NY Cosmos are NASL Champions For the Second Time in Three Years as Marcos Senna & Raúl End Their Careers
Guest Blog by Stanislao Pugliese (@StanPugliese65):
The atmosphere at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium was electric as we filed in for the championship final between the NY Cosmos and the Ottawa Fury. I had just walked across Hempstead Turnpike from an earlier game in which the Hofstra Men’s soccer team defeated the University of Delaware 2-0 for the Colonial Athletic Association championship (goals from Nino Alfonso and Joseph Holland; another clean sheet for GK Patrick Pray.) The Borough Boys were in full voice, confident that the evening would turn their way.
Before the opening whistle, there was a moment of silence for the terrorist attacks in Paris. After the Canadian and American anthems, the capacity crowd of 10,166 (a record for a postseason NASL modern-era game) settled in, expecting victory and a championship.
All eyes were on retiring Spanish greats Marcos Senna and Raúl. They had announced that this would be their final game in long and distinguished careers. Instead, the hero of the evening turned out to be Argentinian striker GastónCellerino, with a hat trick that gave the Cosmos their seventh championship, their second in three years.
Cellerino opened the scoring in the eighth minute and the Cosmos seemed in control of the match. Ottawa only occasionally threatened Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer. But the Cosmos couldn’t easily find a second goal to seal the victory. The first half ended 1-0. The Canadians’ fate seemed sealed in the 68th minute when Fury player Mason Trafford was issues a straight red for a nasty two-footed stomp on Sebastián Guenzatti. But, as often happens in these situations, the Cosmos let their guard down for a moment and Fury striker Tom Heinemann broke through and scored an equalizer that stunned the crowd into silence. But the Cosmos responded in fine fashion. Just two minutes later Walter Restrepo, who had caused problems for Ottawa all night, lofted a perfect cross over Fury goalkeeper Romuald Peiser that found Cellerino for a tap in. Raúl sprung Cellerino for a breakaway in the 85th minute to seal the victory, even though Heinemann made everyone nervous with another goal well into stoppage time.
A moment in recognition of the masterful work of two artists on the field: Senna and Raúl: While Cellerino earned well-deserved accolades for his hat trick, knowledgeablefans will no doubt remember the extraordinary contributions of the two Spanish players. Senna has been a stabilizing force in midfield since joining the club in the summer of 2013, stopping potential attacking plays, calmly bringing balls down from the air with aplomb and an exquisite first touch, and starting the offense from the Cosmos’s half. He also scored the winning goal in Soccer Bowl 2013. Raúl’s vision of the field and ability to think three plays ahead sparked the Cosmos offense all season. His curving, outside-of-the-right-foot pass to Cellerino in the 85th minute was a marvel to behold. Such artistry and creativity being all-too-rare in football these days.
After the game, USSF president Sunil Gulati was introduced to more boos than applause for his perceived animosity against the Cosmos. NASL president Bill Peterson presented medals and the trophy. The ceremonyhad a touching and poignant moment as Ottawa goalkeeper Peiser (from Phalsbourg, France) and a teammate accepted their runners-up medals carrying large posters of the peace symbol with the Eiffel Tower—an act of solidarity with victims in Paris. The gesture was greeted with sympathetic applause from the crowd.
The Cosmos joyously danced at midfield, joined by their families (many young children), coach Gio Savarese and--in a welcome move—The 5 Points and the most dedicated Cosmos fans. Amid fireworks and confetti blasted into the clear night air with just a sliver of a crescent moon, the Cosmos and their fans could bask in another successful season.