Cobi Jones is old enough to remember the old Cosmos -- the team of Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia and other big-name stars -- and the North American Soccer League, believe it or not.
“I'm 40 years old,” he says. “Why does everybody think I'm still in my 20s?”
It could be the youthful energy with which he plied his trade for so many years, encompassing three World Cups, a U.S.-record 164 international matches and the first dozen seasons in Major League Soccer as a Galaxy star and then legend, but his standing with L.A.'s team -- dating to its 1996 debut -- has officially ended.
Jones, whose name was synonymous with the Galaxy, was unveiled Monday as the Cosmos' associate director of soccer and club ambassador. After 12 years patrolling the flanks and three more as assistant coach, first to Ruud Gullit and then to Bruce Arena (with one game as interim head coach in between), his new focus is getting a second New York club ready for MLS.
The new Cosmos are angling to become the league's 20th team, and a natural rival to the New Jersey-based New York Red Bulls, and they've impressed Jones since first contacting him last year with the “fervor with which they're doing everything.”
“I can't go into too many of the details,” he told ESPN Los Angeles on Monday, “but it's something that will pleasantly surprise a lot of people. The ultimate goal is to get into MLS, but the way they're going about it, I think, is the right way.
“They want to do amazing things, not just in the New York area, but for MLS and soccer in the United States and internationally.”
The club, revived last year by Englishman Paul Kemsley, a former Tottenham executive, already has started a youth-development program, and Jones' initial duties will include scouting at the club's two academies, one of them with Pasadena-based Los Angeles Futbol Club.
He'll also be “shaking hands, pushing the Cosmos name within United States and internationally, being an ambassador representing the club and organization in the right way.”
He won't even have to leave L.A. The Westlake Village product (from Westlake HS/UCLA) will continue, for the time being, to live in Southern California, commuting to New York.
As things proceed, Jones will have much to say about player matters for the club, and there already have been conversations about his duties -- general manager? coaching? -- if and when the Cosmos field a team in MLS.
These Cosmos clearly will be different than the old group -- it's not really possible to stuff a roster full of Pelés and Beckenbauers -- but the goal, Jones says, is “to be just as exciting and have a team [that you want] to watch.”
After 15 seasons, he acknowledges, it's tough to say goodbye to the Galaxy.
“I had a great and storied career with the Galaxy,” Jones said. “It's very difficult to leave, and it was a hard decision, but I think this is the right decision for myself and my family at this point in my career.”
What are his wramest memories of his time with the Galaxy?
“I know it sounds cheesy,” he said, “But I'd say it's all the friendships I made over the years. Those are the things that stick with you. The championships you won [including MLS Cups in 2002 and 2005], and the friendships that came through the [championships].
“We were a close-knit unit in those early years, and you can really see it now. The people I still talk to are some of the old Galaxy players all over the place. That's a bond that's pretty special.”