Football Icon 10 : New York Cosmos
The classification criteria for this article has been tricky . A story about the New York Cosmos would immediately go straight into the M.L.S. Section , one would imagine , but then , World Football could also have an argument . However , my personal preference would be as a Football Icon . The reason I plump for Icons , is their criterion in not merely affecting notoriety on the field , but to having a legitimate influence upon Supporters and Society in general . Well , for a short period in the Mid – 1970’s until the early 1980’s , the New York Cosmos can reasonably said to have accomplished this , all the more laudable in a Country not generally conducive to the wiles of The Beautiful Game .
The New York Cosmos were formed on February 4 , 1971 , joining the National American Soccer League in its 4th year , and as a 3-Man initiative ; Brothers , Ahmed and Nesuhi Ertegun , and Warner Bros. Big-Wig , Steve Ross . These in turn hired Clive Toye , an Englishman , and Ex – Sports Writer as General Manager . It was Toye whom , in an Antithesis Gesture to the New York Mets – Metropolitans , felt that the Soccer , New York Cosmopolitans – shortened to Cosmos , more precisely embodied the Club’s all-Embracing Mission Statement . The first on-field signing was another Englishman , Gordon Bradley as Player-Coach . Playing their games at the New York Yankees Baseball Stadium , they finished Runners-Up in their inaugural campaign .
However , they did not settle at Yankee Stadium and the following year moved on to the Hofstra Stadium , a University Ground on Rhode Island where , in 1972 , they collected their initial N.A.S.L. Championship . The proceeding season , they reached the Play-Offs , but were eliminated at the Semi-Final stage . During this period , the side was largely built around the Bermudan , Randy Horton , whom set records at both Club and League level , before being traded , in 1975 to Washington Diplomats . Another bizarre aspect of this period was Bradley adopting the dual roles of Managing both the Cosmos and also the U.S. National Team for a 6 game period . The oddity being in his selecting himself for the 5th game – despite not being an American Citizen . They went on to defeat in all 6 matches . In 1974 , Cosmos had another Ground Move – a phenomenon familiar in U.S. Sports , this time to Downing Stadium – AKA Randall’s Island , close to a prison . 1975 though , was the year that the Cosmos went Big-Time !!!
As stated , Horton , their M.V.P. since their inception had been allowed to leave , as Ross applied – quite naturally in retrospect , given his Business Background ; a Movie-Star Ethos to the New York Club . A number of high profile signing were made immediately . The Flagship Signature of course being , Edson Arantes Di Nascimento , or Pele , the Brazilian , widely accepted as the World’s Greatest Player . The Legend goes that when Toye first proposed a move for Pele , Ross was at a loss as to whom he was ..? Toye compared his popularity to that of The Pope amongst Football Fans . Ross took the Englishman’s word , and The Black Pearl was captured – after a phone call from The White House , from Secretary Of State , Dr. Henry Kissinger ; on a then , unheard of £1.4M per year salary . Immense for an athlete at that time . Incidentally , Ross representative whom spoke to Pele , had to put Dustin Hoffman , about to agree to film , All The President’s Men , on hold whilst he completed the deal . In order to navigate U.S. Tax Laws , Pele was listed in various positions of employment , one being a Recording Artist with Warner Bros subsidiary , Atlantic Records .
The impact was immediate . After learning that Pele’s debut was to be Broadcast on CBS , the Groundsman decided to paint the pitch green to cover-up the patches of bare earth . The game , against Dallas Tornados , was taken by 22 Countries and covered by 300 International Journalists . The Cosmos had become Big-Time , literally overnight , both on a Social , but also Commercial levels . The side finished in third place – not sufficient to make the , Post-Season and Bradley lost his job , being replaced by Ex-Sheffield United Boss , Ken Furphy . One of his first actions was to make , pound-for-pound , The New York Side’s most crucial signing , that of Giorgio Chinaglia . Chinaglia came from Lazio where he was the Golden Boy . Indeed , fans threatened to throw themselves beneath the wheels of the Plane that transported him . However , to America he did move as the Cosmos , and Soccer in the United States began its inexorable , though ultimately short – lived rise to Stellar Prominence . Giorgio Chinaglia , at least to this independent observer’s eyes , was THE signing during The Cosmos History , as regards his influence both on and off the field , both for the good , and not so good of the Club’s interests . However , more of that shortly .
The first season of Pele’s tenure ,- well , half season , as it goes , the team were generally underwhelming . Adopting an attitude of .. “ Just give it to Pele …” , which is fine an’ all to begin with , but other sides would merely double , even treble mark him . The Black Pearl would score 7 goals with a further 5 assists in that inaugural campaign . Not brilliant , but not too shabby either . His influence though was becoming tangible , as over 20,000 fans turned up to watch him walk across the ground injured in a match against Dallas . Nevertheless , Ross could see that more was needed . Edson required assistance .
1976 , saw a move back to the Yankees Stadium and 5 new signings arrived , along with an N.A.S.L. Rule-Change – the introduction of The Shoot-out . Sport in the United States cannot seem to comprehend the idea of a drawn game Thus , incredibly , F.I.F.A. allowed them to introduce a , Sudden-Death , Post-Game , Game if you will . A period of Over-Time during which a Victor would be found .. However , of course these too can still be stalemates .. As a result , The Shoot-Out was born … A Five Second Period where a designated player would flick the ball up then have 5 seconds to beat the Goalkeeper , whom often just rushed out … The New York Cosmos reached the Play-Offs in 1976 .
In 1977 , the Team would enjoy its Halcyon Days . Firstly , Ross once more went Stellar as regards purchasing players , as he produced the Captain of West Germany and Bayern Munich and the Ex-Captain of Brazil – among 14 new players from 5 different Nations . The most noteworthy of course was The Bavarian , whom had lifted the World Cup only 3 years before , “ Kaiser “ Franz Beckenbauer . Carlos Alberto , Pele’s Skipper in the Brazil 1970 World Cup Winning Side was also signed . Furthermore , they relocated once more , this time to the newly constructed Giants ( American ) Football Stadium , averaging over 34,000 in the initial season in New Jersey , and in a Play-off game against Fort Lauderdale accomplished The Giants Stadium’s First Ever Sell-Out ; 77,000 . Not just that , Off The Field , The Cosmos were becoming a phenomenon . Gates were growing inexorably as Pele’s notoriety spread to the Mainstream . Furthermore , there was a Heatwave that Summer , Blackouts hit New York via Striking Workers ; resulting in Riots and Looting . The notorious Son of Sam Serial Killer was also at large during Summer 1977 , and the period witnessed the rise of the Disco phenomenon and in particular one New York Night Club , Studio 54 . The Eyes Of The World were focused upon the U.S. City . These aspects , The Celebrity , The Global Media Focus upon the City , and the ever increasing impact of Soccer in the U.S. and The Big Apple in particular combined to make The New York Cosmos the most talked about Football Team on the Planet . Two other events were relevant to season 1977 , the first being the dismissal of Bradley as Team Coach – shortly after Beckenbauer’s arrival , and the second being that it was Pele’s Final Campaign .
By now The Cosmos was a Roller-Coaster . The securing of a Network T.V. deal with ABC – which came later in the season , exposure was at its peak . Record attendances Home and Away . Though with the Celebrity came the trappings .. Groupies were notorious – anecdotally around both Pele and Chinaglia in particular . Indeed , the term ; “ I’m with The Cosmos …” , was as synonymous with a Party as is , “I’m with The Band ..” , to this very day . Monday Night Parties at Studio 54 – where a table was kept on reserve for Players and Management of the Football Club , were notorious . It was Bling Lifestyle , ‘70’s Stylee . On the field though , they pulled it together . In fairness , and despite the bubbling ill-will between the main 2 stars – Pele and Chinaglia , the team recognised that Pele deserved to go out as he was … A Champion .. Thus ,… They delivered as the side lifted only their 2nd ever Championship – Chinaglia , somewhat ironically scoring the goal , and Pele was carried off upon the shoulders of Colleagues – NOT Chinaglia , and Fans .
1978 , despite Pele’s absence , the side strode ever on . Ross vision was becoming reality as his Galactico’s went on to a second straight Championship .Winning their first 7 games , and 14 from 17 . Off the park though , things were beginning to unravel . And of course , at the heart of it was Giorgio Chinaglia . Within weeks of Beckenbauer and Alberto’s arrivals in New York , both Clive Toye , and Coach Bradley had either lost their jobs or resigned . In Bradley’s case , weeks after dropping Chinaglia , and who’s ultimate replacement was Eddie Firmani , a South African whom qualified for , and represented Italy . The problem though was his relationship with Chinaglia – supposedly on whose recommendation that he was brought in from Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Even when Pele was still there had been “ Ructions “ , between the pair . The Italian daring to criticise The Black Pearl . However , Giorgio’s influence was not just upon Fans , and lady New Yorkers , nor even The Coach . It became increasingly obvious that he had an unhealthy – for the rest of the Team ,relationship with Ross . Indeed , Partners of The Warner Bros’ Chief openly admit to Chinaglia , “ Having His Ear .” One such instance was in the appointment of Firmani . Chinaglia , no doubt , would argue his statistics which again saw him leading scorer in both the side and also the N.A.S.L. and The Cosmos Champions once more .
However , an insidious atmosphere had begun to pervade which would eventually turn into a Depression and then the inevitable Storm . One significant factor in the 1978 Championship , was the Cosmos winning the Trophy as a result of a Shoot-Out , the first time such a thing had happened . Alongside the Party-Poppers and Champagne though , came the realisation that with the expansion that year – the N.A.S.L. had added 6 more teams to the detriment of the product ; effectively diluting an already thin reserve of players , and thus diminishing the overall standard of play . It would be an incremental though significant factor as time went on .
From 1979 onwards , a decline set in that would never be arrested . The side did well enough on the park . With Beckenbauer pulling the strings and Chinaglia still scoring , and matching the Club record of 23 wins and 6 losses , they again reached the Championship Game . However , ironically , where the Cosmos had benefited the previous year from the Shoot-out System , in 1979 the opposite occurred , as they were Timed-Out – beyond 5 seconds , despite actually putting the ball in the net. Firmani would leave at the season end . The major event however , was the failure of the ABC Network Television deal . ABC had chosen to show regular season games , and with the increase in teams but decrease of skill factor , the game was not being watched . Thus , the T.V. Companies stepped away , which was the ultimate death knell for the League .
1980 saw The Cosmos once more Champions , but the momentum had been lost . No T.V. exposure in effect turned the side into a kind of , Soccer Harlem Globetrotters , but again , off field issues were becoming ever more pertinent . Chinaglia’s influence in particular was becoming out of control . For example , his Personal Manager , Peppe Pinton was appointed General Manager of the Team . Rumours of huge salaries to Giorgio’s Friends began to surface . Indeed , the term , “ A Shadow Government “ , was coined in regards to Chinaglia’s effect upon Club matters of the period . He became De-Facto , then Actual , President of the New York Cosmos , whilst also playing Centre Forward , on the basis that he knew more than anyone else concerning Football , and people just kept saying .. “ O.K. .. “ Pepe Pinton became Vice-President ….
Rumours began to circulate in 1981 – 82 that Columbia , who had been awarded the 1986 World Cup were unable to fulfil their obligations and were about to pull-out . Steve Ross found a new enthusiasm as he saw it as an avenue to rejuvenating Soccer in America at a stroke . He spent many dollars and lobbied many important people to that end . In the event , the Tournament went to Mexico – for the second time in 26 years , and Ross’s Dream died that day .
The New York Cosmos were once more crowned Champions of the N.A.S.L. Though , in point of fact , the League was about to implode . Owners having chased Ross’s Cosmos Galacticos Ethos in the Salad Days of Network T.V. were now looking to sell to anyone at virtually any price . Crowd figures fell year on year and the spiral was ever downward . The collapse of the Atari branch of Warner Communications and a global recession saw cut-backs being necessary , thus the side were no longer the financial dynamo of U.S. Soccer and without them the League itself would not survive , eventually being wound up in 1984 . Peppe Pinton , as he terms it , “ Went down with The Ship …” , registered The Cosmos in the American Indoor-League , but they were unable to fulfil their fixtures and were again folded . Pinton retained the Cosmos Logo , Records and Colours – legally , and founded a series of Soccer-Camps at a New Jersey College . The latter day aspects of Pinton’s tale will be told in a subsequent Guest Piece , but the Cosmos are looking to make a return , and the Global Football Community should wish them well .
As a short term exercise , The New York Cosmos were an incredible success . Immediate impact , Showbiz Fans .. Perfect .. Medium Term was not so clever as other teams and owners were required to maintain the momentum . However , should it have survived the initial 20 years , the modern-day M.L.S. proves the feasibility of such a project . Furthermore , Ross and The Cosmos were years ahead of their time in many areas , Names On Shirts , Pre-Match /Half-Time Razzamataz , even the short-lived Golden Goal , were all initiatives founded at the Cosmos . Moreover , a generation later , a Nation of Soccer-Moms , 18 million registered Youth Footballers and National Teams in both Genders regularly qualifying for World-Cups , are yet more testimony to the lasting legacy of the New York Cosmos . The original Galacticos , and for a time , the most famous Club in World Soccer . They were genuinely Rock ‘N Roll , but also could play the beautiful game . No wonder I always liked them . May they rise to be even a fraction of the side the originals were ,… Beuna Fortuna …
Written in Britain .
Look after Your Peoples .
Peace Out .
4 thoughts on “10. New York Cosmos”
Great article LCAB,they were formed 2years before i was born and i didn’t take any interest in any other footy team other than Everton until i was about 15 even then it was Everton,Everton,Everton! But i did start looking at other teams like Rangers.Inter,Barca and the Cosmos but only from a distance.
The New York Cosmos as you put it the original Rock’n’Roll footy team.
What an incredible place NYC must have been in the last 1970s. Culturally, it gave birth to three major muiascl genres punk, hip hop, and disco while economically, it went bankrupt rubbish piled up in the streets, pimps and whores roamed Times Square, and lights really did go out in 1977 during the infamous 25-hour blackout.And into the midst of this came the Cosmos. I’m sure the heady backdrop of 1970s New York contributed to the legendary aura that still surrounds the team to this day. Quite what Steve Hunt made of it all, you do wonder.It’s good to see the name was bought in 2009 by a consortium keen to relaunch the team in MLS. This documentary can take credit for contributing to the rebirth of one of America’s if not the world’s most glamorous football names.
Thank you , Honey . Thats nice of you , Evelin .
Enjoy the Site …
I was surprised that the Cosmos initially played at Randall’s Island. Although they and the Metro Stars/Red Bulls have enjoyed most of their years across the river in Jersey, it’s always seemed unsatisfactory that this was the case.I am not sure where the new team are going to set up shop but somewhere in the five boroughs would be good.