THE QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT BEST XI
Dario Cabañas - Goalkeeper, NYC Paraguay - Paraguay was one of the best teams in the Qualifying Tournament and was unlucky not to make it to the group stages of Cosmos Copa. Part of their success was due to the commanding presence of team captain, Dario Cabañas in goal. With a young team in front of him, Paraguay relied upon the leadership of Cabañas to navigate the two days of qualifying. Cabañas made a series of stunning saves to keep their games tight, giving Paraguay a chance to qualify going into their last match against Ivory Coast, but they came up just short.
Jeff Matteo - Defender, NYC Italy - Jeff Matteo has been a staple of Cosmos Copa and the New York City soccer scene for years. He normally plays in a regista role for Italy but we have him listed here as a defender to make room for some of the other talented attackers in this Best XI midfield. NYC Italy was perhaps the most complete team in the Qualifying Tournament, and this was partly down to Matteo's calm presence at the base of the Italian midfield. He links play well, and his passing ability is a key component of the Italian attack. If NYC Italy are to get out of the group stages of Cosmos Copa and into the knockout rounds, you can be sure that Matteo's influence will be a major factor.
Djelaludin Sharityar - Defender, NYC Afghanistan - There were a few pleasant surprises in the Copa Qualifying Tournament, but perhaps none bigger than the success of NYC Afghanistan. As a first year team, it was difficult to predict how Afghanistan was going to fare, however with their mature and effective play, Afghanistan did not look out of place and qualified with relative ease from a difficult group. A big factor in their success was the gritty and effective play of their defender, Djealudin Sharityar. Sharityar bossed play from the back, and his surging runs from his center half position helped Afghanistan build from the back. He was rarely beaten in the air, and his pedigree as a player with full national team caps showed especially in the narrow win against the plucky NYC Japan. However, the mystery around NYC Afghanistan is gone now, and they'll need their experienced players like Sharityar to play well if they are going to get out of a tough group featuring traditional Cosmos Copa powerhouses NYC Poland and NYC Jamaica.
Brian Kuritzky - Defender, NYC USA - Like Jeff Matteo, Brian Kuritzky played primarily as a defensive midfielder for his Copa team, but has played in defense in the past (for the New York Cosmos U-23 side) so he gets the nod in defense in this Best XI. While the two strikers on this team USA grabbed most of the attention, Kuritzky was a solid presence in this side. He is a true box-to-box midfielder and is capable of taking the ball from the defense, carrying it up the midfield and then splitting the opposition defense wide open with a clever through ball. Kuritzky's distribution and all-around midfield play was why the his team's strikers were able to get the ball in dangerous positions and score the goals that helped USA qualify.
Mathias Jorge - Midfielder, NYC Uruguay - NYC Uruguay made a Day 2 surge in the Qualifying Tournament to get out of a group ahead of former Copa winner NYC Albania. Uruguay's success was built on passion and a never-say-die attitude. These qualities stem from their team president and all-action midfielder, Mathias Jorge. Usually station wide on the right, Jorge had an excellent Day 1, where he had a goal and two assists. He followed this up with a solid Day 2, where he lead his team to two wins and a second place finish in Group 1.
Adam Himeno - Midfielder, NYC Japan - NYC Japan's Adam Himeno was the purest trequartista or #10 in the Cosmos Copa Qualifying Tournament. He was a true playmaker that could create chances for himself and others. However it was his goalscoring exploits in Japan's thrilling 3-3 draw with the USA that really turned the head. Himeno was Japan's main attacking focal point and scored a excellent hat trick to keep his side's hopes of qualifying alive for one more match. Although Japan did not qualify out of a very tricky group 4, Himeno still shone as one of the most skillful players in the tournament.
Adam Maadbi - Forward, NYC France - Despite still being in college, Adam Maadbi outshone many older and more experienced players to become one of the breakout stars of the Qualification Tournament. Maadbi's lanky frame and almost awkward style was very effective as the player bagged four goals and two assists over the two days. These numbers put him in a respectable tie for second in the goal scoring charts. Pretty impressive for one of the youngest players in the tournament.
Kevin Riveros - Forward, NYC Bolivia - Like Maadbi, Riveros is a young striker with huge potential. Still in his teens, Riveros got the better of some of the best veteran defenders in New York City, with style. Riveros is a sneaky player with a delicious first touch. His ability to lose his marker, bring down his keeper's long kicks with one touch and then create his own goal scoring opportunities is one of the main facets of Bolivia's potent attack. If Riveros can keep up this form then he is going to be turning heads of the scouts at Cosmos Copa.
Chris Bayon - Forward, NYC USA - Bayon didn't take long to make his name known at Cosmos Copa, tallying a hat trick just 20 minutes into his first game. Bayon added three more goals over the qualification tournament to secure himself the Golden Boot. He scored a eye watering six goals in qualifying—two more than any other player. The most dangerous thing about Bayon is that he's an incredibly skilled passer as well as a goal scorer. For example, in the USA's match against Afghanistan, Bayon dropped deeper and played the role of creator for his strike partner, Andrew Herman. Herman went on to score a hat trick himself, naturally. Bayon has laid down the gauntlet with his excellent performances so far and his form will go a long way to determining how far the USA goes in this tournament.
Steve Nyarady - Striker, NYC Spain - Steve Nyarady might have been the best striker pure striker at the Cosmos Copa Qualification Tournament. Spain played an intricate tiki-taka style of soccer and Nyarady was the man asked to put away all of the chances that they created. He bagged four goals in qualifying to give him a share of second place in the goal scoring charts. Nyarady is big with a commanding physical presence but he also has a delicate first touch and knows where the back of the net is. Spain weren't able to get out of their qualifying group after succumbing to a heart breaking last minute goal but Nyarady and his teammates showed extremely well and are poised to return to Copa even stronger next year.
Andrew Herman - Striker, NYC USA - Herman is the other half of USA's lethal strike partnership. He formed a remarkable chemistry with Chris Bayon that powered the USA through their impressive qualification campaign. Herman is lightning quick with has massive upper body strength and excellent finishing skills. In day 2 he seemed to put away nearly every chance that came his way and if his form carries through, the USA are poised to make a very deep run in this year's tournament.