a very successful start. This was an exciting new beginning for an historic franchise.
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