What a magical way to start off the season. The weather was just right. A perfect night. 3750 tickets scanned at the gate. People were streaming in all the way through to the 28th minute.
It's fair to say that there was under-staffing at the gate. Stringent security (no liquids or food from outside - not even water) contributed to the time it took to make it in. Lots of people reached the front of the line only to be told they had to get out so they could return items to their vehicles. Hopefully, you had a vehicle. Some signs clearly stating the outside consumables policy along the path to the single entry point would have helped.
But that's just some constructive commentary that does not get in the way of truly appreciating what we saw Saturday evening.
The number of fans that came out to support their Cosmos for the home opener truly left me awestruck. Nothing could be more stark than comparing this match to 2018's 'forgotten year' season opener. Progress from this past year's work has been nothing short of sensational.
We all want to be back at MCU, or at a home of our own. Until we get there, Mitchel Athletic Complex is to be our fortress in 2019. Parking is ample; almost three thousand parking spots surround the stands. The tailgate party was friendly and welcoming.
Of the field itself, it does the job. Concessions run by Nassau County are comparable to that of Hofstra's. Hot dogs, hot chocolate and the like, with one important exception: they have beer. A bit pricey at $8, but better to have the option than not. Water is a reasonable $2/bottle. I mention this as security was VERY strict about outside food and drink. Perhaps this will change over the course of the season, but for the time being you should expect a significant quarantine. An ice cream truck was within gate control, rounding out options.
The Five Points were in FINE form. The work they put into their tifo and song said the story that must be told this season - LEGACY LOYALTY COSMOS. La Banda played wonderfully, and all the other supporters sang non-stop. Cosmos Academy kids were well represented in the supporters section as well.
The Five Points knew their role was important. After a year of uncertainty and little communication, the message on the first day had to be that the Cosmos were here and not going to be quiet about it. The section supports the squad, but they also remind returning fans what this game and this club are all about. Smiling fans beamed as they filed past the section. It was a sight to see.
By all measures, it was a return to form. Captain Danny Szetela made a point several times since the match to say how elated he was at the show of faith and energy. Charlie Ledula, one of the night's goalscorers, came over to the section and told supporters, 'We do this for you!'
Especially gratifying to this fan was seeing so many fans with Cosmos gear held onto over the past five years. Almost half of those attending had something; it was really quite remarkable. That they had held onto and made a point to wear it this past Saturday validated that Cosmos Country isn't just a slogan. This opener was a testament to the enduring value of the Cosmos name. I know there are supporters of other clubs and teams out there that react with exasperation at the mere mention of the Cosmos and their supporters. Love or hate what the badge stands for, there is no denying this: for as long as there's a squad to take to a field, the club culture's ambition will drive them to be the very best it can be.
The match had a crackle to it. Others will do a far better job covering the actual game, but to tide you over; Cosmos Academy product Aaron Denis put us up one in the 17th minute, and Ledula, in his first match, his first MINUTE on the pitch, doubled our lead in the 77th.
Several near attempts by Espinal and Bardic had things rolling. We essentially dominated the full 90, though NYAC had a few moments where they looked good defensively, and also one near-goal.
At the end, most of the squad came over to thank and chat with the Five Points, and other fans. One class touch winding down the night came from our Captain, Danny Szetela. He reached out his arms to the section and then kissed his Five Points captain armband, in thanks. We love you, Danny! We do!
Our Cosmos Starting XI (armband depicted below) were:
Missing in Action report: Center back Garrett Halfhill was not in the rotation for this match, recovering from a significant wrist injury. He is expected to be out for several weeks. Defender Kevin Venegas suffered a leg muscle injury, with no details as to when to expect him back. Midfielder Junior Borgas was also not available for selection, as he is out on a two-game suspension handed down to him from the El Saldadorean soccer federation. Details as to why are not available at the time of writing, but this likely means Borgas will also not be available for the May 4th away match against Kingston's Stockade FC.
Final note: The club posted a wonderful picture of the stands, atop this article. It captures a lot of what made Saturday so amazing. Appreciate or resent his approach to the cause of bringing promotion and relegation to US soccer, Ted Westervelt noticed something in the picture the Cosmos circulated from tonight. Appreciate or resent his approach to the cause of bringing promotion and relegation to US soccer, he shared a crop that speaks to a quieter and more hopeful part of the larger story of April 27th; our hopes for the future.