The stars of Cosmos, the first superclub and their great moments

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New York Cosmos were the giants of the NASL, the team that everyone wanted to defeat and the real stars of the American soccer universe. New York Cosmos existed a number of years before the arrival of Pelè, and they were champions of the NASL, winning the title as early as 1972.

The man in charge of that 1972 team was Gordon Bradley. He acted as a player coach and the story of this gentleman is one of a kind. Bradley was born in England, played his early years with Bradford Park Avenue and Carlisle United. He operated in midfield as a player and after five seasons in the lower leagues of English football he set his sight on Canada and USA to explore the life of Soccer.

Long before Pelè and the New York Cosmos, he had played in a Canadian professional soccer league and also in the NPSL, for New York Generals, before being named coach and being part of the foundation of New York Cosmos, it all started in 1970.

The history of US soccer is a bit chaotic with a number of associations, systems and leagues that was started and stopped. The NASL managed to keep it quit from around 1968 to 1985, when the league defunct and was closed down. with other parties and associations keeping soccer alive as it has always been, but probably not always got the attention as they did with the NASL and later with the MLS that now has existed for more than 20 years and looks better and more robust than ever.

Bradley might not be the most known person over here, but he is a “special one” coming to the history of US soccer. Bradley was still in charge when Pelè arrived in 1975, and he also returned for 2nd spell 1976 to 1977. Later a manager at Washington Diplomates and the only football manager on earth to have coached, Pelè, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff. As a player Gordon Bradley played a total of 52 NASL games for New York Cosmos.

Cosmos defeated St Louis Stars in that 1972 final, winning 2-1. Cosmos had to wait five years for their next victory, this time with Pelè and Franz Beckenbauer in the team. Alongside the two maestros was Werner Roth. The captain of New York Cosmos that day, and the only player left from the 1972 roster, had a great impact on the life of the club and probably seen up there alongside those names that we all know from our World of football.

Werner Roth never appeared in the World Cup and he never really mentioned much in the breath of famous footballers, but he spent his full career as a player for one club playing for New York Cosmos from 1972 to 1979. He added up a tally of 125 NASL outings for Cosmos. Roth captained the team in the 77 and 78 Soccer Bowl final wins, and it was not Franz Beckenbauer as captain, as he was for West Germany on so many occasions.

Georgio Chinaglia, with a past at Swansea and Lazio. His story to fame is one phenomenal, he also represented Italy in the 1974 World Cup. Chinaglia was probably not as famous as Pelè and Beckenbauer, but his influence at New York Cosmos was huge and he captained the team in three Soccer Bowl finals, playing in five of them. Chinaglia played for Cosmos from 1976 to 1983 adding up 213 appearances and scoring impressive 193 goals.

During the years of New York Cosmos, they had a number of goalkeepers with Shep Messing and Hubert Birkenmeier being the two described as regular first team player over more than one season. Shep Messing had a couple of spells at Cosmos, but moved early into the indoor game playing for New York Arrows afterwards.

Hubert Birkenmeier was a shrewd signing from Tennis Borussia Berlin. Not really much known in Europe, but becoming the regular goalkeeper for New York Cosmos from 1979 to 1985, made him one of those few foreign players to be on top of his career while playing in the NASL. Birkenmeier added up 145 NASL games, and probably rated as one of the best goalkeepers in the league all together.

Francois Van der Elst and Dennis Tueart had great impact during their short stints in the NASL with New York Cosmos, and won the Soccer Bowl while with the team. Both players returned to top flight football in England, playing for West Ham United and Manchester City.

A young English forward, mostly seen on the flank was the unknown Aston Villa youngster Stephen Hunt. Hunt made his breakthrough with Cosmos, and later returned to England to play for Coventry City, West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa, he was even given a England call up, playing twice after his years in the NASL.

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One player neither to forget is Yugoslavian midfielder Vladislav Bogicevic, who had a massive impact as well, joining from Red Star Belgrade in 1978 and playing until 1984, adding up 203 NASL appearances and scoring 31 goals. He was probably alongside Chinaglia and Roth seen as top continuity during those fantastic years.

Carlos Alberto, the man who captained Brazil to the 1970 World Cup victory, had two spells with Cosmos, playing a total of 100 NASL games, first from 1977 to 1980 and also adding up a number of games in the 1982 season.

New York Cosmos also had their British colony of players, with the Sheffield United trio, Keith Eddy, Tony Field and Terry Garbett all playing a number of seasons. The level of the English game have always been at the very highest and being a player in that category will make you “better” than most. They coped well alongside the World greats.

Maybe a past at Halifax, Blackburn and Sheffield United was not the most glamorous, but alongside Pele and Franz Beckenbauer he shined and completed the team in the best way possible. Keith Eddy played in that very same team, surprisingly also to see Terry Garbett making up the numbers.

Wim Rijsbergen and Johan Neeskens were both bright talents brought to Cosmos and the two Netherlands made the most out of their stay. Rijsbergen from 1979 to 1983, and Neeskens from 1979 to 1984. Other names to add to that group of steady performers were Iran international Andranik Eskandarian, who had a major impact at Cosmos.

Eskandarian might be remembered for that own goal when Iran played 1-1 against Scotland in the 1978 World Cup, but he also contributed a lot to keep Joe Jordan and Kenny Dalglish both quiet in those 90 minutes. He only added up 29 caps leaving the international scene when moving to Cosmos shorty after, and played on from 1978 to 1984, being with the team for six years, adding up 142 NASL appearances and winning three Soccer Bowl Titles.

There were a few, besides goalkeeper Shep Messing, that also contributed among those US born players as well, listing at least Rick Davis, Jeff Durgan and Chico Borja. Should probably also mention Angelo DiBernardo, though he was born in Argentina.

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