kkoczwara

Freelance journalist and member of the North American Soccer Reporters living in Worcester, Mass. Work has been featured on The Classical, NESN.com, MLSsoccer.com, American Soccer Now and other places.

Cosmos reboot begins with a win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers

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Alessandro Noselli’s second-half goal gave the newest incarnation of the New York Cosmos its first official win as the Cosmo’s opened its North American Soccer League (NASL) season with a 2-1 win over the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers.

While it wasn’t a sellout of the  Meadowlands, like the Cosmos did back in its heyday, an impressive 11,929 people showed up to Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University Saturday night for the Cosmos’ season opener and the first meeting between the New York and Ft. Lauderdale since  May 8, 1983, when the Cosmos beat the Strikers a 3-2 win at Giants Stadium.

With legends Pele, Carlos Alberto, and the late Giorgio Chinaglia, who was represented by his son George, honored before the game, it was a star-studded opening match. And, although, the crowds didn’t come in droves, the original legends of American soccer would have been proud with the turnout for a team without its own stadium, yet, and that has been built from the ashes in just a few years.

The impressive early attendance numbers for the Cosmos show there is interest and a fan base that wants to see the team succeed already. And if the team can keep its attendance numbers up and show that it can put a quality product on the field, it will only be time before the Cosmos compete against NYFC and the New York Red Bulls for the king of New York crown in Major League Soccer. Hopefully, it happens sooner rather than later.

First, though, the Cosmos need to establish itself as a viable franchise before MLS Commissioner Don Garber sanctions such a move.

For now, the hope is that Cosmos’ Chairman Seamus O’Brien and Garber continue to stay in constant contact, that the Cosmos can continue to drum up interest from fans in and around New York with its iconic global brand, and keep bringing soccer legends to play in American, which the team recently did by signing Villarreal midfielder Marco Senna. Because really, there is no place like the Cosmos for a players like Senna to play out the rest of their careers. It’s only fitting the Euro 2008 winner closes out the final chapter in his career in New York with the team that other greats have flocked to American to play for.

Soccer in American needs the Cosmos not only for the team’s mythology and history, but also for its international pull, which would be another welcomed boost to MLS’s marketing campaign as one of the best professional leagues in the world.

Mike Magee game-winning goal against the Union puts him in the lead for MLS Golden Boot

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Mike Magee just can’t be stopped right now, and neither can the Chicago Fire.

Magee’s goal in the 75th minute — his 14th of the season — broke the 1-1 deadlock between the Fire (8-9-4, 28 pts.) and the Philadelphia Union (9-7–7, 34 pts.) proved to be the game-winner for Chicago, which is quickly clawing its way back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. the goal was Magee’s fifth game-winner of the year, tying him with Union forward Jack McInerney for the league-lead.

Magee’s torrid scoring pace has seen him eight goals in 10 games since joining the Fire from the Los Angeles Galaxy in the trade that sent Robbie Rogers in the other direction. Magee has been a revelation for the Fire and looks like the missing piece to a Chicago team that showed so much promise at the end of the 2012 season, but sputtered at the beginning of the season. But since the trading for Magee on May 24 , the Fire are 6-2-2 and back in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Now, can Magee keep up this goalscoring pace? Probably not. He’s scoring almost a goal-a-game, which is just otherworldly for any player. But Chicago doesn’t need him to because eventually someone else will begin to pick-up the pieces and finish the chances that will come when teams begin to overplay or focus on slowing down Magee, who is just as adapt at setting up goals as he is finishing them.

Either way, right now, Magee looks to be Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Player, even if he doesn’t win the Golden Boot. He’s connected all the dots in Chicago and brought the team back from the doldrums and into the fight for an MLS Cup playoff spot with his energetic and creative play.

D.C. United snap winless streak with win over Montreal thanks to a crop of newly acquired players

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Ben Olsen and D.C. United (3-15-4, 13 pts.) were desperately searching for goals coming into Saturday night’s game against the Montreal Impact 10-6-5, 35 pts.). D.C. had only scored more than one goal once this season coming the game, but, thankfully for Olsen, his youngsters were able to provide not only goals but also a much-needed, 3-1, win at RFK Stadium.

The win snapped a five-game winless streak for D.C. in league play and was its first win since a 1-0 win over San Jose on June 22. It was also an important win for  a United team looking to build for next season because the playoffs have long been out of reach.

Goals from newcomers Luis Silva (19th minute), Conor Doyle (68th minute) and Jared Jeffrey’s stoppage time nullified Jeb Brovsky’s goal for Montreal in the 52nd minute.

Silva, who has been a revelation since joining D.C. from Toronto FC, opened the scoring to continue his goal-per-game ratio since the move. With three goals in three game, Silva has already become the team’s leading goalscorer. His movement, pace and ability on the ball made him a constant threat to score. And being paired with a now healthy Dwayne De Rosario doesn’t hurt either.

De Rosario made it be known that, when healthy, he can and will make this D.C. team tougher to stop in the final months of the season, even if the playoffs are out of reach, with his ability to control tempo with his passing but also create chances for himself and his teammates out of nothing with his ability to find space and outsmart defenders.

Doyle, who came on for De Rosario in the second half, proved to be just as much of a handful for the Impact backline  as De Rosario. The former Derby County player showed confidence and goal-scoring know-how with his goal in the 68th minute, a first-time flick of a cross with the outside of his foot after making a near-post run. It was an intelligent run followed by a near-perfect finish that left Montreal defenders flat-footed.

Doyle then set-up the final goal from Jeffrey on the break. After committing everyone forward Montreal was caught out and Doyle and Jeffrey were free to break out, finding themselves in a two-on-one with Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins. Doyle waited for Perkins to commit and then slotted the pass to Jeffrey to finish the chance in an empty net.

If Doyle can maintain the kind of form he was in when he came on in the second half, especially from the start in 2014, D.C. could have a potent, young attacking line squad with Doyle, Silva and Nick DeLeon, if he can return to last season’s form, at its disposal. All three players are good on the ball, have pace, aren’t afraid to take on defenders and can score plenty of goals.

Montreal, on the other hand, wasted an opportunity to stay tied for first in the Eastern Conference with the New York Red Bulls, who beat Sporting Kansas City earlier in the night, with two games in hand if the Impact could have taken three points from its visit to RFK.Instead, Montreal was unable to cope with United’s quick counter-attacks down the flanks and the impressive midfield pairing of Jeffrey, who was acquired on July 3 from the German club Mainz , and Perry Kitchen.

Kitchen and Jeffries not only shielded the D.C. defense, which has been under immense amounts of pressure at times this season, but they also sprayed the ball around the field and shifted United’s point of attack quickly and often, which made it hard for Montreal to link play  through the middle of the field and slowdown D.C.’s wingers on counterattacks.

With D.C. out of the playoff race, Olsen has begun preparing for next season by giving his youngsters the opportunity to shine. If those players can grow and fight through the battles this year, D.C. could be a team on the rise again next year.

Arsene Wenger confident in Arsenal’s squad going into upcoming season despite lack of transfer activity

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Despite a lack of movement and a few failed attempts at bringing in another forward, Arsene Wenger remains confident that his squad can compete to win the Premier League this season.

After a 2-2 draw with Napoli, Wenger told reporters at the press conference he thinks Arsenal, which finished fourth last season, can win the league with its current roster.

“I am confident,” said Wenger. “Why should I sit here and say to you that we can absolutely not win the title with the players we have?”

Wenger had to be pleased with his side after the Gunners fought back and earned a draw with two late goals from forward Olivier Giroud and defender Laurent Koscielny in the final 20 minutes of the game. The game had to feel good for Arsenal because the draw came against the team that swooped in and signed Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid after Arsenal had reportedly agreed to terms with the player but got bogged down in negotiations with Madrid.

Wenger also confirmed that Arsenal had put in a bid for Liverpool forward Luis Suarez but nothing has advanced any further.

“I never said we have made a bid to Liverpool, now I can tell you we have made one, so at least that is some information,” said Wenger. “All the rest, I would like to keep to us. If we progress in that situation, we will inform you. At the moment, that is where we are.”

Arsenal is in need of another game-changing player if it hopes to compete with Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United for the league championship. And with Tottenham and Liverpool strengthening their squads this offseason, fourth place isn’t even guaranteed for the Gunners this season. Getting Suarez would give Wenger’s squad the kind of player he has been searching for to change not only the squad’s mentality and add a win at all costs attitude, but also its ability to score goals when a game doesn’t seem to be going the team’s way.

Besides Suarez, Arsenal haven’t been linked with too many players coming into the side, but Wenger confirmed on Saturday that Gervinho could be leaving the Emirates soon with negotiations close to being completed. Marouane Chamakh could also be on his way out in the next 48 hours on a permanent transfer. Sadly for Arsenal fans, the manager also said no one was interested in Nicklas Bendtner at this time.

“Gervinho we are at the moment close to an agreement with a club where he should go,” said Wenger. “Bendtner we are nowhere. At the moment he is completely here. Chamakh might go somewhere, it will be decided in the next 48 hours. [They are] permanent moves.”

With Andrey Arshavin, possibly Gervinho and Chamakh moving, Arsenal will have plenty of spots to bring in other attacking options. While the three players were brought in with high expectations, none really lived up the heights that were set for them. Wenger needs to do better in his next recruitment of attacking players. If Suarez is captured it would be a good start and be a coup for Arsenal — taking a rivals top-player as well as adding a 20-plus goalscorer to the side.

If Suarez doesn’t work out, Wenger needs a plan B because the teams around Arsenal save Manchester United have been beefing up and improving their squads. If Arsenal miss out on the Champions League next year, Wenger’s inability to bring in a proven goalscorer will certainly be a reason why.

Steven Gerrard turned down Bayern Munich last summer; urges Suarez to stay

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Steven Gerrard turned down a chance to join Bayern Munich last summer, deciding to stay at Liverpool, the only club he’s ever known, until the end of his career. Now the Red’s captain is hoping his loyalty to Liverpool will rub off on Luis Suarez.

The Liverpool midfielder decided to stay at the Merseyside club and become the club’s longest-serving captain instead of moving to Germany’s wealthiest and biggest club, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Yes, Gerrard,  turned down a chance to play for the team that went on to not only win its domestic league title and domestic cup, but also went on to dominate last year’s Champions League in favor of sticking around for another rebuilding season under another new manager. That’s loyalty.

Now Gerrard is trying to pass on some of his loyalty to reportedly want-a-way forward Luis Suarez, who he believes should stick around the confines of Anfield for at least one more season or until Real Madrid or Barcelona come calling.

“I had a chance to leave last year. It was for a club in the Champions League, not a Premier League club, but I wasn’t tempted. I’ve been through that before,” Gerrard told The Liverpool Echo.

“My message for Luis is that he will get many more chances to move on. I just think a player of his calibre should wait for the big ones to come,” Gerrard continued. “He deserves to maybe play in one of the best teams in world football in Barcelona and Real Madrid, and they will come calling for him again.”

Bayern Munich isn’t only successful, it’s also the wealthiest club in the German Bundesliga, and Gerrard would have taken home a nice payday if he had decided that he wasn’t ready to go through another season without Champions League action or another restart with a new manager at Liverpool. And people might not have hated him for it. This wasn’t a proposed move to Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal of course. This was a chance for Gerrard to add more trophies to his name while not completely alienating himself from his hometown fans, and, instead, he decided to stick with Liverpool and fight to bring the club back to where it had been in the past, which was refreshing.

Gerrard has lifted numerous trophies for Liverpool but never been able to hold the league title. Since the Reds finished second in 2009, Liverpool has drifted further and further from contention, but that didn’t stop Gerrard from rejecting Bayern Munich and sticking around for another go, which is admirable in an era where players so often leave a team for greener pastures when times get tough.

It’s rare in modern sports that a player plays for just a single team in their career. The likes of  Jamie Carragher, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs  and Gerrard just don’t come around that often anymore. They’re a dying breed of one-club players. But it’s even rarer that these kinds of athletes stick to a team and feel so heavily connected to a club that they turn down a chance to move to arguably one of the best teams in the world before the season starts.

Now the Liverpool captain can only hope Suarez shows one once of the same kind of loyalty to Liverpool because without the Uruguayan forward, Gerrard’s fight to bring Liverpool back to the Champions League before he retires seems almost impossible.