Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
Another find from the estate of the late Newark Star-Ledger sportswriter Ike Kuhns, who covered the New York Cosmos soccer beat for years. This program comes from one of the final competitive soccer games the Cosmos ever played – an indoor match at the Brendan Byrne Arena in January 1985.
By this point, the club was owned by former player Giorgio Chinaglia and more or less out of money. The big international superstars and the large crowds were long gone. Attendance bottomed out a few weeks earlier when an announced gathering of 2,122 turned out at 19,000-seat Brendan Byrne Arena for an indoor match against the Las Vegas Americans. On the field, they were less than mediocre at 6 wins and 11 losses.
This night was the highlight of the Cosmos lone truncated season in the Major Indoor Soccer League. A season-high crowd of 10,142 turned out at Brendan Byrne, mostly schoolchildren and youth soccer kids lured by steeply discounted tickets. The opponent was the Minnesota Strikers, a fellow refugee from outdoor soccer and the all-but-dead North American Soccer League. The Cosmos and the Strikers had met 31 times outdoors since 1977, but this was the first time they ever played each other indoors.
Chinaglia attempted to rouse himself to the occasion with mixed results. The NASL’s all-time leading scorer grabbed a microphone and thanked the crowd for showing up before the game. He also dressed for the match. Chinaglia, who retired in 1983, dressed and played in four MISL matches that winter in a vain attempt to rekindle some of the old Cosmos glamour and magic, but it wasn’t happening. He would watch the entire match from the bench.
“I invited <the large crowd> and I wanted to be on the bench, but I was really too tired to help much on the field,” Chinaglia acknowledged to Kuhns and the rest of the Cosmos’ vastly diminished press corps after the match.
Although Chinaglia remained bolted to the bench, it was the still the Cosmos dwindling corps of old-timers who sparked the team on this night. Mark Liveric played for the Cosmos in 1979 and 1980. Just a week earlier, he returned to the Cosmos after a five-year absence, after the team purchased his contract from the Kansas City Comets. This was Liveric’s third game back and he opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a power play goal from 30-feet out.
Cosmos fans were also treated to a rare appearance in goal from Hubert Birkenmeier. Birkenmeier, who joined the ‘Mos in 1979, did more coaching than playing these days. He had appeared in only 3 of the club’s previous 17 matches after being unseated by his long-time understudy David Brcic. Tonight, he got a rare start and kept the Cosmos in the match, as Minnesota outshot New York 48-22. In the second half, with the score knotted at 2-2, it was veteran midfielder Angelo DiBernardo who tallied twice to delight the large crowd and give the Cosmos a rare win by the score of 4-3.
“When you see a crowd like that, you just want to try a little harder,” Kuhns quoted DiBernado afterwards. “When you take a shot, even if it misses, and you hear a roar, you feel like you’re playing somewhere and being watched.”
The Cosmos played one six more competitive matches in New Jersey after this night. Six weeks later, on February 22, 1985, the Cosmos withdrew from the Major Indoor Soccer League during the league’s All-Star Break. The team was reportedly $1.5 million in debt and mired in the cellar with an 11-22 record. They became the first MISL club to ever fail to complete a season. A planned 18-game international exhibition schedule at Giants Stadium faltered after a handful of poorly attended dates and the team shut its doors in July 1985 after 15 seasons.
“DiBernardo’s 2 spark Cosmos past Strikers”, Ike Kuhns, The Newark Star-Ledger, January 13, 1985