The celebration was wild on the field. The home team, New York Cosmos captured their second NASL title in three years. Joyous teammates sang songs, cheered, and took turns flipping legends Raul and Marcos Senna into the air to celebrate a fitting send-off.
“I’m very happy. It was the last game in my career,” Raul said. “I’m very proud for everything I did and thank you to the club, my teammates, and the fans for an amazing year.”
The crowd of 10,166 at Hofstra University, a record for the second incarnation of the North American Soccer League, saw the Cosmos defeat a stubborn Ottawa Fury FC team, that was down to ten men for the final 23 minutes, 3-2.
Ottawa was able to keep the Cosmos veteran star Raul off the score sheet. But that opened the door for Gaston Cellerino, who became the source of Cosmo offense in this postseason. He struck quickly at the eight minute mark when Danny Szetela ran deep down the left sideline and headed the ball into the box to Cellerino, who chested it down then one touch before slotting it from eight yards out past Ottawa goalie Romauld Peiser.
After Ottawa tied the score in the second half, but Cellerino scored two minutes later when Walter Restrepo chipped a ball to the back post where Gaston tapped it in to make it 2-1.
“Today he was fantastic,” Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese recalled.
Raul put his stamp on the final goal when Raul found Cellerino on a counterattack, where he completed the hat trick pushing it in from 16 yards out.
“He didn’t get the goal, but he got the assist,” Marcos Senna, his teammate who also celebrated his final game and second title with the Cosmos shared. “He’s a player that is a game-changer.”
It was the reason the Cosmos seeked him out. It paid off as New York went undefeated in capturing the Spring championship and secured the top spot in the combined standings.
“You can’t really replace Marcos and Raul and obviously the locker room will be different next year,” Cosmos captain Carlos Mendes said. “We’re going to miss them tremendously.”
But for now, the Cosmos have their seventh championship to add to their illustrious history. From Pele to Raul, the Cosmos set the trends and as far as their place in the U.S. soccer scene, where they play is the place to be.
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