August 27, 2977
FAIRY TALE ENDING
Cosmos give Pele a championship sendoff
PORTLAND, Ore.—The great Pele might not have scored in the New York Cosmos’ 2-1 Soccer Bowl win over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, but it was his day all the same. After the final whistle blew and the trophy was presented, it was Pele that the new champions hoisted onto their shoulders and carried off to the cheers of a standing-room crowd of 41,270 at Civic Stadium.
|Cosmos captain Werner Roth raises the Soccer Bowl trophy.
The game itself was every bit the close battle that the Brazilian superstar had predicted to reporters in the days before. And, while the win was dedicated to the 22-year soccer veteran, it was rookie Steve Hunt who made the difference on the field, scoring a heads-up goal in the 20th minute, and setting the table for Giorgio Chinaglia’s game-winning header at the 77:19 mark. The performance earned Hunt the game MVP award.
Hunt made Sounders goalkeeper Tony Chursky pay for a careless moment 19:05 into the game, after the netminder picked off a long pass intended for Chinaglia in the box. Chursky tossed the ball to the ground, intending to dribble forward before distributing it upfield, leaving an opening for Hunt to dash in, poke the ball away and score into the empty net.
The Sounders, who rode a late-season surge into the playoffs and had allowed only two goals on their way to the Pacific Conference championship, were not about to roll over in the biggest game of the year, however, and equalized barely four minutes later. Former Cosmos Tommy Ord threaded a hard shot through the Cosmos defense from the right side of the box and past sprawling ‘keeper Shep Messing for the 1-1 tie.
The game turned into an offensive slugfest, with the teams combining for 55 shots (29 Cosmos, 26 Sounders). But there was only one more goal, Chinaglia’s header to the upper corner off of Hunt’s picture-perfect service. Messing came through with three of his 11 saves in the closing minutes, and the Sounders’ Steve Buttle sent a dangerous shot clanging off the post before time finally ran out.
The win made the Cosmos the only two-time champions in NASL history. The team’s postseason run also helped rewrite the league’s postseason record book. Their eight goals against Fort Lauderdale on August 14 were an all-time NASL playoff high. The Cosmos hosted the largest playoff crowd in NASL history, 77,691 for the August 14 win over the Strikers, and have the largest combined postseason attendance in league history, at 212,410 over three games, and the largest average postseason attendance at 70,803.
Chinaglia’s hat trick and seven points against the Strikers on August 14 set new single-game playoff scoring records. Chinaglia also set playoff scoring records for most career and single-season points (20), and goals in playoffs (9). Hunt’s three assists against Tampa Bay on August 10 and seven total playoff assists also were new league highs.