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Cosmos' Noselli happy to follow in Chinaglia's footsteps

Alessandro Noselli of the Cosmos plays in a

Alessandro Noselli of the Cosmos plays in a preseason friendly against Leyton Orient. Credit: AP

Alessandro Noselli wants to make one thing perfectly clear.

He might be Italian. He might be a striker and he might have scored a historic goal for the Cosmos. But he says he is no Giorgio Chinaglia.

After Noselli connected for the dramatic winning goal in the Cosmos' 2-1 victory over Fort Lauderdale in stoppage time in their return to competitive soccer after a 29-year hiatus two weeks ago, there were, naturally, comparisons to the late Chinaglia, who used to score goals by the bushel in the team's glory days.

The 32-year-old Noselli understood the late striker's accomplishments helped the Cosmos win four North American Soccer League titles in the 1970s and '80s. Besides, Chinaglia was a big-time player in Italy's Serie A before he joined the team. Noselli spent most of his career in Serie B and C.

"First of all, I am humbled and honored to be connected to Chinaglia based on the level of his stature," he said Thursday. "Giorgio is different. He was stronger, he was a different-style player. Just from a players' standpoint, you can't compare because he was a different player. He was a strong physical player. I hope I make the same goals."

Noselli then smiled and laughed.

Yet, there is an intriguing twist that somehow links the two men, two events that occurred only hours apart almost 32 years ago.

On Aug. 31, 1980, Chinaglia scored a record seven goals for the Cosmos in their 8-1 playoff win over the Tulsa Roughnecks at Giants Stadium.

Only hours later, 7 p.m. local time in Italy (1 p.m. EST) -- Noselli was born in Udine.

Was it a coincidence or something supernatural at work at Hofstra Stadium?

"It's a fantastic thing for it to happen," Noselli said. "It might be a coincidence or maybe it was more something in the stars. Whatever it is, it brought me here and I was fortunate enough to score the winning goal in the opening game."

Beyond anything mystical, Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese has been impressed with Noselli's worth ethic. "He's smart, very smart around the box," he said. "He's simple. He makes things look very, very simple. That's his quality. He's somebody who is thinking, but also the guys around him help him to be in good position. He's also a good asset. He's experienced."

If you think Noselli is here on a holiday, then think again, though he wound up contacting Savarese through a mutual friend earlier this year when he was on one of his 11 city visits.

"My wife and I love New York," he said, "And the first time, 2005, I arrived in New York, I looked in New York and I said we will move here."

But Noselli stressed that he wasn't on vacation on this particular trip.

"Now it's work," he said.

Noselli does a reverse commute every day from the city -- he and his wife live on the east side of Manhattan -- to the team's training complex in Uniondale.

"It was always my dream to play soccer in New York," he said. "For me, it is a perfect situation because I'm living here and playing here. So it's fun on both ends."

Noselli hopes to continue the fun. And if he continues to find a way to fill the back of the net on a regular basis, the Cosmos could enjoy a banner return year and those comparisons with Chinaglia might not go away any time soon.

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