The New York Cosmos now have a real live coach

Giovanni Savarese. (New York Cosmos)
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The New York Red Bulls have never had a local rival, but there's a club that very badly wants to play that role.

That would be the latter-day New York Cosmos, namesake of the North American Soccer League team of the 70s and 80s, who could eventually become the second New York team in M.L.S.

The Cosmos haven't actually had some of the very basic building blocks one associates with a soccer team, such as players, a coach, a general manager or a place to play. They've been little more than a promise, a ghostly sports presense lurking on the sidelines as the flesh-and-blood Red Bulls continued to forge their legacy of mediocrity.

(The Red Bulls announced Monday that they will not be picking up team options on ten players from the disappointing 2012 team, while the team's coach, Hans Backe, was let go shortly after the season finale, and the team's general manager, Erik Soler, lost his position in October. Soler's replacement, Jerome de Bontin, has expressed reservations about a second New York team in M.L.S., an apparent reversal of the team's attitude about the idea.)

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But now the Cosmos are starting to take shape.

The team announced Monday that Giovanni Savarese, a former star for the Red Bull-predecessor Metrostars, and previously at Long Island University, has been hired as the team's coach.

The news came on the heels of the team hiring Erik Stover, former managing director of the Red Bulls, as chief operating officer. The Cosmos will be playing next year in the new N.A.S.L., one level down from M.L.S. in the United States soccer pyramid, with home games to be played at Hofstra University, where capacity is 13,000 fans.

Savarese exuded excitement over his new challenge during an interview Monday at Cosmos headquarters on Greene Street, and with good reason. If successful, he'll get the chance to coach a Cosmos team that can eventually become the master of a New York market still very much up for grabs, and with a built-in fan base to start. The league is currently hoping to build a stadium in Flushing. (Although that drama is only just beginning; the league, for whatever reason, is proposing to locate the stadium on parkland within Flushing Meadows Corona Park rather than near the existing baseball stadium or tennis centers, who current occupants presumably have no interest in accommodating an interloper.)

"I think, when you look in the future, and see that we've put together all of the pieces that have allowed us to have grown," Savarese said. "When we see that the fan base that used to follow the Cosmos in the past is there, and they are respecting what we are doing, when they are happy with the steps, soccer-wise, to gradually grow."

Success won't come instantly, however big the legacy is that the team purports to represent. There will be no Peles, to start with.

But there will be time to build, maybe into a franchise like the sellout-attracting Seattle Sounders, a team that jumped from N.A.S.L. to M.L.S., and brought an army of committed fans with it.

"It's been, all along, a good step-by-step process," Savarese said.