Pele looks on as New York Cosmos reborn with a win
The New York Cosmos launched their reincarnation with a 2-1 win against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers as Brazilian legend Pele and other members of the club's 1970s heyday looked on.
A sell-out crowd of 11,929 packed the stands at Hofstra University on Saturday for a festive occasion that was a far cry from the outfit's golden era when crowds of 40,000 regularly flocked to Giants Stadium.
The Cosmos were the star attraction of the North American Soccer League (NASL) during the 1970s, when players like Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia were lured to the Big Apple in an attempt to help football take root in the United States.
The Cosmos folded with the demise of the NASL in 1984 as the attempt to spread the football gospel in the land of baseball, basketball and grid-iron ended in failure.
The club retained its brand recognition over the intervening decades however and is now hoping to relaunch itself as a viable franchise in the more modest surroundings of the reborn NASL, effectively the division below the main professional league in the United States, Major League Soccer (MLS).
Saturday's clash saw a host of 1970s Cosmos stars introduced to fans before kick-off as the stadium rocked with excitement.
Pele was joined by fellow 1970 World Cup winner Carlos Alberto, as well as former team-mate and US international Shep Messing.
The return of the Cosmos delighted 55-year-old fan Adam Cale on Saturday, who had regularly attended the club's games as a child.
"I was like 12, 14 years old. We went to Giants Stadium ... when they played the Giants Stadium, when they became popular, I was there. I saw Pele, Beckenbauer, Chinaglia," he told AFP.
"When they started to say that Cosmos were coming back, I said 'well, I will believe it when I see it.' Now I feel very excited, I have to tell you, I'm real thrilled to be here and see Cosmos coming back twice in lifetime."
On the pitch, Cosmos captain and former Spain international Marcos Senna came closest to breaking the early deadlock, forcing a fine save from Richard Sanchez on 21 minutes with a vicious volley from outside the area.
Chances were few and far between thereafter until Peri Marosevic opened the scoring shortly before half-time.
Spanish midfielder Ayoze swung in a teasing corner from the right met by Hunter Gorskie, who nudged goalwards. Marosevic pounced on the loose ball to prod home from close range.
It looked like being enough to get the Cosmos off to a winning start but Walter Restrepo threatened to spoil the party on 73 minutes when he headed home after a mix-up in the Cosmos defense.
A draw looked the likeliest result until Italian journeyman Alessandro Noselli popped up with a scrambled injury time effort to secure a winning return for the Cosmos.