Sebastian Guenzatti only has three starts for the New York Cosmos, but his name is already a firm feature in the club’s history books.
Having netted the first official goal of the “reboot” era, in a preseason friendly against English League One team Leyton Orient, the Uruguayan Queens native scored the goal to send the Cosmos top of the North American Soccer League for the first time since 1984.
By striking the divisive blow in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Minnesota United, Guenzatti erased painful memories of his first start for the club, when he was sent off in the 3-0 defeat to the Carolina Railhawks.
When the Cosmos laid down their manifesto, vowing to plant roots across the five boroughs of New York, particularly Queens, Guenzatti was the type of player they envisioned pulling on the famous green and white jersey.
The 22-year-old was born in Uruguay before moving to the States at 12, where he attended Francis Lewis school in Fresh Meadows until graduation. Professional aspirations took Guenzatti back to his homeland, before signing for the Queens-based Cosmos this summer.
“My friends and family are here, so it’s great that they now get to watch my games,” the former Huracan FC player says. “They were at Hofstra for Saturday’s game, so it was a proud moment for me to score the winner in that game.”
A South American influence is evident throughout the Cosmos’ roster, with Marcos Senna, Roversio, Diomar Diaz, David Diosa, Juan Gonzalez, Paulo Ferreira-Mendes and Guenzatti all born in the continent. Recruiting from the continent might have been a deliberate ploy by coach Giovanni Savarese, considering the Cosmos’ lingering stature from the days of Pele and Carlos Alberto in the 1970s.
And indeed, Guenzatti confirms the Cosmos fame in the southern hemisphere. “Yes, of course I was aware of how big the Cosmos were (before I signed). A lot of people talk about them in South America, so I was aware of the team’s history and background. And growing up in Queens also introduced me to the Cosmos.”
Playing in the Uruguay, until last season Guenzatti is able to provide an insight on the differences between the South American and American varieties of the sport.
“U.S. soccer is more like European soccer,” he said. “Here, you have more time on the ball and the mobility is better, whereas in South America you have no time to think. The game is very much based on individual skill, but in America it’s more of a team game. I like that better.”
Guenzatti might have taken on the role of talisman for the Cosmos, but former Spain and Villarreal midfielder Senna remains the team’s biggest influence.
“It’s fantastic to be playing alongside a guy like him,” Guenzatti says of Senna. “He’s not just a great player, he’s a great person and there’s no better person to go to for advice.
“Whether it’s on or off the pitch, he’s always there if you need him and he guides you through a game, always giving you encouragement and support. I ask him things all the time. He helps everyone on the team a lot. We feed off him.”
The Cosmos’ admirable start to the fall season is even more impressive considering how hastily Savarese assembled the team’s squad over the summer, but Guenzatti reveals the strength of resolve within the team.
“There’s a great chemistry here,” Guenzatti said. “We really get along and it’s not easy to find a group of players like this one. It’s one of the best groups I’ve been involved in, and I mean that. I never thought I’d get the chance to play with some of these guys for a team like the Cosmos.
“We’re aiming for the title and we’re in a good position to win it. We’ve shown how good a team we are in the first half of the season, but there are areas we still need to improve on.
“As a brand new team we’ve improved a lot since the start of the season, but we’re leaving it too late. We need to learn how to finish games early. It’s great to score late and that shows our team spirit, but we’ve been suffering to the very end it would be nice to do without that.”
The nature of the split NASL season means that despite only playing seven games, the Cosmos are midway through their campaign. So are the Cosmos legitimate title contenders? Guenzatti thinks so.
“I think we have the team to win the NASL,” he said. “Our aim is to win the league and we’re in a good position to do that.”