By Mike Collett
LONDON, July 24 (Reuters) – New York Cosmos officially ended their 29-year playing absence from soccer when they were beaten 2-1 by English League One side Leyton Orient in a friendly on Wednesday when, for once, the result really did not matter.
The Cosmos, still the most famous club name in U.S. soccer who boasted the likes of Pele, Carlos Alberto and Franz Beckenbauer in the 1970s and 1980s, showed plenty of flair, skill and invention to finish the stronger side in front of 2,000 fans at Orient’s modest Brisbane Road home.
Although they have played for charity and fielded an invitational side, this was the first official match the club have played since being reformed in 2010 following their demise in 1984.
It was an important step in their preparation for the start of the North American Soccer League season and coach Giovanni Savarese, who has assembled what looks a potentially excellent squad in just a few months, was delighted with the performance.
“It was a great night and I am very satisfied with what I saw. It was a good test for us and I have identified what we need to work on,” he said after the game played on a glorious summer’s evening in London.
“Leyton Orient are a good team and gave us a very good game and it was exactly what we needed. Our team has been assembled in the last two months and from having no one then to what we showed tonight, I think we gained some respect.
“We put up a very good game in the second half, we were a little timid in the first half but that’s to be expected.
“As soon as we got more confident in the second half we began to dominate the game and played better. I think we realised we could play.”
This is the only match Savarese’s team will play in public on their English tour before their opening NASL game against Fort Lauderdale on Aug. 3.
Orient, who play in England’s third tier, led 2-0 after an hour with goals from David Mooney after 24 minutes and a penalty on the hour from Kevin Lisbie.
Substitute Sebastian Guenzatti, who replaced former Manchester United youngster Jemal Johnson after 53 minutes, pulled one back for the Cosmos on 74 minutes after Orient keeper Jamie Jones allowed his shot to spill over the line.
The Cosmos face League One club Gillingham in a behind-closed-doors friendly on Friday before returning home.
(Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Sonia Oxley)