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Cosmos prepare to defend NASL crown

Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese looks on during

Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese looks on during the game against the Minnesota United at James M. Shuart Stadium. (Sept. 14, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty

The Cosmos' North American Soccer League rivals should be relieved they haven't added a player of the stature of former Spanish international midfielder Marcos Senna -- at least not yet.

But they should not be pleased that the Soccer Bowl champions addressed their No. 1 weakness -- at forward, adding some scoring punch.

"We feel very confident in our team," coach Giovanni Savarese said Friday. "We feel that we're stronger. We've added some quality players."

They would be Norwegian striker Mads Stokkelien and Dutch native Hans Denissen, an NASL Best XI performer with the San Antonio Scorpions last season when he scored 12 goals.

The defending champion Cosmos open their season April 13 against the Atlanta Silverbacks at Hofstra University at 5 p.m.

If the Cosmos want to repeat as champions and further enhance their status by making an impact against Major League Soccer teams in the U.S. Open Cup, they're going to need many healthy bodies and players performing at high levels.

The Open Cup includes amateur and pro teams. The Cosmos qualified by winning the NASL crown. They'll have to play an amateur or lower pro side before they take on an MLS club.

"It is very important for us to show our best in the Open Cup," Savarese said. "It would be great to have the opportunity to measure ourselves with [MLS] and hopefully . . . why not? . . . make it all the way."

Senna, a key member of Spain's Euro 2008 champions, would love to earn another winners' medal or two.

"After the first [NASL] championship it's been amazing," Senna said. "That's the plan, to focus, and make it happen and stay on the same level and [be] even better."

While the Cosmos have some lofty goals, the rest of the NASL will target them because of their own amazing history.

"Last year we hadn't played a game and we already had a target on our back," defender Hunter Freeman said. "We are the champions. We're going to get every team's best shot and just continue to play our game."

New York Sports