Riding high on the first two-match winning streak of its brief history, the New York City boys hit the road to open their account in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, America's oldest soccer competition.
The opponent for this short week? The New York Cosmos, who didn't lose a single match in the North American Soccer League's spring season. The Cosmos are New York City's first non-MLS opponent since
falling to Denmark's Brondby IF defeating the United Soccer League's Charleston Battery in a preseason tuneup.
The Cosmos are a bit of a conundrum: it makes sense that the organization would position itself as the singular claimant to the rich New York soccering history that includes Pele, der Kaiser, Giorgio Chinaglia, and Randy Horton's incredible 'fro. Just like in Game of Thrones, the present is more fascinating, more weighted, if perched atop such remarkable history, right?
Unfortunately, the old NASL and the old Cosmos don't have much more than a nominal relationship with the new NASL and the new Cosmos, and it isn't just about "Fly Emirates."
The old Cosmos captured the imaginations of America at a time when soccer was basically a dirty word. No team in the new NASL is going to be able to stand that tall, no matter how many wins they string together. No way. Reviving such a recognizable brand as the New York Cosmos -- the logo, the colors, the identity -- comes with great responsibility attached. If the club isn't willing to sign itself over to MLS in order to play on the biggest stage and snatch up some real television money (sorry, One World Sports!!!), what's the alternative? What's the Cosmos' five-year plan? Or ten-year plan?
The old Cosmos were never a "second division" team. They were never a side show; they were the show. How does this current organization square with all of that? Largely, it remains to be seen. As things stand today, however, they can scarcely compare to the buzz -- the good and the bad -- generated by New York City FC. It didn't have to play out like this. NYCFC simply wouldn't exist if the Cosmos were the biggest dog in the yard, a jewel in the MLS crown.
And here we realize how much of a wild card the U.S. Open Cup can be.
Much like March Madness, this is where the giant-killers come out to play. These Cosmos defeated the New York Red Bulls in the USOC last year, and will look to make another big statement in metropolitan area tonight. A Cosmos win would go a long way to stoking the fires of rivalry and legitimizing their current model. If New York City walks away with a victory, the sky-blue faithful will likely marginalize the Cosmos that much more. Given everything the brand has stood for, that wouldn't seem right.
With all the narratives in play, I can't imagine a more intriguing matchup on a Wednesday evening!
So, who ya got? Hudson River Blue gives credit where it's due-- the Cosmos will win this one.