The stars were out Sunday night at Long Island’s Shuart Stadium as the New York Cosmos claimed the NASL Championship for the second time since the team’s 2013 “reboot,” sending the club’s Spanish legends Raul and Marcos Senna into retirement in style with a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Fury FC.
10,166 filled the Cosmos home ground at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, New York, a record postseason crowd for the second division league since it began playing under the revived NASL moniker in 2011.
No, this is not Pele’s NASL, with crowds of near 80,000 jamming into the since demolished Giants Stadium, but Raul’s presence lent the occasion a bit of that “old NASL” glamor and the packed house was treated to a thriller that the Cosmos won thanks to a hat trick from Gaston Cellerino, with Raul assisting on Cellerino’s third.
Cellerino staked the Cosmos to the lead just eight minutes in after some determined set up play from midfielder Danny Szetela.
Ottawa would settle into the match getting to the half with just that one goal deficit and giving the club’s 400 traveling fans hope entering the final 45 minutes of the Soccer Bowl.
That hope would take a serious blow in the 68th minute when Mason Trafford was shown a straight red card for a stamp on a prone Szetela, a foul that was as vicious as it was inexplicable.
Now down a man, the Fury showed resilience, equalizing just two minutes later from who else but Tom Heinemann.
The Ottawa poacher led the team in goals for the season and he scored both of Ottawa’s goals yesterday as he did in the team’s 2-1 semifinal victory over Minnesota United.
The second of Heinemann’s brace in the Soccer Bowl would be too little too late, coming in added time with New York leading 3-1, as the crew readied the celebratory fireworks.
Two more Cellerino goals had by then assured that those fireworks would be set off in honor of Raul, Senna and the rest of the victorious home team.
Cellerino’s first came just two minutes after Heinemann’s equalizer, with his second laid on by Raul in the 85th minute.
Alan Kelly’s final whistle set off happy scenes of joyous celebration with the two retiring stars at the center of it all.
Someday soon when the smoke clears and the confetti has all been swept up and recycled the Cosmos and their highly regarded coach Giovanni Savarese will have to replace the leadership and star power that Raul and Marcos Senna brought to the team, but that is a problem for another day.
For now enjoy. Congratulations to the 2015 NASL Champion New York Cosmos!