For a good portion of this season, Alessandro Noselli has been more of a spectator than he expected.
So, when he got a rare opportunity to start for the Cosmos, the Italian striker could not have timed his first goal of year any better -- connecting in a 1-0 victory over the Ottawa Fury Sunday night in a match that honored a fellow countryman, the late Giorgio Chinaglia.
Noselli's goal, scored before 6,495 spectators at Shuart Stadium, was special in so many ways.
"It was a great day, particularly for me because Giorgio Chinaglia was one of the best players in the Cosmos' history," a smiling Noselli said. "Scoring on the same day as retiring his jersey was a great thing. It was a perfect game."
For the defending North American Soccer champions, the spring season was not as perfect as they had hoped. The Cosmos (6-2-1, 19 points) finished a disappointing second to Minnesota United (6-1-2, 20), which secured the crown with a 3-3 draw at Tampa Bay Saturday night. The spring champion earned a berth in the playoffs later this year, with the other three spots to be decided in the fall season.
"We have time to recover in the fall season to win the championship," Noselli said.
"We wanted the points," said goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, who made two saves, including a key stop in the 88th minute to register his sixth shutout of the season. "They all add up at the end of the year."
By now, Noselli was hoping to have added few goals to his total, but injuries and the play of other forwards forced him to the bench.
"I don't play a lot of games," he said. "This is soccer. Sometimes the other forwards play better and sometimes the coach has to do a difficult decision. When Gio calls for us to play, we are ready."
Noselli was ready in the sixth minute, firing home Mads Stokkelien's feed from the right side past goalkeeper Devala Gorrick.
"Perfect ball. Great pass," Noselli said. "I don't say nothing because it's perfect."
The match was barely over when the fans started chanting, "Beat the Red Bulls!" referring to Saturday's Lamar Hunt/Open Cup game at Shuart, which will be the first meeting between the two teams separated by the Hudson River.
"I feel there's more pressure on the Red Bulls," Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese said. "We have nothing to lose."