Santiago Castaño and Kevin Venegas represent two massive signings for the NPSL’s New York Cosmos as they bring a massive amount of talent, potential, and experience to one of America’s most storied clubs.
The Cosmos are, after all, the club of Pelé, Beckenbauer, Alberto, Chinaglia, and Messing. They are a club that has changed American soccer and will continue to do so in the NPSL and the Founders Cup.
A young player that should get Cosmos supporters excited is Castaño, a goalkeeper that has experience both domestically and abroad. His playing style makes him a formidable opponent in goal.
“I’m a leader,” Castaño said. “I like to be aggressive off my line. I feel comfortable with the ball at my feet. I also feel comfortable when it comes to distribution. I consider myself a shot stopper and a comfortable goalkeeper.”
Castaño spent his youth career as part of the New York Red Bulls organization, eventually signing with their MLS team.
“The Red Bulls always treated me the best and gave me the best,” Castaño commented. “The coaches and staff always pushed me to be the best version of myself as a player and as a person. My time at the Red Bulls was an unbelievable experience.”
In 2015, Castaño made 21 appearances for New York Red Bulls II. He would earn USL Team of the Week honors on August 25, 2015 after tallying six saves in a superb performance against Toronto FC II.
“It Is always a good feeling to be named to the Team of the Week,” Castaño said. “That means you helped the team when they needed you during the game.”
In 2015, Castaño even faced off against English powerhouse Chelsea FC, making several key plays in a 4-2 Red Bulls victory.
“As a kid I always watched the EPL, La Liga, Serie A and dreamed about one day playing in one of these leagues. And when you get play against this type of team, it is a dream . You just don’t want the game to end. It was a unique experience for me.”
Later Castaño would head to Colombia to continue his career with Socrates Valencia FC before returning to play in the NPSL in 2018.
“Playing in the U.S. and playing in Colombia is not much of a difference,” Castaño said. “There is more pressure in Colombia since there is relegation. The club and fans always want to be at the top. But I always say fútbol is the same everywhere. Same ball, same 11 players.”
Castaño is excited to be back in the States and playing for the Cosmos. He had many other options, but decided that the Cosmos were the best fit.
“I’m honored to be a part of the New York Cosmos,” Castaño commented. “I know of the responsibility of being a part of the club. It’s a responsibility with the club, fans, and with the city. It’s a huge opportunity for my career. I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”
The Queens, NY native is very much looking forward to the upcoming NPSL season and the Founders Cup.
“My expectations are very high,” Castaño added. “I know that fútbol in the U.S. is growing every year and this is a wonderful opportunity for the league and for every club to show that we can compete at the highest level with any other club in the country. I’m very excited for what’s to come. It will be a wonderful year.”
The past has been good to Castaño as he has been part of the U.S. national team program at various levels, from U-14 to U-20. Playing for his country has proven to be the biggest moment in his career so far.
“It’s always an honor to represent your country, the U.S., the country where I was born and raised,” Castaño concluded. “There is no better feeling to put on that Nike jersey with the U.S. patch. Every national team call-up is an honor. I believe there is no better feeling than going to camp and representing your country.”
Castaño also had the unique opportunity to represent a second country, Colombia, in 2014, accepting a call to join their U-20 national team camp.
Very few 23-year-olds have this kind of experience at the club and international level. Mendes knows that he signed the right man for the job.
“I think his pedigree and growing up as a local kid with the academies,” Mendes said. “Obviously he played with the New York Red Bulls Academy and the U.S. youth national teams. He understands the area. That was very important to us, to get a local guy who grew up here and understands what soccer and the diverse community here needs. Recently he has been training overseas and we feel that he is very sharp and has matured as a player. We’ve gotten to see and speak to some people and he’s been at a very good level. It was the right time to make a move and bring him in. He’s someone who is going to compete and push the level.”
Venegas is a veteran of seven professional seasons, six with Minnesota United and one with Indy Eleven. During that time, he made over 135 appearances, tallying six goals.
Cosmos head coach Carlos Mendes was impressed by what Venegas brings to the table.
“Kevin is obviously a very important player for us,” Mendes said. “He’s a guy that bring a lot of experience. I was able to play against him in the NASL. He’s played at the MLS level. Obviously he’s a proven pro that really first our style. We’re excited to have him. He brings a lot of experience that will help us moving forward.”
Venegas’ playing style is closely aligned with the style of play showcased by the Cosmos.
“He’s an outside back that likes to attack,” Mendes commented. “He is comfortable on the ball. He’ll get up and down the field and he is a key for us in the way we like to play.
In the past Venegas played in the NASL and would often face off against the Cosmos.
“I started my career playing against the Cosmos,” Venegas said. “They were always the biggest club that I had played and the players they brought on were fantastic, Raul, Marcos Senna. Every year they always had the biggest names. I only beat them once when I was with Minnesota. The Cosmos were always a championship-caliber team. I’m excited. It’s kind of a ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ scenario.”
As you can see, Venegas is quite excited to join the legendary club.
“I always held them very highly throughout my career as a top club that always did things right,” Venegas added. “Any player would be excited to play for a club like the Cosmos with the success rate they’ve had and the product and brand they put out.”
Venegas has played all over the country and is looking forward to playing in the NPSL and Founders Cup.
“Teams like the Cosmos, Miami FC, and Detroit City have their own thing going now,” Venegas concluded. “The Founders Cup looks to be a very accurate glimpse into something that has a lot of potential and makes a lot of sense in my book. The amount of talent that is still out there, that doesn’t always get picked up. Players are left behind, left out, forced to retire at a young age. It’s exciting that the Founders Cup can showcase the players that are on the way up, players that deserve a shot and haven’t got it yet, or deserve another shot. There are a lot of guys that deserve to be showcased.”
Venegas and Castaño are just two players on a very talented Cosmos roster. The club has already signed a plethora of strong players including Bledi Bardic, Ricardo Bocanegra, Junior Burgos, Aaron Dennis, Darwin Espinal, Pedro Galvão, Jochen Graf, Garrett Halfhill, Aly Alberto Hassan, and Danny Szetela.
Mendes, Senior Vice President Joe Barone, and the entire New York Cosmos organization has been working hard to put a strong team on the field.
“We are very happy with the guys we have signed,” Mendes mentioned. “We have a done a great job getting a combination of players that fit our style, understand how we want to play, want to be here, and are excited to be part of the New York Cosmos. That was very important to us. These are good players with good mentalities, good personalities.
It’s quite clear that the Cosmos mean business and that they should be considered one of the favorites in both the NPSL and the Founders Cup. With talented players like Santiago Castaño and Kevin Venegas, they have a great foundation to build on with two of the top players in the league calling New York home.
Photo Credit: Indy Eleven and Minnesota United