Jacksonville Sports Day

NASL: Cellerino Hat Trick Ends Raul, Senna Careers with Cosmos’ 7th NASL Title

FROM NY SPORTS DAY
The New York Cosmos’ first home championship match since their inaugural one more than three decades earlier was billed as a going away party to send retiring Spanish soccer legends Raul and Marcos Sennna out on top.

While the 38-year-old Raul and 39-year-old Senna successfully finished as champions, it was an emerging star of the present and future that stole the show.

Forward Gaston Cellerino’s hat trick — with Raul assisting on what proved to be the game-winning goal — provided all the scoring the Cosmos would need to hold off the determined Ottawa Fury, 3-2, and capture their North American Soccer League record seventh title before a modern-day NASL record-crowd of 10,166 fans at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium on Sunday night.

Reflecting on the way Cellerino (who ironically made his first NASL start in New York’s loss to Ottawa) significantly improved in a relatively short period of time, head coach Giovanni Savaraese said, “We needed a striker with [Cellerino’s] characteristics, a strong forward that makes good runs inside the box, and we knew that he needed work… little by little, he started to find his way, and today, he was fantastic.”

After staking the top-seeded, 2015 Spring and Combined Season champion Cosmos to a 1-0 halftime lead on a goal which came the same number of minutes into the game that matched his uniform number, New York’s No. 8 added two second-half scores just seven minutes apart to offset the second-half brace tallied by forward Tom Heinemann.

Back on September 22, Heinemann’s shot which led to a Cosmos own-goal, before the striker scored directly, finished New York’s worst loss of the season (4-1).

“I think it’s a good game for us to learn a lot of things and be prepared for what is coming in the postseason,” Savarese prophetically said at the time.

Apparently, his team learned a lot, especially Cellerino, who joined the Cosmos late in the season, on August 17.

“I’m looking forward to getting to New York and starting training and doing whatever it takes to help this team win another championship,” Cellerino said then.

Entering the postseason with a lone goal in eight regular season appearances, Cellerino similarly put the Cosmos up, 1-0 (off of a Senna free kick), before Raul broke a tie with a score in the Cosmos’ 2-1 NASL semi-final victory at MCU Park in Brooklyn last week.

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