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Chicago Sting vs. St. Louis Steamers. April 16, 1988

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Ernie Buriano Chicago StingChicago Sting vs. St. Louis Steamers
April 16, 1988
Rosemont Horizon
Attendance: 4,604

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
52 Pages

 

A quiet, downbeat ending to two proud American soccer franchises on a spring Saturday night in suburban Chicago.  The St. Louis Steamers hung a 4-3 overtime defeat on the host Chicago Sting in what would prove to be the final game for both franchises.  As the Sting’s Chicago Tribune beat writer, the late John Leptich, put it the next morning: “The term sudden death never had more applications.”

The Sting, at the time, were the longest continuously operating pro soccer club in the United States.  Founded on Halloween 1974 by commodities Lee Stern, the Sting won two outdoor soccer championships in the North American Soccer League in the early 1980’s before moving permanently indoors in 1984.  The team drew huge crowds at Chicago Stadium for indoor soccer early in the decade.  But a 1986 move to the suburban Rosemont Horizon coincided with a loss of form on the field.  Attendance cratered from over 10,000 per match during the 1984-85 campaign to fewer than 6,000 two years later.  By the spring of 1988, ever a stalwart backer like Stern was exhausted and a possible sale and relocated to Denver or Milwaukee was rumored.

If the Major Indoor Soccer League itself survived, that is.  As this final weekend of the 1987-88 regular season calendar approached, the MISL was at loggerheads with its Players’ Association over a new collective bargaining agreement.  League owners wanted to slash the salary cap from the existing $1.25M to $898,000 per season.  The owners held all the leverage.  On April 5th, 1988, league officials threatened to cancel the 1988 MISL playoffs and fold the league if the players didn’t capitulate.  The union signed off on the new deal just before midnight on April 14th, 1988.  The playoffs would happen after all, but that mattered little to Chicago or St. Louis, who had each clinched last place in their respective divisions.

The St. Louis Steamers, founded in 1979, were in worse shape than the Sting in April 1988.  Once the MISL’s model franchise, the Steamers outdrew the NHL’s St. Louis Blues every winter from 1980 through 1984.  Their 1981-82 season average of 17,107 fans per game remains the highest in the history of indoor soccer.  But ownership turnover and questionable trades eroded the club competitively and at the box office in the mid-1980’s.  The day before this match, the Steamers failed to make payroll and the team arrived in Chicago clutching IOUs.

Poli Garcia St. Louis SteamersOn “Fan Appreciation Night” at the Horizon, many of the Sting’s fan favorites were in street clothes.  Pato Margetic, Frank Klopas, Frantz Mathieu, Heinz Wirtz and Chris Vaccaro watched from the Chicago bench.  Nevertheless, the hosts carried a 3-2 lead into the final quarter.  With eight minutes to go, St Louis’ Boki Bandovic beat Chicago’s reserve goalkeeper Jay McCutcheon to know the match at 3-3 and send it to overtime.

Four minutes in, Poli Garcia of the Steamers struck for his 50th goal of the season to give St. Louis a 4-3 sudden death victory.

“I guess the way to win games is not to pay the players,” Lee Stern remarked to The Tribune afterwards, noting the Steamers’ two-game winning streak after their final paychecks bounced.

Poli Garcia’s golden goal ended not just the game, but the season and the existence of both clubs.  The Steamers were booted from the MISL two months later and the Chicago Sting closed up shop in early July 1988.  Indoor soccer would soon return to both cities.  The Chicago Power (1988-1996) of the lower-budget AISA started up in the fall of 1988 with a collection of ex-Sting players.  The MISL expanded back into St. Louis with the St. Louis Storm (1989-1992) a year later.  But neither club would recapture the following of the Sting or the Steamers in their early 80’s prime.

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Chicago soccer trivia from the Sting’s final match that only Peter Wilt may care about:

  • Match referee Bill Maxwell also called the Sting’s final outdoor match, the club’s NASL Soccer Bowl victory on October 4, 1984
  • Pato Margetic was the only player on both the Sting’s final outdoor roster in 1984 and final indoor roster in 1988.
  • Brazilian forward Batata, a four-time MISL All-Star, scored the final goal in Sting history.
  • Ernie Buriano (Sting ’86-’88) appeared on the cover of the final Sting game program (top right).

 

==Links==

Chicago Sting Home Page

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Written by andycrossley

March 4th, 2015 at 12:35 pm

May 10, 1981 – Chicago Sting vs. Dallas Tornado

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George Best San Jose EarthquakesChicago Sting vs. Dallas Tornado
May 10, 1981
Wrigley Field
Attendance: 1,861

North American Soccer League Programs

 

We’ve already got a ton of Chicago Sting programs posted on FWIL, but I’ll throw another one on here just as an excuse to add a new George Best game day mag to the archive. Best, playing his final season in U.S. in 1981, is pictured on the cover of the afternoon’s match program as a member of the San Jose Earthquakes, the last of the three NASL clubs he played for during his five-year American adventure.

Best and the rest of the ‘Quakes were hundreds of miles from Chicago’s Wrigley Field on this Mother’s Day afternoon and that was to their immense good fortune.  Wind, rain and temperatures in the 30’s left Sting officials eager to re-schedule the match, despite the opportunity to curb stomp what was easily the worst side in the NASL in 1981: Lamar Hunt’s Dallas Tornado.  The Tornado were the last remaining active club from the NASL’s first season back in 1968, but were suffering through a miserable 5-27 campaign that would ultimately end with the club’s closure in September 1981.

Rudy Glenn Chicago StingThe shivering assembly of 1,861 souls at Wrigley may have been smallest NASL crowd of the post-Pele era.  (Anybody know for sure? Comment below).  On the plus side, no one had to rush the gates early to claim one of the 1,000 daisies set aside for Mother’s Day or the 5,000 t-shirts sponsored by R.C. Cola.  The weather was so nasty (and the pre-sale presumably so grim) that Sting executive Charles Evranian called Tornado General Manager Kent Kramer three hours before kickoff to suggest postponing the match until the next day.  Kramer dismissed the proposal, but his players seemed to feel differently.  Although the match went off as scheduled, the Tornado never seemed to get off the bus.

Rudy Glenn, the second-year American midfielder from Indiana University, was the offensive hero for Chicago.  Glenn scored the first and last goals for Chicago in a 5-0 blowout.  It was the first multi-goal performance of Glenn’s outdoor career.  It’s not clear if he ever did it again – the Oklahoma native scored just 13 more goals in his 130-game NASL career.   Glenn would, however, score the decisive penalty kick to win Soccer Bowl ’81 for the Sting over the New York Cosmos four months later in September 1981.

 

==Links==

Chicago Sting Home Page

Dallas Tornado Home Page

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Written by andycrossley

November 29th, 2014 at 10:49 pm

June 22, 1984 – Chicago Sting vs. New York Cosmos

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Roberto Cabanas New York CosmosChicago Sting vs. New York Cosmos
June 22, 1984
Comiskey Park
Attendance: 11,458

North American Soccer League Programs

 

Sharp match program here from the final season of the North American Soccer League.  I’ve posted a bunch of programs on Fun While It Lasted from the NASL’s terrific rivalry between the Chicago Sting and the New York Cosmos.  Although the Cosmos are the proto-Super Club that everybody remembers today, the Sting typically got the better of the New Yorkers.  Especially in big games, including their only championship match meeting in Soccer Bowl ’81.

This was an exception.  Coming off a humiliating 5-0 home defeat to the Sting 13 days earlier at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, the Cosmos rebounded with a 2-1 victory on the road at Comiskey Park.  Stan Terlecki and Chico Borja scored for New York.  Pato Margetic potted the lone goal for the Sting.

That’s the Cosmos’ Roberto Cabanas on the cover of the day’s KICK Magazine program.  The lanky Paraguayan ran away with the NASL scoring title (25 goals, 16 assists) in 1983 and was named Most Valuable Player of the league.  But his production dropped off a cliff in 1984 and the Cosmos’ floundered along with him.  Perhaps the retirement of Giorgio Chinaglia following the 1983 season allowed opposing defenses to key their attention on Cabanas.  Indoor star Terlecki struggled to be a factor paired with Cabanas up top.  The Cabanas/Chinaglia tandem struck for 43 goals in 1983.  But Cabanas and Terlecki produced just 12 goals in 1984.

The Cosmos’ NASL era would end in three months later on September 15, 1984 with yet another huge match against the Sting.  Back in Chicago and needing a win on the season’s final day to make the playoffs – an utterly alien scenario for the Cosmos – the Sting broke them yet again with a 1-0 victory.  The Sting went on to win the NASL’s final title two weeks later.

 

==Downloads==

June 22, 1984 Chicago Sting Game Notes

June 22, 1984 New York Cosmos Game Notes

 

==Links==

Chicago Sting Home Page

New York Cosmos Home Page

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Written by andycrossley

September 2nd, 2014 at 2:08 am

December 26, 1983 – Chicago Sting vs. New York Cosmos

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Chicago Sting vs. New York Cosmos
December 26, 1983
Chicago Stadium
Attendance: 11,722

North American Soccer League Programs
48 pages

 

“Season Greetings From Your Chicago Sting“…

Great KICK Magazine match day from 30 years ago today, when the Chicago Sting took on their North American Soccer League arch rivals in an indoor soccer matinee at the old Chicago Stadium downtown.  The crowd of 11,722 was the Sting’s largest of the indoor season so far, thanks to the holiday and the box office appeal of the hated New York Cosmos.

Cosmos’ striker Steve Moyers graces the program cover, but it was New York’s Polish indoor specialist Stan Terlecki who carried the afternoon for the visitors, scoring all four of the Cosmos’ goals, including the game winner with under three minutes to play.  The Cosmos won 4-3.  Charlie Fajkus (2 goals) and Ingo Peter scored for the Sting in a losing effort.

 

==Links==

Chicago Sting Home Page

New York Cosmos Home Page

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Written by andycrossley

December 27th, 2013 at 12:15 am

October 1, 1984 – Chicago Sting vs. Toronto Blizzard

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Soccer Bowl 1984Chicago Sting vs. Toronto Blizzard
Soccer Bowl Series ’84
Game One
Comiskey Park
Attendance: 8,352

North American Soccer League Programs
24 pages

 

This was the second-to-last match ever played in the old North American Soccer League (1968-1984) and the last outdoor pro soccer match in Chicago until the arrival of Major League Soccer and the Chicago Fire in 1998.

A little more than a decade earlier, back in August 1974, the Miami Toros and the Los Angeles Aztecs met in the NASL championship game.  The Toros won the right to host the match at the Orange Bowl, but the uncertainty of who would advance through the playoffs to host the final left promoters scrambling to sell tickets.  The Toros were never a strong draw to begin with and organizers pinned their hopes on a massive discount coupon effort which papered the city of Miami with hundreds of thousands of ticket vouchers.  August in Miami isn’t a great time to be outdoors at 3:30 in the afternoon and the resulting crowd of 15,507 was considered a major disappointment.

NASL Commissioner Phil Woosnam decided that the league needed a neutral site championship game, modeled on the NFL’s Super Bowl.  With a host city selected months in advance there would be plenty of time to promote ticket sales.  Thus the Soccer Bowl concept was born in 1975, with San Jose’s Spartan Stadium hosting the league title match between the Portland Timbers and the Tampa Bay Rowdies.  By the late 1970’s, the Soccer Bowl was consistently drawing over 50,000 fans to first class venues such as Giants Stadium and RFK Stadium.

Then came 1982.  The NASL was in major trouble, having shrunk from 24 active clubs to just 14 in two years with more departures on the horizon.  Midway through the 1982 season, exasperated league owners effectively replaced Woosnam by hiring former industrialist and government official Howard J. Samuels as the new President and CEO of the League.  One of Samuels first impressions of the NASL was the misfire of Soccer Bowl ’82, hosted by the San Diego Sockers organization at Jack Murphy Stadium.  For the first time in three years, the Soccer Bowl was not carried on network television.  And the live attendance was an embarrassment – only 22,634 showed up for the game, despite the fact that the hometown Sockers had advanced as far as the semi-final round which should (in theory) have goosed advance sales.  It was by far the smallest Soccer Bowl crowd since the concept debuted in 1975.

Samuels drew the exact opposite conclusion as Woosnam had eight years earlier.  Neutral site championships were a “disaster” for the league in 1981 and 1982, Samuels told The New York TimesSamuels envisioned a best-of-three series between the finalists, with matches in their respective home cities, drawing 50,000 fans per match.  It would be two years before Samuels could implement the idea – Vancouver would get to host the 1983 Soccer Bowl before Samuels could toss the neutral site model onto the trash heap once and for all.  (Naturally, Vancouver drew 53,000 for the 1983 match – 2nd highest in Soccer Bowl history – despite the fact that the local Whitecaps failed to reach the final).

Howard Samuels finally got his desired format in 1984.  The Chicago Sting and the Toronto Blizzard met in a best-of-three championship, now re-branded as the “Soccer Bowl Series ’84”.  Fan turnout was far below even the “disaster” levels of the 1981 and 1982 Soccer Bowls.   Only 8,352 fans turned up at Chicago’s Comiskey Park for Game One.  Strangely, the crowd was even smaller than Chicago’s modest regular season average of 8,376.

The game itself was exciting and somewhat strange.  Blizzard defender Bruce Wilson opened the scoring in the 16th minute with an outlandish goal.  Wilson collected the ball about 40 yards out from the Sting goal and chipped a high lob back into the penalty area.  No one was in the vicinity except for Sting goalkeeper Victor Nogueira who waited calmly in front of the descending ball…and then shocked the Comiskey faithful by allowing it to nutmeg him and roll unmolested into the Sting net.  Nogueira writhed on the ground in abject humiliation.  But the Sting keeper dusted himself off and shutdown the dangerous Toronto trio of David Byrne, Roberto Bettega and Ace Ntsoelengoe for the rest of the evening.

The Blizzard carried the 1-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.  But the second half was all Chicago.  Pato Margetic even the game in the 51st minute, the first of three goals for the young Argentinean striker in the 1984 Soccer Bowl Series.  Chilean midfielder Manny Rojas, a midseason acquisition who scored only one regular season goal for the Sting, notched the game winner in the 85th minute.

Two nights later, the Sting travelled to Toronto and put the series away with a 3-2 victory.  That proved to be the last game the NASL ever played.  The league folded in early 1985.

NASL President & CEO Howard Samuels didn’t live to see the bitter end.  He died suddenly of a heart attack on October 26, 1984, three weeks after his preferred Soccer Bowl format got its first and only showing.

 

==YouTube==

1st half of the 1984 Soccer Bowl Series Game One between the Sting and the Blizzard at Chicago’s Comiskey Park.

 

…and the 2nd Half as well.

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Written by andycrossley

August 19th, 2013 at 12:44 am