New York Cosmos continue to spend as club’s return draws closer, but money won’t buy fans

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With the fall season of the North American Soccer League kicking off in early August, the New York Cosmos headed overseas on Thursday, arriving in London for a preseason camp. Matches against Leyton Orient on July 24 and Watford on July 27 loom as the club’s “Remember Us?” campaign nears its moment of truth.

After signing a group of players with something to prove — most of them having been overlooked for much of their professional careers — preparations for the Cosmos’ reboot are well under way. Without a salary cap standing in its way, New York has as much money as its directors are willing to spend to ensure the club’s return is a success.

So far, the Cosmos have signed Marcos Senna from Villarreal, hired former New York Red Bulls managing director Erik Stover as chief operating officer and secured Pelé as the club’s honorary president and Eric Cantona as the director of soccer. (What either of the latter two does in practice for the club will likely be minimal.)

[ Further reading: Believe it when you see it: New York Cosmos propose $400 milllion stadium ]

Every possible angle has been covered to ensure the Cosmos will receive positive press, including offering a shuttle between the nearest train station and Hofstra University, the club’s home, on game days. What remains to be seen is how the fan base and American soccer community at large will respond.

For now, branding is all the club has, along with its history as the most successful club in a league that it bankrupted in the 1970s and ’80s. Expect immense pressure to perform on its modest roster, which includes former U.S. international Danny Szetela, who hasn’t played since 2010, and Peri Marošević, who landed in the Croatian second division after a forgettable three-year MLS career.

[ Further reading: Three Good Questions for: Cosmos CEO Seamus O’Brien ]

The New York Cosmos experiment is not quite on the scale of David Beckham’s signing with the Los Angeles Galaxy, but it does suggest certain hubris about the club that has not existed in over 30 years, believing it can pick up the role of America’s sweetheart that it left behind.

The most expensive single-match tickets for a Cosmos game cost $95, nearly five times as expensive as some clubs’. That kind of valuation could leave the club scrambling if it fails to fill seats in its first half-season back from the dead.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls sit near the top of the Eastern Conference in Major League Soccer. Right now, the Cosmos have nothing on the club a division higher and with more momentum — both play outside of the city, but the Red Bulls have veritable star power on the field in Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill.

Could it change with a run of good early results for the Cosmos? Maybe, but it’s hard to see a lower-division team finding its name in lights in Times Square, no matter how many games it wins.


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New Zealand women footballers rebel against national coach

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Wellington, New Zealand (AP) Only weeks after New Zealand Football made headlines by signing a revolutionary equal pay deal with its female players, the organization is facing a mutiny by members of its women’s team against the national coach.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

New Zealand Football confirmed on Tuesday it had received a letter signed by a number of New Zealand players complaining about the methods and tactics employed by Austria-born coach Andreas Heraf.

The complaints follow the New Zealand team’s recent 3-1 loss at home to Japan. Heraf angered his players, and fans of the Football Ferns national team, by taking an entirely defensive game plan into the rare home international.

Heraf then further angered his players with comments defending his approach.

He said there was “a big difference in quality” between the New Zealand and Japanese players and that New Zealand “will never have that quality” to compete with top teams like Japan. He said the scoreline might have been 8-0 if New Zealand had not adopted a defensive approach.

One of New Zealand’s leading players, United States-based Abby Erceg, retired after playing 132 matches for New Zealand, citing Heraf’s approach in previous international matches.

She later told New Zealand media: “I couldn’t stand to wear that (national symbol) on my chest any more when his vision was to cower in a corner and not get beat by too much.”

New Zealand Football defended Heraf against the media and public criticism but admitted his comments were “strange” and “wrong” and did not accurately reflect his views. Heraf later apologized and said he had not expressed himself clearly.

But efforts to dampen the controversy have failed. New Zealand Football said in a statement it had “received a letter from the NZ Professional Footballers Association (NZPFA) last night with a number of complaints from the players of the Football Ferns.”

The mutiny comes only weeks after New Zealand gained international headlines for a deal which gives female pay parity with their male counterparts.

New Zealand Football signed the deal which provided female players with equal match payments, travel arrangements and prize money.

At the time, New Zealand women’s captain Ali Riley said the deal meant New Zealand would “be able to compete against the top teams, to be able to do well at a World Cup and the Olympics – this is what we needed.”

VIDEO: Colombia sees red, Japan takes early lead

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The first red card of the World Cup came just moments after fans took their seats in Saransk.

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After David Ospina blocked a breakaway opportunity from Yuya Osako in the third minute of the match, Japan star and former Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa fired the rebound on goal. But his shot was blocked by the arm of Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez, which earned him a straight red card from referee Damir Skomina and an early trip to the locker room.

Kagawa then stepped up to the spot and calmly sent Ospina the wrong way to give Japan the shock early lead.

Colombia will play the rest of the match with ten men and no James Rodriguez, who was named to the bench for this match as he recovers from a reported calf injury.

Rodriguez out of Colombia starting XI

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Taking a page out of Egypt’s book, Colombia will be without its talismanic playmaker for its first match, Tuesday morning against Japan.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Juan Fernando Quintero replaced James Rodriguez in Colombia’s starting Xi to take on Japan in Saransk as Colombia coach Jose Pekerman clearly hopes a few extra days of recovery for the injured Rodriguez will help him return to 100 percent fitness. Rodriguez is battling a reported calf injury.

Rodriguez scored six goals and had two assists in five games at the last World Cup in Brazil, helping guide Los Cafeteros to their first World Cup quarterfinals appearance.

World Cup’s only black coach says there should be more

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MOSCOW (AP) — The only black coach at this year’s World Cup says there is a need for more in soccer.

“In European countries, in major clubs, you see lots of African players. Now we need African coaches for our continent to go ahead,” Senegal’s Aliou Cisse said through a translator on Monday, a day ahead of his nation’s World Cup opener against Poland.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The percentage of black players at this year’s tournament and with clubs in the world’s top leagues is far higher.

Cisse was captain of Senegal when it reached the 2002 quarterfinals in the nation’s only previous World Cup appearance.

“I am the only black coach in this World Cup. That is true,” Cisse said. “But really these are debates that disturb me. I think that football is a universal sport and that the color of your skin is of very little importance.”

[ MORE: Harry Kane “buzzing” after two goals | Southgate encouraged ]

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cisse cited Florent Ibenge, the coach of Congo’s national team, as a sign of progress.

“I think we have a new generation that is working, that is doing its utmost, and beyond being good players with a past of professional footballers,” Cisse said. “We are very good in our tactics, and we have the right to be part of the top international coaches.”

Africa’s best performance at the World Cup has been to reach the quarterfinals, accomplished by Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“I have the certainty that one day an African team, an African country, will win the World Cup,” Cisse said. “It’s a bit more complicated in our countries. We have realities that are not there in other continents, but I think that the African continent is full of qualities. We are on the way, and I’m sure that Senegal, Nigeria or other African countries will be able win, just like Brazil, Germany or other European countries.”

A lack of minority managers also has been documented at the club level. The Sports People’s Think Tank said in November there were just three minority managers among the 92 English professional clubs as of Sept. 1.