The Tampa Bay Rowdies arrived in San Diego in mid-August 1983 as just a shell of the great club that appeared in three Soccer Bowl finals during the 1970’s. Under new Head Coach Al Miller, the Rowdies carried a 7-17 record into this match with the San Diego Sockers. They would go on to lose their final six matches to finish the year 7-23 – the worst won-loss record in the NASL. One of their lone bright spots was the play of rookie defender Gregg Thompson – seen pictured on the cover of the evening’s game program. Thompson was the #1 overall pick in the NASL college draft out of the University of Indiana in 1983 and would go on to win league Rookie-of-the-Year honors.
In a long, trying season for the Rowdies, this match was the indisputable low point. The Sockers laid a 9-1 shellacking on their visitors from Florida. It was the worst loss in the history of the 10-year old Rowdies franchise.
Much of the damage was done by Kaz Deyna. Deyna was a hero in his native Poland, one of the finest players ever produced by that nation. He helped lift Poland to Olympic gold at Munich in 1972 and captained Poland’s World Cup team in Argentina in 1978. On this night, the 36-year old midfielder scored four goals and assisted on all five others to set an NASL regular season record with 13 points in a single match. Unfortunately, the Sockers never drew well for outdoor soccer. The team was much more popular during the winter indoor season at the San Diego Sports Arena. Only 3,844 were on hand at cavernous Jack Murphy Stadium to witness Deyna’s big night.
Deyna’s final years were sad. He feuded openly with Sockers head coach Ron Newman and his role on the team was gradually reduced. He played his final pro match – an indoor game – for the Sockers in the spring of 1987. The Polish player agent who brought him to America, Ted Miondonski, defrauded him of his modest career earnings. Between 1984 and 1987, Deyna was arrested three times for DUI in San Diego. On September 1st, 1989 he died in a single car accident in San Diego with a blood alcohol limit twice the legal level.
23 years after his death, Deyna’s remains were returned to Poland in 2012. ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle published a retrospective on Deyna to mark the occasion.