King County Stadium, alias the Kingdome, hosted its very first sports event last Friday night and it was an occasion for Seattle to savor. They sold $1.25 burritos (meat pies), $1.50 "Orleans hot links" (with corn pone) and $1.50 Kingdogs. They also sold a preseason North American Soccer League match between the New York Cosmos, starring Pel�, and the Seattle Sounders, featuring a bunch of Britishers, to 58,128 fans, the biggest crowd ever to see a soccer game in the U.S.
The crowd might have been larger still except for three things: the SuperSonics were playing the NBA champion Golden State Warriors two miles away at the Coliseum before a packed house of 14,096; the Sonics game was also on home television; and no more people could have been squeezed into the Kingdome anyway because approximately 5,000 seats had not yet been installed. Local spirits were not particularly dampened when Pel�—who else?—scored the first goal or even when New York eventually won the match 3-1.
The newness of the domed stadium, the appeal of being on hand for its first sporting event and the promise of seeing Pel� did nothing to hurt the gate, of course, but the fact is that Seattle right now is insatiably hungry for pro sports. The Sonics, who have clinched a spot in the playoffs, regularly sell out the Coliseum and the Kingdome will be the setting for a few playoff games. The new NFL Seahawks, who start operations this fall, sold an incredible 59,000 season tickets in two weeks. And major league baseball returns next year.
The Sounders, beginning their third season in the 10-year-old NASL, have done an excellent job of promotion. They used to play home games in little Memorial Stadium near the Space Needle and sold all 17,925 seats for the final four games last year. Their offensive star is Geoff Hurst, who 10 years ago scored three goals in England's World Cup victory over West Germany. The defensive ace is Mike England, who is Welsh. At the moment, he is busy helping Cardiff get back into the English League's second division and has not yet joined his U.S. team.
The Cosmos have been showing off their magical Pel� all over the country—San Diego, San Antonio, Phoenix, etc.—happily supplying him with jerseys to give away. It seems that once he was almost strangled when a fan tried to rip off his jersey, so he started taking them off right after matches and parting with them voluntarily. He has given away about 140 since joining New York last season.
The Cosmos played in Honolulu Wednesday night, beating Honda of Japan 5-0, and Pel� put on one of his marvelous shows, scoring four goals, three of them in a 15-minute span in the second half. He said it was the 31st time in his career that he had scored four goals in a match. One of the Honolulu goals he called his best ever, which would mean better than any of the other 1,200 or so.
From the left of the goal, blocked off by two defenders (Pel� is double- and triple-teamed constantly), he kicked the ball over their heads with his heel, ran around them and stopped the ball with his chest. Then, from a difficult angle, he booted it past the goalie into the net.
There are 10 other men who take the pitch with Pel�, of course, and some of them are very good. The top newcomer is David Clements, captain of Northern Ireland's team. The Cosmos also have two of Pel�'s teammates from Santos of Brazil, young Midfielder Nelsi Morais and Peruvian Midfielder Ramon Mifflin. American Bob Rigby, who played college soccer at East Stroudsburg State, has developed into one of the league's better goalies.
The Sounders were obviously hurt on defense by the absence of England and the newness of their young Canadian goalie, Tony Chursky, but on Friday night their offense wasn't exactly purring, either. One trouble was that Hurst and a few others only arrived in Seattle the previous weekend and the team was not cohesive yet. For most of the match the Sounders were kicking the ball to each other instead of to open spaces and letting their mates run to the ball.
New York scored two quick goals, one by Pel� on a free kick and one by Clements that glanced off the left post and into the net, and that was enough to win. Seattle closed the gap to 2-1 on a header by Assistant Coach Jim Gabriel, but Pel� scored on another free kick with less than four minutes to go to ice the match.