1 June 15, 1975: Dallas Tornado at New York Cosmos
This was Pele's first match for the Cosmos. He signed in the middle of the season, and CBS broadcast his first game. Over 22,000 screaming fans showed up -- at the time the largest crowd to watch an American soccer match. They saw a great game, and Pele scored the tying goal.
Before the match there was a ceremony where Kyle Rote Jr. and Pele exchanged flags. Kyle accidentally held the Brazilian flag upside down. Kyle told me that for the next ten years, people kept coming up to him and saying "Do you know you held the Brazilian flag upside down?" And he had to keep saying "Yes, I know. I know. I know."
2 August 12, 1975: Seattle Sounders at Portland Timbers
This playoff game was the culmination of a year long love affair between Portland and its new team. The fans hung on every twist and turn of this match. When the Timbers won in overtime, the fans poured onto the field and hugged the players.
There is whole chapter about the 1975 Portland Timbers in David Tossell's book Playing For Uncle Sam: The Brits Story of the North American Soccer League.
3 May 2, 1976: Chicago Sting at New York Cosmos
This match at a packed Yankee Stadium was on HBO. Several great Pele shots were saved by Chicago goalkeeper Mervyn "The Magician" Cawston before Pele finally scored the tying goal. But the fans went home disappointed when Steve Peplow scored the winner for the Sting in sudden death overtime.
4 August 24, 1976: Toronto Metros-Croatia at Tampa Bay Rowdies
The winner of this semifinal match went to the Soccer Bowl. The Rowdies were the defending NASL champions, and they hadn't lost at home throughout the 1976 season. They had even beaten Toronto handily a month earlier in Toronto...How overconfident were the Rowdies? Several days before this match the team made its airplane reservations to Seattle for the Soccer Bowl. The Toronto players heard about that, and they were not amused!
Unfortunately, I only have found the first half of this match on tape. However, Toronto won 2-0, and both goals were scored in the first half. The legendary Portuguese player Eusebio scored one of those goals.
5 June 5, 1977: Dallas Tornado at Los Angeles Aztecs
The legendary George Best played the last five years of his career in America. He had some great moments in the NASL, including this game. The halftime interview during this game is with Elton John. He says that he is the one who convinced George Best to come to America.
6 August 14, 1977: Seattle Sounders at Minnesota Kicks
I've seen a lot of soccer matches, and I've never seen such a dumb play to end a match. This was a playoff game in front of 50,000 fans. Minnesota held a 1-0 lead late in the game. Seattle tied it with a minute to go. Then in sudden death overtime, Minnesota's Mark Bailey took possession of the ball near his own goal. He tried to pass it to his goalkeeper, but missed!
7 August 13, 1978: Detroit Express at Ft. Lauderdale Strikers
Trevor Francis was one of the great English players who came to America to play in the NASL. In this playoff match Francis scored two goals, but the Strikers won 4-3 in a thrilling shootout.
8 July 11, 1979: Chicago Sting at Minnesota Kicks
Nothing special happened in the first half of this game. Then in the second half all hell broke loose. Tied 4-4, the teams went to a shootout. The Sting felt that the referee let a Kicks player take more than five seconds, and the team went crazy. Sting owner Lee Stern even ran on the field and started shoving the referee. After this game the NASL ruled that the stadium clock would count down the seconds in the shootout.
9 September 1, 1979: Vancouver Whitecaps at New York Cosmos
This semifinal playoff is generally regarded as the greatest match in NASL history. The Cosmos were the two-time defending champions. They seemed invincible. But after nearly four hours in the hot sun, Vancouver outhustled and outlasted the champions. What a game.
10 September 8, 1982: Seattle Sounders at Ft. Lauderdale Strikers
This was the second game of a "best of three" playoff series. Ft. Lauderdale had won the first game. In this game Ray Hudson, Thomas Rongan, and the rest of the Strikers had a 3-2 lead with only seconds left in regulation. The Ft. Lauderdale fans were confidently chanting "Soccer Bowl...Soccer Bowl." If Ft. Lauderdale had just booted it upfield, the game probably would have been over. But Seattle intercepted a pass, centered the ball, and Roger Davies headed it into the net. Then the Sounders won it in overtime.
Unfortunately, I have not found a tape of the third game back in Seattle. The Sounders won that one to go to the Soccer Bowl.
Did you attend any of these games? Please let me know: DaveBrett@austin.rr.com