The Year in American Soccer - 1979

Written by David Litterer, with supplemental materials by Steve Holroyd

NASL | ASL | MISL | National Team | International Club Tours | The College Game | Other Action

North American Soccer League (Div. 1)

The NASL continued its extraordinary run in 1979. Although attendance dipped slightly, part of this was due to the large number of new franchises, some of which endured growing pains. The league still drew sizeable crowds, and enjoyed respectable media coverage.

The NASL continued to sign major international stars in 1979. The Los Angeles Aztecs lured Dutch superstar Johan Cruyff out of retirement with a reported $700,000 per year deal, and he went on to win the league MVP award. Signings included World Cup veteran Gerd Muller of West Germany, signed by Ft. Lauderdale, Swedish defender Bjorn Nordqvist, signed by the Minnesota Kicks, English midfielder Alan Hudson, who went to the Seattle Sounders, and Manchester United goalkeeper Alex Stepney, who was signed by the Dallas Tornado.

A brief player strike threatened to create havoc early in the season, but was quickly resolved, only affecting the games of April 14. Teams playing that day signed replacement players recruited from local leagues, to replace those players who refused to dress for their scheduled games.

The NASL signed a two-year deal with ABC for national telecasts of regular season and playoff games. This resulted in a big boost in publicity for the league, and although ratings were disappointingly low, the package was a vast improvement over the TVS package of previous years. For 1979, the package included nine broadcasts, including the Soccer Bowl. Perhaps in recognition of soccer's relative newness for the mainstream fan, the broadcasts included extensive descriptions of soccer rules during the telecasts. Constant interruptions for commercials were a major annoyance, and highlighted the challenges in meshing soccer games with American broadcast traditions.

A promising development was the improvement of some of the newer franchises, and healthy increases in attendance for a number of the smaller-market cities, including San Diego, Toronto and Tulsa. Chicago, a major market also showed a major increase. The league had taken care of two of their weakest franchises by moving the Oakland Stompers to Edmonton and the Colorado Caribous to Atlanta where both teams quickly ingratiated themselves with the fans. The Atlanta Chiefs had history to draw from; an earlier franchise with the same name was an original team which survived much of the rough early era of the league. The Toronto Metros-Croatia were sold, and the new owners named them the Blizzard.

The Cosmos continued to grow into a mini-United Nations of soccer, fortified by the arrival of two Dutch internationals: midfielder Johan Neeskins, and defender Wim Rijsbergen, as well as Yugoslavian/American midfielder Boris Bandov, and Canadian goalkeeper Jack Brand. Teamed with Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and Giorgio Chinaglia (who led the league in goals), the Cosmos were almost unstoppable -- almost. They led the league again with a 24-6 record, and thanks to their 84 goals, they set a league record with 216 points. Although they continued to fly high, they were challenged by some surprising upstarts. Timo Liekoski coached the no-name Houston Hurricane to the second best record in the league, 22-8, earning the Coach of the Year award. Washington surged to 19-11, for second place in the National East, while Los Angeles Aztecs rebounded from a disastrous season to fight Vancouver for the National west title for much of the season.

The biggest disappointments were New England and Philadelphia. The Tea Men were unable to keep scoring phenom Mike Flanagan, and fell to last place with a disappointing 12-18 record. Moving from Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro to the smaller Nickerson Field in Boston distanced fans from available parking and attendance fell by half to just over 6,000 per game. The Philadelphia Fury, having lost several of their top scorers through questionable managerial moves, also lost games and fans in disturbing quantities. Atlanta and Edmonton, the transplanted teams had disappointing results on the field, but met with enthusiastic fan support, and in Edmonton's case, marked the beginning of a renaissance in fan support for Canadian soccer, which would continue through much of the 1980's. Minnesota retained the National Central title, while San Diego and California fought to a tie for the American west title. Ft. Lauderdale improved slightly to a respectable 17-13, and the fans were particularly energized by the new talent, including the world-class pairing of striker Gerd Muller of West Germany and Midfielder Teofilo Cubillas of Peru, both veterans of World Cups 1974 and 1978.

The playoffs included some quick exits for strong teams - Houston, Ft. Lauderdale, Washington and Minnesota all fell in the two-leg conference quarterfinals. The biggest upset was Houston's fall at the hands of the hapless Philadelphia fury, who forced Tampa Bay to a shootout before succumbing in the rejoined 1-0. The cosmos and Vancouver had to go to mini-games to advance, beating the resurgent Los Angeles Aztecs and the durable Tulsa Roughnecks respectively. The real upset was in the conference finals, where the Whitecaps stunned the New York Cosmos in one of the most exciting series in recent years. Vancouver blanked the Cosmos in the first game at sold out Empire stadium before 32,875. They won on goals by Trevor Whymark and Willie Johnston. Three days later on September 1, before 44,109 at new York, the teams battled to a 2-2 tie in regulation off of Vancouver goals by John Craven and Johnston, and a pair of Cosmos goals by Chinaglia, leading to a shootout won by the Cosmos to tie the series and send it to the mini-game, which was won by the Whitecaps. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rowdies defeated the San Diego Sockers in another close series. The Sockers took the first game in a 2-0 shutout, and the teams drew 2-2 in the second, with Tampa Bay winning the shootout and the subsequent mini-game. These conference championships were the closest in league history. the soccer Bowl was almost an anti-climax, and the absence of the cosmos reduced attendance considerably, only 50,669 of the 66,843 paid ticket holders bothered to show up at Giants stadium for the final, a tight affair on September 8, won by the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 with Trevor Whymark scoring both goals for Vancouver and Jan Van Der Veen scoring the lone tally for the Rowdies. Alan Ball, who was so carelessly sold by the Philadelphia Fury earlier in the year scored seven goals for the Whitecaps during the playoffs and was named playoff MVP.

Once again, the NASL played a large number of international friendlies and undertook extensive overseas tours during the off-season. Moscow Dynamo played three games in February, defeating Tulsa 10-3, drawing with tampa Bay and losing to San Diego 5-2. The Cosmos drew with the Trinidad All-Stars, before going to Colombia where they defeated America Cali and lost to Nacional. During the season, highlights included a pair by Kaiserslautern, who lost to Chicago 1-2 before defeating San Diego 3-2, Bayern Munich, who defeated the Cosmos 2-0, and the Argentinian national team which defeated the Cosmos 1-0. After the seaon, Chicago and the Cosmos did extensive tours again, as did either Chicago or Los Angeles (sources do not agree). The Cosmos tour was strictly against national teams, and league all-star selections. The Cosmos easily beat Indonesia's National team while drawing 1-1 with their all-league selection. They beat Singapore's national team 4-1, drew with the jamapese League all-stars, and then beat their national team 2-0. A rare loss was to the Australian nationals, 1-2. Tulsa's tour went through Holland, Wales and England, with highlights including victories over Fortuna (3-1) and telstar (2-1), a 1-4 loss to Middlesborough right after a 3-1 victory over Worcester City. Their final four games included draws against Leicester City, and Derby County (both 202_, and losses to Shewsbury (2-5), and Lincoln City (2-9). Overall, the NASL teams did well as ambassadors to the world, with their extensive presence in many countries (see more results below).

Thus was finished a wide and exciting season for the NASL. The league had completed its second year with 24 teams, and fan support was still strong. The league had clearly survived the loss of Pele, and had a large and impressive contingent of talent providing the best soccer the US had seen to this date. To deal with the nagging problem of the secondary role being forced on the American players, the league began to seriously consider minimum quotas of USA players on the roster and on the field, to provide more opportunities for the Americans to develop their talent and foster the growth of American-born stars. Given the current state of the National team, there was a long way to go, but with the continuing fan support and the new television contract, the future of the league, at least at the time, still looked bright.

The NASL finalized their plans for an indoor league, and the first regular indoor season started late in 1979, with ten teams in two divisions, played a somewhat shorter season than the outdoor league. (See the 1980 Review for details on the 1978-79 indoor season).

                 Final League Standings, 1979

Before the season, Cosmos added New York back to their name.  Oakland moved to
Edmonton and Colorado moved to Atlanta.

                           G    W   L   GF  GA  PTS    %     Att.   
     Eastern Division
New York Cosmos            30  24   6   84  52  216  .800  46,690
Washington Diplomats       30  19  11   68  50  172  .633  11,949
Toronto Blizzard           30  14  16   52  65  133  .466  11,821
Rochester Lancers          30  15  15   43  57  132  .500   8,680

     Central Division
Minnesota Kicks            30  21   9   67  48  184  .700  24,580
Dallas Tornado             30  17  13   53  51  152  .566   9,321
Tulsa Roughnecks           30  14  16   61  56  139  .466  16,425
Atlanta Chiefs             30  12  18   60  60  121  .400   7,350

     Western Division
Vancouver Whitecaps        30  20  10   54  34  172  .666  22,962
Los Angeles Aztecs         30  18  12   62  47  162  .600  14,333
Seattle Sounders           30  13  17   58  52  125  .433  18,997
Portland Timbers           30  11  19   50  75  122  .366  11,172

     Eastern Division
Tampa Bay Rowdies          30  19  11   67  46  169  .633  27,650
Fort Lauderdale Strikers   30  17  13   75  65  165  .566  13,774
Philadelphia Fury          30  10  20   55  60  111  .333   5,626
New England Tea Men        30  12  18   41  56  110  .400   6,526

     Central Division
Houston Hurricane          30  22   8   61  46  187  .733   6,211
Chicago Sting              30  16  14   70  62  159  .533   8,036
Detroit Express            30  14  16   60  56  133  .466  14,058
Memphis Rogues             30   6  24   38  74   73  .200   7,137

     Western Division
California Surf            30  15  15   53  56  140  .500  10,330
San Diego Sockers          30  15  15   59  55  140  .500  11,271
Edmonton Drillers          30   8  22   43  78   88  .266   9,923
San Jose Earthquakes       30   8  22   41  74   86  .266  15,092

Conf. Quarterfinals:   Philadelphia defeated Houston 2-1, 2-1
                       Tampa Bay defeated Detroit 3-0, 3-1
                       Tulsa defeated Minnesota 2-1(OT), 2-1(OT)
                       Vancouver defeated Dallas 3-2, 2-1
                       Chicago defeated Ft. Lauderdale 2-0, 0-0
                       San Diego defeated California 2-4, 7-2
                       Los Angeles defeated Washington 3-1, 4-3
                       New York defeated Toronto 3-1, 2-0
Conf. Semi-finals:     Tampa Bay defeated Philadelphia 3-2(SO),1-0
                       San Diego defeated Chicago 2-0, 1-0
                       New York defeated Tulsa 3-0, 3-0, 3-1(MG)
                       Vancouver defeated Los Angeles 2-3, 1-0(SO), 1-0(MG)
Conf. Championships:   Tampa Bay defeated San Diego (1-2, 3-2 (SO), 1-0(MG)
                       Vancouver defeated New York (2-0, 2-3(SO), 1-0(SO-MG)
SOCCER BOWL-79:        Vancouver defeated Tampa Bay 2-1

Leading Scorers                 GP    G    A    TP
Oscar Fabbiani, Tampa Bay       26   25    8   58
Giorgio Chinaglia, New York     27   26    5   57
Gerd Mueller, Ft. Lauderdale    25   19   17   55
Jeff Bourne, Atlanta            29   18   15   51
David Robb, Philadelphia        30   16   20   52
Karl-Heinz Granitza, Chicago    30   20   10   50
Teofilo Cubillas, Ft. Lauderdale 30   16   18   50
Alan Willey, Minnesota          29   21    7   49
Dennis Tueart, New York         27   16   16   48
Laurie Abrahams, Cal/Tulsa      25   18    9   45
John Cruyff, Los Angeles        23   13   16   42
Alan Green, Washington          23   16    9   41
Peter Ressel, Chicago           28   10   18   38
Willie Lippins, Dallas          25   15    7   37
Keith Furphy, Detroit           30   14    8   36
Rodney Marsh, Tampa Bay         23   11   14   36
Kevin Hector, Vancouver         25   15    6   36
Trevor Francis, Detroit         14   14    8   36
Ron Futcher, Minnesota          24   14    7   35
Wayne Hughes, Tulsa             29   12    9   33
John Ryan, Seattle              26   12    8   32
Joe Horvath, Washington         26    7   18   32
Leo Van Veen, Los Angeles       26   13    6   32
Branko Segota, Rochester        13   14    4   32

Leading Goalkeepers (1350 mins. needed to qualify)
                                GP   Min   SV   GA   SH   GAA
Phil Parkes, Vancouver          29  2704  100   29    7  0.96
Victor Nogueira, Atlanta        17  1432   79   20    5  1.26
Zeljko Bilecki, Tampa Bay       17  1549   93   22    5  1.28
Mike Ivanow, Seattle            28  2517  149   39    2  1.39
Bill Irwin, Washington          28  2603  134   42    4  1.45
Paul Hammond, Houston           29  2705  215   44    6  1.46
Volkmar Gross, SD/Minnesota     24  2132  137   38    6  1.604
Kevin Keelan, New England       25  2242  133   40    6  1.605
Colin Boulton, Tulsa            30  2746  109   49    7  1.606
Tino Lettieri, Minnesota        16  1378   95   25    2  1.63

Most Valuable Player:  Johan Cruyff, Los Angeles Aztecs
Coach of the Year:  Timo Liekoski, Houston Hurricane
Rookie of the Year:  Larry Hulcer, Los Angeles Aztecs
North American Player of the Year:  Ricky Davis, New York Cosmos

NASL All-Star Team - 1st Team

G   Phil Parkes            Vancouver Whitecaps
D   Carlos Alberto         New York Cosmos
D   Bruce Wilson           Chicago Sting
D   Wim Rijsbergen         New York Cosmos
D   Mike Connell           Tampa Bay Rowdies
M   Franz Beckenbauer      New York Cosmos
M   Johan Neeskens         New York Cosmos
M   Ace Ntsoelengoe        Minnesota Kicks
F   Johan Cruyff           Los Angeles Aztecs
F   Trevor Francis         Detroit Express
F   Giorgio Chinaglia      New York Cosmos

American Soccer League (Div. 2)

The ASL landed a major coup in 1979, signing former Cosmos coach Eddie Firmani. This showed some commitment to the future, but on the field, the league continued to play second fiddle to the NASL. Three expansion teams were added, with the Pennsylvania Stoners taking residence in Bethlehem, PA, the home of the legendary Bethlehem Steel of the 1920's. Also added were the Las Vegas Seagulls and Columbus Magic. Sacramento got a new thematic name, the Gold.

Given the volatile nature of rosters in this day of tight budgets, it is not surprising to see sudden changes in team fortunes. Nowhere was that more evident than with the collapse of the New York Apollo. Having lost many of their best players, they fell to last place in the league with a miserable 6-18-4 record. The Columbus Magic by contrast won the Eastern Division in their first season, with a strong defensive team that lacked a strong goalkeeper or major scoring talent. The New York Eagles showed strength, coming in second, while the California Sunshine continued their strong showing, taking the Western Division title. Unlike the Magic, the Sunshine was a scoring team, with Poli Garcia, Joe Fink and Andy Chapman combining for 42 goals as the Sunshine compiled a league-best 22-3-3 record. The Skyhawks by contrast, having lost most of their scoring power, fell to third.

The New York Eagles renaissance came to an abrupt end as they were quickly eliminated by Pennsylvania 2-1, while Sacramento defeated the faltering Skyhawks 3-2. Columbus overpowered the weaker Stoners 2-1 and 2-1, while Sacramento surprised the favored California Sunshine 0-0 and 1-0. In the championship game, the Sacramento Gold captured their first league title 1-0.

In the post-season, the league instability continued to be a problem. The Indianapolis Daredevils, despite having led the league in attendance only a year ago, folded due to financial problems, as did the failing Los Angeles Skyhawks, whose owner dumped the team in disgust, denouncing the perceived unprofessionalism of the league, and the Las Vegas Seagulls, having struggled from the start, threw in the towel. Ironically, league attendance was higher than it had ever been in the league's 46 years of operation, however the increasing scale of wages caused by the NASL's spending habits and the challenges of transnational travel were huge burdens for a league operating at a semi-pro level. These challenges would continue to haunt the league for the rest of its existence.

       Final League Standings, 1979

Before the season, Columbus, Pennsylvania (Allentown), and Las Vegas were added.

                           G    W   T   L   GF  GA  PTS
     Eastern Division
Columbus Magic             28  17   3   8   55  41  140
New York Eagles            28  14   7   7   49  35  130
Pennsylvania Stoners       28  13   5  10   50  38  120
New Jersey Americans       28  12   3  13   36  38  101
Cleveland Cobras           28   8   3  17   29  47   75
New York Apollo            28   6   4  18   30  45   64

     Western Division
California Sunshine        28  22   3   3   63  29  173
Sacramento Gold            28  14   2  12   49  34  116
Los Angeles Skyhawks       28  13   4  11   42  44  114
Indianapolis Daredevils    28   8   3  17   35  58   78
Las Vegas Seagulls         28   7   3  18   28  54   69

1st Round:     Pennsylvania defeated New York 2-1
               Sacramento defeated Los Angeles 3-2.
Semi-Finals:   Columbus defeated Pennsylvania 2-1, 2-1
               Sacramento defeated California 0-0, 1-0.
CHAMPIONSHIP:  Sacramento defeated Columbus 1-0.

After the season, Los Angeles, Indianapolis and Las Vegas folded.  
New York Eagles suspended operations for one year.

Leading Scorers                 GP    G   A   TP
Ian Filby, Sacramento           26   14   17   45
Poli Garcia, California         26   15   12   42
Jim Fink, California            23   15    9   39
Branko Samatovic, NY Eagles     28    8   16   32
Andy Chapman, California        25   12    6   30
Christian Nwokocka, Pennsylvania21   13    3   29
Colin Mclocklan, Indianapolis   28   12    5   29
Ron Wigg, Columbus              27   13    2   28
Steve Long, Pennsylvania        28   10    6   26
Anselmo Vicoso, Sacramento      18   10    6   26

Leading Goalkeepers (1300 mins. needed to qualify)
                             Min   Sho  Svs  GA  SO    GAA 
Tom Reynolds, California        1926  284  112  17   8   0.79
Jamil Canal, New York Apollo    1742  247  113  20   6   1.03
H. Hadzitonic, New York Eagles  2633  453  264  35   8   1.20
Pita Balac, Sacramento          2389  277  125  32   5   1.21
Scott Manning, Pennsylvania     2625  441  232  37   6   1.27
Va Taylor, Columbus             2392  360  189  35   7   1.32
Meno Drogenmoeller, Las Vegas   1323  167   65  23   2   1.56
Brian Parkinson, Los Angeles    2437  322  119  44   6   1.62
John Baretta, Indianapolis      1531  284  142  28   3   1.65   

Most Valuable Player:  Poli Garcia, California Sunshine
Coach of the Year:  Willie Erlich, Pennsylvania Stoners
Rookie of the Year:  John McDermott, Las Vegas Seagulls

All-Star team:

G - Tom Reynolds, California Sunshine
D - Daniel Mammana, Columbus Magic
D - Andjelko Tesan, New York Eagles
D - Ramon Moraldo, California Sunshine
D - Mickey Brown, Sacramento Gold
M - Don Tobin, California Sunshine
M - Clyde Watson, New York Eagles
M - Norman Piper, Columbus Magic
F - Poli Garcia, California Sunshine
F - Ian Filby, Sacramento Gold
F - Branko Samatovic, New York Eagles

Major Indoor Soccer League

On December 22, 1978, 10,386 fans piled into Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum to watch the hometown Kids take on New York Arrows in the first Major Indoor Soccer League match; in keeping with the spirit of the occasion, baseball legend (and Kids co-owner) Pete Rose kicked out the first ball.

Those in attendance viewed indoor soccer played under rules different than those under which the NASL exhibitions had been played. While most of the NASL indoor rules had been retained, Tepper and Foreman (who was now the MISL Commissioner) met with a few friends in a Philadelphia apartment before the season to try to add scoring to the game. As a result, the game was divided into four 15-minute periods, as opposed to the three 20-minute periods used by the NASL. More importantly, the size of the goals was enlarged, to both allow for heading in the inside game and increase scoring. When asked how high the goals should be, Tepper stood in a doorway at the apartment and indicated they should be as high as the door frame; as a result, the goals stood 6’6’’ high by 12’ wide, as compared to the NASL’s 4’ by 16’. Tepper, predictably, was excited by their "new" sport: "Bringing soccer indoor provides all the speed and scoring lacking in the outdoor game," he said. "And they are ingredients the American fans look for in a sport-and indoor soccer has them."

Initial fan reaction to the game showed that Tepper might have been right: all of the six clubs drew respectable crowds to their openers, with Philadelphia drawing a capacity 16,529 crowd to its home debut on December 30. The league’s inaugural season consisted of a 24 game schedule; it averaged 4,453 per game. Philadelphia Fever, made up mostly of players from the city’s amateur United League, paced the circuit at 8,500 per game.

The sides themselves came from a variety of sources. As noted, Philadelphia’s club was made up of local amateurs, with seasoned pros like goalkeeper Woody Hartman (the 1976 American Soccer League save leader) and New York Cosmos’ cast-offs Joey Fink (by way of Tampa Bay Rowdies) and Fred Grgurev. Pittsburgh Spirit took this approach one step further, hiring a local high school coached named Bruno Schwartz and putting together a team of college players whose average age was 23. On the other extreme were Houston and New York, who imported the NASL’s Houston Hurricane and Rochester Lancers, respectively.

While MISL rules called for at least 10 Americans on each side’s 14 man roster, the number of native-born Yanks per team varied greatly, as "American" essentially included both native and naturalized Americans and Canadians, as well as "permanent resident" green card visa holders. While Philadelphia and Pittsburgh featured local talent, for example, New York only had three natives on their squad (although, to be fair, the Arrows had a few Canadian players). In spite of these disparities, many more Americans had an opportunity to play in the MISL that they had outdoors. By the late 1970s, the United States had already produced a fair number of capable goalkeepers and defenders, and this was reflected in the MISL, as goalkeepers Shep Messing (New York), Keith Van Eron (Cincinnati), and Woody Hartman (Philadelphia) and defenders Jim Pollihan (New York) and Ed Sheridan (Philadelphia) performed impressively. However, as was common at the time, the number of creative, talented American scorers were few and far between: Joe Fink (Philadelphia) and John Stemlau (Houston) were the only natives to crack the top ten in scoring. Nonetheless, the league did introduce scorers to soccer fans who would remain dominant throughout the next decade: Steve Zungul (New York), Kai Hasskivi (Houston), and 17-year old Canadian sensation Branko Segota (New York).

On the field, Houston, with its polished NASL vets, emerged as the class of the league behind the scoring of Haaskivi and solid goalkeeping of Paul Hammond, easily winning the regular season crown, and compiling an 11-1 home record in the process. Philadelphia and New York recovered from poor starts to scramble into the playoffs with Cincinnati--also dominant at home, posting a 10-2 mark--and Houston. The playoffs found the heavily favored Houston side fall at home to Philadelphia, while New York, riding the production of scoring sensation Zungul, easily defeated Cincinnati. The MISL’s first finals found the experienced Arrows sweeping the Fever in the best-of-three series.

The second game of this series revealed all of the MISL and indoor soccer’s promise. Played before 6,096 fans in Philadelphia, the Arrows were down 2-0 in the first half, spotting the opposition an early lead as they had done all season. Their defense shut out the Fever offense the remainder of the half, however, and rallied to tie the score and then win the match outright. The goal of the season was scored in the second half, when Arrows defender Jim Polihan headed a ball to young forward Pat Ercoli. Ercoli, seeing that the ball was too low to head and too high to volley, chest-trapped the ball, then flipped it and drilled it past Philadelphia keeper Dan Brennan from twenty-yards out. "I thought of Pelé when he did it," offered Messing, who was outstanding in a 26 save effort, earning the playoff MVP award. Steve Zungul won the first of many regular-season MVP awards. Philadelphia’s Fred Grgurev scored a hat-trick in the team’s first match, followed that up with a four-goal effort in the Fever’s home opener, and rode the momentum from those performances to the league scoring title.

During the season each MISL team hosted the Soviet club Moscow Spartak for an exhibition. Led by scorer Georgij Jartsev, Spartak plowed through its opposition, with only a loss to Houston preventing a sweep of the league.

All told, the MISL’s first season was a success--none of the franchises ended the year in financial trouble, and attendance had increased steadily through the season. Plans were made to expand the number of franchises and the number of teams for the next year.

                     Final MISL League Standings, 1978-79

                            G   W   L   GF  GA   GB    %   
Houston Summit Soccer      24  18   6  175 114   --  .750
New York Arrows            24  16   8  176 136    2  .667
Cincinnati Kids            24  16   8  154 129    2  .667
Philadelphia Fever         24  11  13  141 154    7  .458
Pittsburgh Spirit          24   6  18  123 171   12  .250
Cleveland Force            24   5  19   94 159   13  .208

Playoffs:      New York defeated Cincinnati 9-4.  
               Philadelphia defeated Houston 6-3.
CHAMPIONSHIP:  New York defeated Philadelphia 14-7, 9-5.

After the season, Cincinnati folded.

Leading Scorers             GP    G    A   TP
Fred Grgurev, Philadelphia     24   46   28   74
Steve Zungul, New York         18   43   25   68
Kai Haaskivi, Houston          22   39   25   64
Branko Segota, New York        21   25   22   47
Doug Wark, Cincinnati          22   29   16   45
Joe Fink, Philadelphia         22   30   14   44
Ian Anderson, Houston          21   29   13   42
Stewart Jump, Houston          21   21   18   39
John Stremlau, Houston         24   16   21   37
Alberto Alves, Philadelphia    24   20   16   36
Sid Nolan, Pittsburgh          23   21   13   42
Gerry Morielli, Houston        19   20   13   33
Dave Darachan, Pittsburgh      23   23    9   32
John Dolinsky, Pittsburgh      22   16   15   31
Pat Ercoli, New York           21   18   13   31
John Smilie, Cincinnati        20   14   17   31

LEADING GOALKEEPERS   (Min. 800 minutes to qualify)
                                GP   Min.  Svs   GA   Record  GAA
Paul Hammond, Houston        17   1010  301   70   13-3    4.16
Keith Van Eron, Cincinnati   23   1237  400  104   15-7    5.04
Shep Messing, New York       22   1236  537  107   14-7    5.19
Woody Hartman, Philadelphia  22   1237  469  120   10-10   5.82
Pete Mannos, Pittsburgh      16    880  311  102    5-9    6.95

Most Valuable Player:  Steve Zungul, New York Arrows
MISL Scoring Champion:  Fred Grgurev, Philadelphia Fever
Coach of the Year:  Timo Liekoski, Cleveland Crunch
Goalkeeper of the Year:  Paul Hammond, Houston Summit Soccer
Championship Series Player of the Year:  Shep Messing, New York Arrows
MISL Pass Master (most Assists):  Fred Grgurev, Philadelphia Fever

All-MISL team:

G - Shep Messing, New York Arrows
D - Fred Grgurev, Philadelphia Fever
D - Ian Anderson, Houston Summit Soccer
F - Kai Haaskivi, Houston Summit Soccer
F - Steve Zungul, New York Arrows

The US National Team

The national programs had three items on the agenda for 1979: Olympic qualifying for 1980, the 1979 Pan-American Games and preparation for the 1982 World Cup. First up were the Pan American qualification rounds in April. Coach Walt Chyzowych assembled a roster of college players and NASL players who had signed the "Olympic registration" form, allowing them to retain amateur status by receiving expense stipends rather than actual salaries. The Americans boned up by shutting out Mexico 4-0 and edging Canada.

In the qualifying rounds that April, the US had to rely largely on the college contingent. At this time, there was little love lost between the USSF and the NASL. The league didn't see national events as significant, and basically called the shots; the US being the only nation that did not require leagues to release their players for the National Team. This made the qualification a frustrating adventure, with US success depending as much on the airline schedule as on the skill displayed at the pitch. After the Americans pulled off an upset of Mexico (2-1, from goals by Angelo DiBernardo and George Nanchoff), the NASL recalled four players, and the US had to field a mostly college lineup in the Canada match; the best they could manage was a scoreless draw. The Nanchoff brothers and a third player were allowed to return, but they only arrived minutes before the final game against Bermuda, and had to dress for the game on the sidelines. In this unsettled state, they lost to Bermuda 1-0, but amazingly, Mexico was eliminated from the competition. The US qualified in what Chyzowych called a minor miracle.

The Pan-American Games were held in the summer, and the NASL offered no cooperation; the coach was forced to field the youngest team of the tournament (average age 20), consisting mostly of the Youth Team. The Amerks did better than expected, shutting out the Dominican Republic 6-0, including four goals by Don Ebert. They then defeated Puerto Rico 3-1 in a rough game involving three ejections. The dream came to an end against Argentina who swamped the US 4-0, although the Americans had to play much of the game with ten players when Tim Clark was injured after two substitutions had already been made. After losing to Cuba 5-0, the US finished last in their group. The team left the competition rather than play Puertio Rico for 5th place. Brazil took the gold, Cuba took the Silver and Argentina took the bronze.

The Senior team began practice for qualifications by losing a pair to the soviet Union (-1 in Seattle, 4-1 in San Francisco). In May, the team reformed to play their first game against France. Since this game was in the middle of the NASL season, the team once again made to make do with whatever players the league made available, With only three days preparation, they were no match for France who shut them out 6-0. The team had no practice, and five players arrived the day of the game. They even had to deal with petty disputes involving product endorsements! US players, getting better visibility had signed endorsement deals which sometimes conflicted with those already in place with the USSF. his disagreement had to be resolved in the locker room, with players hurriedly disguising their shoes with magic marker and shoe paste while the coach explained their game plan in seven minutes on the blackboard.

The National team reassembled in October for a European tour. This team had a much stronger contingent of major NASL players including Winston DuBose, Ty Keough, Ringo Cantillo, Gary Etherington and Greg Villa. After victories against the Bermuda select team and the national team, the US had a fairly respectable rematch against France, only being shut out 3-0 against the World Cup veterans. After losing to Xamax FC of Switzerland 2-1, they beat Bercham FC 2-0 in Belgium, drew with Volendam 1-1 and beat Castellon 2-1 (Spanish 2nd div.).

This was followed by one of the most significant upsets in years, and a sign that there was still hope. The US played the Hungarian national team in Budapest on October 26. The game was tough with a surprisingly effective US performance. Early in the 2nd half, Louis Nanchoff scored on a breakaway, and Hungary missed a free kick after a questionable call against Arnie Mausser by kicking the ball into the stands. This rattled the home team, and they became increasingly disorganized as they tried to even the score. During this scrabble, Angelo DiBernardo snagged the ball at midfield and ran alone toward the goal. A desperate tackle from behind failed to derail him, and he angled a low left shot by the goalie who had come out to defend. The game ended thus, at 2-0 with the crowd chanting "USA! - USA" as the team returned to their dressing room. They almost won their next game, the final one of the tournament, against Ireland. The US pulled out to a 2-0 lead on goals by DiBernardo and Villa, but then fell apart on defense, allowing Ireland to score three goals in two minutes. But overall, the tour was a significant victory, with the Americans taking home a 5-3-1 record.

The final item on the agenda was Olympic qualifying. The US nearly blew their chance, by losing twice to Mexico. The first game, in Mexico City, was a 4-0 shutout. Once again, NASL pulled players at the last minute, with the new lineup worked out at the waiting station at the airport. Same story at the rematch at Giants stadium, where some players flew in the night before the game. Needing five goals to qualify, the US instead was shutout by 2-0 in a game that was more of a warm up for the Cosmos match that completed the doubleheader. This eliminated the US, but in a major reversal of fortune, FIFA granted an American protest, finding that Mexico had used ineligible players. With Mexico withdrawn, the US proceeded to the next CONCACAF round, and easily beat Bermuda 3-0 and 5-0, and finished the year with a ticket to the final round-robin tournament against Costa Rica and Suriname. It was looking good for the US to qualify for the first time in many years.

In a bitter setback, the Youth team (U-19) failed to qualify for the U-20 World Youth Cup after beating Puerto Rico 2-0 and Trinidad 4-0, before losing to Trinidad 3-1 and Honduras 1-0. Chyzowych criticized the colleges for their lack of support by not allowing players to participate, sometimes pulling players at the last moment. As he said, the USSF cannot do the job alone.

    1979 Totals:  6W,  0D,  3L (Full internationals only)
Dec 12 79  W 5-0  Bermuda                   +Ft. Lauderdale, FL,USA(OLQ'80)
               R. Davis, Villa
Dec 02 79  W 3-0  Bermuda                   +Hamilton, Bermuda (OLQ'80)
               A. Dibernardo, R. Davis
Oct 29 79  L 2-3  Ireland                    Dublin, Ireland
               Villa, Di Bernardo
Oct 26 79  W 2-0  Hungary                    Budapest, Hungary
               L. Nanchoff, Di Bernardo
Oct 10 79  L 0-3  France                     Paris, France
Oct 07 79  W 3-1  Bermuda                    Hamilton, Bermuda
               Liveric, Bandov, Makowski
Jun 03 79 FW 2-0  Mexico                    +New York, NY, USA (OLQ'80)
May 23 79 FW 2-0  Mexico                    +Leon, Mexico (OLQ'80)
May 02 79  L 0-6  France                     East Rutherford, NJ, USA
Feb 11 79  L 1-4  Soviet Union               San Francisco, CA, USA
Feb 03 79  L 1-3  Soviet Union               Seattle, WA, USA
               R. Davis

International Club Tours

San Diego Sockers  February 16, 1979 - March 14, 1979.  Record:  2 win, 1 loss, 1 draw
   2/16/79 San Diego Sockers            4 at Mexican All-Stars            1
   2/27/79 San Diego Sockers            1 at Nuevo Leon (Mexico)          1
    3/2/79 San Diego Sockers            0 at Mirador (Mexico)             2
    3/3/79 San Diego Sockers              at Universidad (Mexico)
   3/14/79 San Diego Sockers            1 at Universidad (Mexico)         0

New York Cosmos  March 5, 1979 - March 25, 1979.  Record:  1 win, 1 loss, 2 draws
    3/5/79 New York Cosmos              1 at Trinidad All-Stars           1
    3/7/79 New York Cosmos              0 at Nautico (Brazil)             0 in Trinidad
   3/15/79 New York Cosmos              2 at America-Cali (Columbia)      0
   3/18/79 New York Cosmos              0 at Nacional (Columbia)          2

Tulsa Roughnecks September 19, 1979 - October 16, 1979.  Record: 5 wins, 3 losses, 4 draws,
   9/19/79 Tulsa Roughnecks             3 at Groningen (Netherlands)      0
   9/23/79 Tulsa Roughnecks             2 at Helmond Sport (Netherlands)  1
   9/25/79 Tulsa Roughnecks             3 at Fortuna (Netherlands)        1
   9/29/79 Tulsa Roughnecks             2 at Telstar (Netherlands)        1
   10/8/79 Tulsa Roughnecks             1 at Bangor City (Wales)          1
  10/10/79 Tulsa Roughnecks             3 at Worcester City (Wales)       1
  10/16/79 Tulsa Roughnecks             1 at Middlesbrough (England)      4
  10/17/79 Tulsa Roughnecks             1 at Wigan Athletic (England)     1
  10/22/79 Tulsa Roughnecks             2 at Leicester City (England)     2
  10/23/79 Tulsa Roughnecks             2 at Shrewsbury Town (England)    5
  10/24/79 Tulsa Roughnecks             2 at Derby County (England)       2
  10/29/79 Tulsa Roughnecks             2 at Lincoln City (England)       9
  10/31/79 Tulsa Roughnecks               at Cardiff City (Wales)

New York Cosmos  September 20, 1979 - October 14, 1979.  Record: 6 wins, 2 loss, 5 draws.
   9/20/79 New York Cosmos              3 at Team Seiko (Hong Kong)       3
   9/24/79 New York Cosmos              6 at Hong Kong All-Stars          0
   9/28/79 New York Cosmos              0 at South Korea National Team    1
   9/30/79 New York Cosmos              2 at South Korea National Team    3
   10/3/79 New York Cosmos              4 at Indonesia National Team      1
   10/5/79 New York Cosmos              1 at All-Indonesia Selection      1
   10/7/79 New York Cosmos              4 at Singapore National Team      1
  10/10/79 New York Cosmos              1 at Japanese All-Stars           1
  10/14/79 New York Cosmos              2 at Japanese National Team       2
  10/17/79 New York Cosmos              5 at Malaysia National Team       0
  10/21/79 New York Cosmos              3 at Victoria State (Australia)   2
  10/24/79 New York Cosmos              1 at Australian National Team     2
  10/31/79 New York Cosmos              2 at Adelaide City (Australia)    0

The College Game

In the NCAA Division 1 tournament, third round action saw SIU-Edwardsville defeat San Francisco 4-2. Penn State defeated Indiana 2-0, Clemson nudged American 1-0, and Columbia defeated Rhode Island 5-1. In the semifinals, SIU-Edwardsville defeated Penn State 2-1 and Clemson defeated Columbia 4-1. The championship was held in Tampa, FL. Penn state took the 3rd place game 2-1, and on December 9 SIU-Edwardsville won the national title 3-2 over Clemson.

In the NCAA Division 2 tournament, third round action saw Southern Connecticut State defeat Mercy 2-1. Eastern Illinois defeated Missouri State 3-0, Seattle Pacific defeated Chapman 3-0, and Alabama A&M defeated Florida International 3-0. In the semifinals, Eastern Illinois defeated Southern Connecticut State 1-0, and Alabama A&M defeated Seattle pacific 1-0 in overtime. The championship returned to Miami for the 3rd year. Seattle Pacific won the 3rd place game over So. Connecticut State 1-0, and on December 1, 1979, Alabama A&M defeated Eastern Illinois 2-0.

In the NCAA Division 3 tournament, second round action saw Babson defeat Brandeis 2-0, Lock haven defeated Scranton 1-0 in triple overtime, Washington (Mo.) defeated Denison 2-0, and Rowan defeated Cortland State 2-0. In the semifinals, Babson defeated Lock haven 1-0 (quadruple overtime), and Rowan defeated Washington (Mo.) 3-2 in double overtime. The championship moved to Trenton, NJ. Washington (Mo.) defeated lock Haven 2-0 to take third place, and on November 24, Babson won the national title, defeating Rowan 2-1.

NAIA Championship: Quincy 1, Rockhurst 0

NJCAA Championship: Miami-Dade South 1, Fulton-Montgomery C. C. 0

NCCAA Championship: Houghton 6, Trinity (IL) 0

Coaches' Final Division 1 Poll:

1.  SIU-Edwardsville
2.  Alabama A&M
3.  Clemson
4.  Penn State
5.  Columbia
6.  Indiana
7.  San Francisco
8.  Southern Methodist
9.  Rhode Island
10.  Cleveland State

College All-Americans:

G - Randy Phillips, Southern Methodist
D - Saeid Baghvardani, Southern Methodist
D - Mike Freitag, Indiana
D - Barry Nix, Columbia
D - Jerry Reardon, Adelphi
D - John Young, Hartwick
F - Armando Betancourt, Indiana
F - Steve Charles, Columbia
F - Clyde O'Garro, St. Francis (NY)
F - Ray Taylor, Western Illinois
Hermann Trophy: Jim Stamatis, Penn State
NSCAA Coach of the Year: Walt Bahr, Penn State

Other Action

1979 US Open Cup Final: Brooklyn Dodgers, of the Cosmopolitan Soccer league defeated Chicago Croatian 2-1 on June 17.
1979 National Amateur Cup Final: Atlanta Datagraphic defeated San Francisco Glens 1-0 on July 10.

James P. McGuire (National Junior) Cup: Imo's Pizza, St. Louis

CONCACAF Champions Cup: Soccer Universidad of the USA participated, but did not advance. Deportivo FAS (El Salvador) defeated Jong Colombia (Dutch Antilles) 9-0. to take the Cup.

Pan-American Games: The US finished last in their group. (see details in National Team section above.) Brazil took the gold, Cuba took the Silver and Argentina took the bronze

U-20 World Championship: The USA did not participate in this tournament. Argentina beat the Soviet Union 3-1 for the title.

National Soccer Hall of Fame: In 1979, Enzo DeLuca, Margaret "Peg" Fowler, Al Harker, Kurt Lamm, and Gene Ringsdorf were inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Dave Grieve were inducted into the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association hall of fame.

Last update: May 30, 2010

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