The Cosmos held an indoor training session and a news conference to announce their latest signing on Tuesday at Columbia University.
That might sound rather mundane, but since they were all but buried two months ago, it can be considered nothing short of a miracle the Cosmos are alive and kicking and planning to defend their North American Soccer League title.
“Honestly, never would I have imagined this,” captain Carlos Mendes said. “I don’t think anybody did. Luckily Mr. Commisso saved the team.”
Coach Giovanni Savarese has signed 13 players from last year, on Tuesday adding Italian striker Amauri. The 36-year-old has played for a number of Serie A teams, including Juventus, Palermo, Parma and Fiorentina.
Mendes and his teammates had an opportunity on Tuesday to thank Rocco B. Commisso, the cable TV magnate, for the team’s resurrection. Commisso paid off debts and bankrolled this season’s plans, which includes a week-long trip to the Dominican Republic starting Sunday.
As a former Columbia player and the soccer programs’ benefactor, Commisso was at home meeting the media for the first time. He made his points, lacing serious comments with humor.
He revealed he hammered out the deal to purchase a majority share of the team in a day, admitting he did not realize what had to be done and what still has to be accomplished before the Cosmos’ season-opener in Puerto Rico March 25. The home opener vs. Miami at MCU Park in Brooklyn is April 1.
“There’s a lot of hard work behind the scenes to make sure the organization not only survives, but thrives,” he said.
The team’s solvency is not a problem, but the league’s future is another matter. The NASL was granted provisional Division 2 status. If it can’t expand from eight to 12 teams in 2018, that could be in jeopardy.
“I don’t want to say I have a lot of money to waste, but I do,” Commisso said. “The Cosmos are OK, but I don’t control the other teams.”
Commisso, who also has plans to televise games, wants attendance to rise in its new Brooklyn digs from the 3,500 average at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.
Noting that the metropolitan area’s population was 20 million, he said “we don’t need all of them to make the team successful.”
He also quipped: “People tell me, ‘Rocco, you had a disco in the seventies in the middle of the Bronx. Now you should be able to sell tickets to Cosmos games.’”
And his plans are to assemble a team people will want to watch. “We’re going to have a competitive team,” Commisso said.