On Wednesday night Leyton Orient will face the New York Cosmos in their fifth pre-season friendly. Here we look at their American opponents:
The original New York Cosmos was founded in 1971 by Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun and Warner Communications president Steve Ross. With solid financial backing they became the strongest franchise in the North American Soccer League. The Cosmos defeated the St Louis Stars by two goals to one in their first ever match April 1971. In 1972 they won their first league title with another 2-1 win over the St Louis Stars.
The club attracted worldwide attention throughout the 1970s with a string of big name signings, exhibition matches and world tours. It was the arrival of Pele in 1975 that raised the profile of the club internationally, but more than that he increased the level of interest in the NASL as a whole. The decline of the league following his retirement highlights the impact he had on the sport in the USA.
Pele’s arrival was followed by the capture of Lazio favourite Giorgio Chinaglia at the beginning of the 1976 season. Unlike many other foreign NASL stars of the era, Chinaglia was not past his prime and he went on to become the NASL’s record scorer. 1974 FIFA World Cup-winning captain Franz Beckenbauer joined the Cosmos in 1977 along with Carlos Alberto. This all-star Cosmos side went on to win three out of the next four league championships and helped raise attendances above 40,000 during the late 1970’s.
The rise in popularity of the NASL was overseen by former Orient player Phil Woosnam, who worked as commissioner of the league between 1968 and 1982. Sadly Woosnam passed away last Friday. A minute’s silence will be held before tonight’s match.
However, the popularity of the NASL could not be sustained. The sport in America was already in decline during the early 1980’s and eventually the league folded in 1984.
Despite winning the league again in 1982 the demise of the NASL reflected the fortunes of the Cosmos. A change of ownership meant the club could no longer rely on the generous financial backing that it had once had. As a result big name players were sold and their performance in the league suffered.
The Cosmos’ final competitive season saw them compete in the 1984/85 Major Indoor Soccer League.
In August 2010 the club was reformed. They hoped to compete in the MLS but having been denied entry to the league, they will return to competitive action in the 2013 NASL. Earlier this year the Cosmos’ hopes of becoming a MLS franchise were dealt a blow with the announcement that New York City FC (founded by the New York Yankees and Manchester City) will become the MLS’ 20th franchise. Despite this, the Cosmos hope to become the third New York team in the MLS, citing London as an example of a city that is capable of supporting a number of top-level football teams.
Honorary President: Pele
After over 638 goals in 619 appearances for Santos, Pele signed for the New York Cosmos in 1975. Despite the fact that the three time World Cup winner was coming towards the end of his career, his presence raised the profile of the Cosmos and the North American Soccer league in general. Pele spent three seasons with the New York club scoring 64 goals in 107 games. In his last season Pele helped the Cosmos secure the NASL Championship.
The Brazilian’s glittering career culminated in an exhibition match between the Cosmos and Santos at Giants Stadium in October 1977. Pele played 45 minutes for each side. His last goal was in a Cosmos shirt from a direct freekick. The number 10 shirt was retired by the Cosmos at half time.
In August 2010 Pele became Honorary President of the revived New York Cosmos.
Vice-Chairman: Terry Byrne
Terry Byrne was part of the group led by former Tottenham vice-chairman Paul Kemsley that re-established the Cosmos in 2010.
However, in January 2009 Byrne had approached Barry Hearn with a view to take control of Leyton Orient. Talks were held between Hearn and Byrne but the takeover did not come to fruition.
International Ambassadors: Carlos Alberto
Legendary Brazilian defender and 1970 World Cup winner Carlos Alberto , signed for the Cosmos in 1977. Alberto had previously played alongside Pele at Santos and with the Brazilian national team. After Pele’s retirement, Alberto helped the Cosmos win their second consecutive title in 1978. After a short spell with California Surf he returned to the Cosmos and secured a third NASL Championship. He scored 6 goals in 100 games for the New York club.
He has been inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame
Head Coach: Giovanni Savarese
Giovanni Savarese joined the Cosmos in August 2010 as director of the youth academy. Last November he was handed his first role in management as it was announced that he would be head coach for the club’s return to competitive action in the North American Soccer League.
Savarese spent much of his playing career in America. However he is somewhat familiar with English football having had a loan spell with Swansea as well as a short stint at Millwall. In 2000 he joined Swansea and went on to make over 30 appearances for the club, scoring 11 goals.
He also won 30 caps for Venezuela. He scored ten goals for his country.
Director of Soccer: Eric Cantona
Almost 14 years since retiring at Manchester United Eric Cantona returned to football by taking the role of Director of Soccer at the New York Cosmos. In August 2011 Cantona returned to Old Trafford for Paul Scholes’ testimonial match. The Frenchman managed the Cosmos side that lost 6-0.
Following his retirement Cantona captained the French beach football team . He also pursued an acting career.
Deputy Director of soccer: Cobi Jones
Cobi Jones is currently the United States’ leading appearance maker with 164 caps for his country. He also featured in three World Cups. Following the 1994 World Cup Jones joined Coventry City. In his one season with the Sky Blues he made 24 appearances, scoring two goals. Following a short spell at Vasco da Gama, he joined LA Galaxy. He played over 300 games for the Galaxy over 11 years before retiring in 2007.
He then became assistant manager with LA Galaxy, before becoming director of soccer at the Cosmos in January 2011.
Star player: Marcos Senna
Marcos Senna is a new signing at the Shuart Stadium having joined from Villarreal. The 37 year-old played over 350 games for Villarreal over 11 years, including numerous Champions League appearances. During his time at El Madrigal, Villarreal reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2005/06 and in 2007/08 they finished as runners-up in La Liga.
Senna was born in Sao Paulo, but after being granted Spanish Citizenship in 2006 he made his debut for Spain against the Ivory Coast. Senna was named in the Spain squad for the 2006 World Cup. He made three appearances at the tournament.
He retained his place in the national team for Euro 2008 and he received many plaudits for his performances as Spain emerged as winners. He also received official recognition from UEFA as he was named in the team of the tournament.
In total, Senna won 28 caps for Spain. His only goal at international level came in a 4-0 win over Armenia.
Familiar Face: Jemal Johnson
Jemal Johnson will be familiar to some Orient fans having played against the O’s for MK Dons, Stockport and Southend.
The 28 year-old winger was born in New Jersey but he moved to Macclesfield with his family at the age of five. He started out at Manchester United before coming through the youth ranks at Blackburn Rovers. He also had loan spells at Preston and Darlington. In August 2006 he signed for Wolves. During his time at the Molineux he joined Leeds on loan. In August 2007 he was sold to MK Dons for an undisclosed fee.
During his four years with MK Dons he made almost 100 appearances for the club but he also spent time on loan at Stockport and Port Vale. In January 2011 he joined Bulgarian side Lokomotiv Sofia. In July 2011 he returned to England, joining Southend. He then had spells with Dover and Tamworth before returning to America earlier this year. He signed for the Cosmos last month.