By Jay Mwamba on First Touch Online
For twins born a mere five minutes apart, BWG Cosmos’ Ospina brothers are an interesting study in contrasts.
Milton, the older of the two, stands 5-3 and has terrorized defenses in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League [CSL] and other leagues for years. Maiber, in contrast, is a strapping 6-1 center half who’s anchored Cosmos’ backline while fashioning a reputation as a goal scoring threat from set piece situations.
Now 34, the Ospina siblings have been indispensable members of Cosmos [nee BW Gottschee] since first joining the club as ten-year-olds fresh from their native Colombia. In between stints with other teams both in the CSL and elsewhere, they’ve enjoyed success at various levels including, most recently, the club’s back-to-back D’Arpino Cup victories in 2010 and 2011.
This season, the diminutive but explosive Milton has shot the lights out for both Cosmos’ Over-30 and Metro Div. One teams – remarkably while turning out for both sides on the same day. At the start of the winter break, he’d struck five times in two games for the metros and netted 12 goals in nine appearances for the Over-30s.
He does most of his damage from a striking or attacking midfield role. “I play either number nine or number ten. I’m 5-foot-three, quick, have [good] ball control and [good] finishing,” Milton points out.
He also confesses to a quick temper and recalls being kicked off a team once for taunting a defender in an 11-3 rout and daring the poor marker to take the ball away.
“I scored seven goals but my coach wasn’t pleased and kicked me off the team saying he didn’t want any Maradonas on the side,” Milton smiles.
Interesting enough, neither twin had played organized football before living their hometown Santiago de Cali, famously known as Colombia’s sports capital.
They were 10 when Milton’s precocious skills caught the attention of Gottschee at Flushing Meadow Park. He joined the club’s famous junior program and brought Maiber along.
Back in Cali, the brothers had both played as strikers in pick up games. That changed when they came to the United States.
Maiber remembers his conversion to defender in 1987. “John Benintendo [long time Gottschee coach] said to me, ‘you’re tall and you’ve got ball control, you help us behind’.”
It was a comfortable fit made even more pleasant when Gottschee discovered that the former striker hadn’t lost his scoring touch on corners.
“I score an average of five goals,” Maiber estimates his seasonal tally.
At age 16, the Ospina twins, described by Maiber as being “very tight in every sense,” left Gottschee after excelling in the organization’s U-11, U-13 and U-16 programs.
In addition to starring for Newtown High School in Elmhurst, they had stints with several different clubs including GH Metros and Steve Kovalenko’s New York Ukrainians in the CSL.
At Flushing Meadow Park, traditionally a hive of activity any weekend for Latin American amateur sides in the New York area, Milton and Maiber turned out for Huracan, Monserrate, Deportivo Cali and New York Pereira. They even formed their own team at one point, America, and joined the CSL.
Then in 2003 they returned to a grateful Gottschee. The club was rebranded BWG Cosmos in fall 2010.
Speaking of Milton, a frequent top scorer with the club’s metro side over the years, Cosmos Over-30 boss Ed Silva says: “He officially joined the Over-30s last spring but still helps out the Metro team when available. He’s not a tall player at all but more than makes up for it with his technical ability and knack for being where he needs to be around the goal.”
At one point last fall, Milton had scored nine of the Over-30s’ 21 goals.
“But he’s not selfish either,” Silva notes. “In our one game where we scored eight goals, it was the only game that he didn’t score more than [once]. He was happy setting the ball up for his teammates and letting them score after breaking down the defense.”
Explaining how they use the veteran finisher, Silva said first-year coach, Mario Mercado has given Milton a free role to create and attack up front and it’s paid off so far.
“I asked Mario why he thinks Milton is off to such a good start and he said, ‘the team is organized, we are playing more aggressive soccer. We are getting more chances on goal and he is more confident and happy on the field.’”
Milton also admits to having being personally motivated by criticism from the previous coach who wrote him off.
“It inspired me to bring out the best out of me and to make sure that we take the championship this year under my cleats to show him and all of those that still have doubts about me that I can still play,” said the goal poacher.
Cosmos went into the winter break in mid-table in the Over-30 Second Division [4-6, 12] eight points off the pace but thanks to Milton’s dozen goals, with the second best scoring record on the log . Only joint leaders Barnstonworth Old Boys and Manhattan Celtic [both with 30 goals] have scored more.
Maiber calls his brother gifted.
“He could be in a team that’s losing and you’ll have the confidence that at any moment he can score. He’s got the gift.”
A fact many opposing teams have quickly discovered.