Last month the New York Cosmos announced they would bring aboard Sierra Leone-born midfielderMichael Lahoud on loan from Major League Soccer side Philadelphia Union for the 2016 NASL season. A first round pick by Chivas USA in the 2009 SuperDraft, the 29-year-old made 122 appearances over eight seasons in MLS before arriving in New York.
Moving from Africa to the United States, from Wake Forest University in North Carolina to Chivas USA in California, to Philadelphia and now New York, Lahoud has cultivated a mentality for change.
“With each transition you make, it gets a little bit easier,” he told NYCosmos.com after practice Thursday afternoon. “As a veteran guy, there are lessons you learn along the way. Change is always hard, but it’s part of the business. The more you accept it – the more you get on with it – the easier it is.”
2016 marks the second consecutive season the Cosmos will have a midfielder on loan from Philadelphia. Former Stony Brook University standout Leo Fernandes joined the club in 2015, earning Young Player of the Year recognition from the NASL in a championship season.
“Leo is a good young player and a good guy,” said Lahoud. “I was in Philadelphia, getting my stuff before coming up here, and we had a very good conversation about the Cosmos. He had nothing but good things to say about the team and the organization.”
A week deep in Cosmos preseason, Lahoud is excited to be back on the pitch.
“It’s fun. Here’s where you get to do what you love,” he said. “It sets the tone for the year. I’m new here, but I hope to bring a lot of good experience to the locker room. I’m all in. I’m available and willing to engage with everyone here.
“I’m a very hardworking player and an honest, down-to-earth guy. I give everything I have to the team. I’m looking forward to success on and off the field, and sharing that with the fans.”
BACK TO WORK
Captain Carlos Mendes, a Long Island native, spent a relaxing offseason with his family and nine-month-old baby, going away for New Year’s and training locally to stay in shape.
With two NASL titles under his belt, Mendes knows that preseason training is where the cornerstone for a championship is laid.
“Obviously, I’m excited to be back.” he said. “You enjoy the offseason, you enjoy some downtime with the family, but it’s good to get back to work. It all starts here, trying to defend a championship and win it again.”
Mendes started 28 of the Cosmos’ 30 regular season games a year ago, scoring two goals and logging 2,498 minutes, the most of his NASL career. In building a squad capable of defending the championship, Mendes has nothing but high praise for the front office this offseason.
“Quality players were brought in, and I think we’re going to have a competitive team,” said Mendes. “On top of that, they’re all just good guys. Everyone seems to gel easily. That makes the transition better.
“The first week [of preseason] has been excellent. We’ve been working hard getting some fitness in with some touches on the ball. I’m looking forward to more. When you have good people and a good environment, it makes it easy.”
In a couple weeks the Cosmos will embark on a preseason tour of California, with matches against FC Ararat Yerevan (Feb. 20), Fresno Fuego (Feb. 24) and the San Jose Earthquakes (Feb. 27).
“Getting out to some nice weather, having some good matches over there and ending in San Jose will be a good test for us,” said Mendes. “It’s all part of the process. You like to build off of every game. That’s what we’ll be looking to do with everybody.”
The 2016 NASL season begins for the Cosmos at Hofstra’s James M. Shuart Stadium on Sunday, April 3 with a championship rematch against Ottawa Fury FC. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET.