A patriotic soccer double-header at the Meadowlands on this July evening in 1983. A Pan American Games qualifier between the United States and Canada opened the show at 6:30 PM, followed by a North American Soccer League match between the New York Cosmos and Team America. Team America was a new side in the NASL, the so-called “National Team in Training” of the United States, which was disastrously inserted as a privately-owned club team into the league’s 1983 schedule.
The amateurs took the field first with the sun still lingering over Giants Stadium. This two-leg series against Canada was the final Pan-Am Games qualifier for Manfred Schellscheidt’s United States team. Only one of the two CONCACAF members would advance to the Games in Venezuela at the end of August. They fought to a draw on this night, with each side tallying early in the first half and then holding on for a 1-1 tie. The U.S. would best Canada four nights later at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario to earn the qualification.
In the nightcap, the Cosmos ran roughshod over Alkis Panagoulias’ ramshackle collection of young American pros and Green Card recipients. Paraguayan midfield magician Julio Cesar Romero ran the show, scoring one goal and setting up three others. The Cosmos won 4-0, despite losing the NASL’s all-time leading scorer, Giorgio Chinaglia, to a severe hamstring pull early in the 2nd half.
An interesting moment occurred late in the match when Team America’s 21-year old captain Jeff Durgan knocked down New York’s Rick Davis, drawing a yellow card. Durgan was one of three players under contract to the Cosmos who were selected to play for Team America in 1983, along with Boris Bandov and Chico Borja. Davis was also chosen for Team America, but refused the assignment, opting to remain with the Cosmos. Team America’s demoralizing performance in the NASL was partially blamed on the refusal of a handful of the league’s young American stars, including Davis and Mark Peterson of the Seattle Sounders, to leave their clubs and join Team America.
The failure to procure the actual best American players to play for Team America ultimately helped to doom the team After a grim 10-20 record and big financial losses playing out of a home base at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., the Team American experiment was euthanized a few days after the NASL regular season ended in September 1983.
One of the all-time great matches in the history of the Tulsa Roughnecks (1978-1985) club. The New York Cosmos brought all of their international stars to Oklahoma for this early season 1980 match – Alberto, Beckenbauer, Chinaglia. 30,822 fans turned out, a Tulsa club record which would never be surpassed.
The match was physical. Roughnecks coach Charlie Mitchell instructed his players to get after the Cosmos’ aging stars. Tulsa imposed their style on the match. Referee Dante Maglio whistled 59 fouls and issued five yellow cards in the match. The Cosmos got few clean chances on Roughnecks goalkeeper Gene DuChateau, who needed to make only one save in the match.
Nevertheless, the Cosmos got on the board first, when a bad clearance by Billy Gazonas led to Giorgio Chinaglia’s 99th league goal and a 1-0 New York lead in 24th minute. The Cosmos took the lead into the locker room at the intermission.
But in the second half, Tulsa’s Northern Irish internationals Billy Caskey and Victor Moreland took over. The Roughnecks tied the match in the 62nd minute, when Moreland punched in a corner kick from Alan Woodward amidst a scrum in front of the net (the goal was initially credited to Caskey). Caskey got the game winner in the 79th minute, beating New York ‘keeper Hubert Birkenmeier one-on-one after a Cosmos’ defensive lapse. The Roughnecks held on for the 2-1 upset.
After the match, Tulsa sweeper Jo Edvaldsson shared his assessment with Randy Krehbiel of The Tulsa World:
“They’re superstars,” said the Icelandic international. “They’re not used to playing from behind. They have seven or eight superstars out there. But we have a team of players who care about each other. You didn’t see them going after tackles. We have more character. We deserved to win it.”
The Cosmos and the Roughnecks would meet again in the 1st round of the 1980 NASL playoffs. The Cosmos annihilated Tulsa 11-2 in the two-game series, including a record-shattering 8-1 beating in Game Two that featured seven goals from Chinaglia.
Dodgy pre-game show footage from the Cosmos’ local WOR-TV coverage of the match.
This 1979 match program comes from the very early days of the North American Soccer League’s experiments with indoor soccer. During the mid-1970’s the NASL staged occasional indoor exhibitions or short offseason tournaments featuring a handful of clubs. The winter of 1979-80 was to be the league’s first go at a full-fledged indoor season, staged partly in reaction to the sudden emergence of a competitor – the Major Indoor Soccer League – which began play the previous winter.
The Minnesota Kicks were one of the stronger and more popular clubs to jump into indoor. Only the Cosmos and the Tampa Bay Rowdies drew bigger crowds outdoors than the Kicks, who averaged nearly 25,000 per match in the summer at Metropolitan Stadium. That enthusiasm carried over to the novelty of the indoor game. This December 1979 tilt against the Memphis Rogues at The Met Center was the second indoor match ever played in Minnesota and the Kicks pulled a near-full house of 12,105. For the 1979-80 indoor season, the Kicks led the NASL in home attendance at 9,562 per game, nearly double the league average.
The big crowd would go home disappointed. The match was unusually low-scoring for an indoor game and the visiting Rogues pulled out a 3-2 overtime victory. Memphis shut down the Kicks’ top scoring duo of Alan Willey and Ron Futcher altogether. Minnesota got goals from John Bain and Gary Vogel.
Billy Gazonas from the Tulsa Roughnecks, the 1977 Hermann Trophy winner as America’s top collegiate player, was pictured on the cover of the evening’s KICK match program.
This was the 21st match in one of the North American Soccer League’s great rivalries. The New York Cosmos led the Tampa Bay Rowdies 12-8 in the all-time series, including a 3-1 victory in Soccer Bowl ’78. But Tampa ‘s eight victories were the most that any NASL club had ever imposed on the Cosmos and both teams were nearly unbeatable on their home turf in the rivalry. New York was 11-1 at home and the Rowdies were 7-1 at Tampa Stadium.
All that was about to end. After six straight winning seasons and three Soccer Bowl appearances from 1975 to 1980, the Rowdies were sliding into their steep 1980’s decline of four straight losing seasons from 1981 to 1984. Tampa Bay came in a respectable 7-8, but was riddled with injuries to key players including Perry Van Der Beck,Tatu and Zequinha. A season-ending injury to rookie goalkeeper Tom Boric four nights earlier caused Rowdies manager Gordon Jago to hand the start to Jack Brand, signed off the scrap heap two days earlier. Brand was an ex-Cosmos (1978 & 1979) who started in goal and defeated the Rowdies in Soccer Bowl ’78.
The crowd of 28,475 was the largest Rowdies turnout of the season to date. The clubs played scoreless soccer for 80 minutes before Steve Moyers headed a ball past Brand in the 82nd minute. English striker Steve Hunt, reunited a month earlier with the Cosmos after a three-year absence, added an insurance goal four minutes later to ice the 2-0 victory for the visiting New Yorkers. Hubert Birkenmeier made nine saves for the Cosmos to keep it even early.