But for the Cosmos the game was a turning point. They were to lose only twice more in the regular season. The resurgence that followed was too late to prevent Fort Lauderdale from winning the Eastern Division, but from then on it was all roses for the Cosmos.
And Firmani's arrival had a marked influence on player morale. One telltale was the case of young Steve Hunt, a 21-year-old player with Aston Villa in the English First Division, for whom he didn't start in spite of his clear attacking talent. When he came to the Cosmos he was a starter right away. "I went off with a burst," Hunt recalls, of his days with Bradley on the Cosmos, "but then things started to go wrong.
"Halfway through the season," Hunt now confesses, "there was no doubt in my mind that I was going home. My wife had gone back to England already. She was badly homesick. So was I. It was nothing to do with the soccer, and I love America. What happened, see, they fixed us up in an apartment in North Bergen. In New Jersey, like. The area was not great. The rest of the players lived ages away, you know? We had no car. I had to get lifts into training."
Off the field Hunt's manner is peaceful enough as he talks with the flattened vowels of the English Midlands. He sometimes has a brooding, tense look, though, and when midway through the season his game fell off there were rumors of arguments, even punch-ups, involving Hunt and Chinaglia and of arguments with Bradley.
Things changed when Firmani arrived. "I'd been played out of my position. The tactics were wrong. I was put in mid-field," Hunt said before Sunday's championship game. "But Eddie has given me a lot more freedom and I enjoy my game again. He lets me roam around a lot up front. He lets me use all the field."
On their way to the finals, the Cosmos disposed of Tampa Bay, Fort Lauderdale and Rochester in fairly straightforward fashion. The Sounders, it could be argued, had a rougher, tougher passage to Portland in advancing past Vancouver, Minnesota and Los Angeles.
The attendance for the second game of the L.A. set would have attracted wider attention had it not been for the more extraordinary figures for a Cosmos playoff game against Fort Lauderdale at Giants Stadium—77,691. There were 56,256 fans at the Kingdome. "The highest recorded in the league this year," the P.A. system proudly announced. "Uh, that is, west of East Rutherford...."
And, unaware as it was of the way things would go in 1977, the NASL may regret that its showpiece final had been set so early for comparatively tiny Civic Stadium. Still, when it was all over on Sunday, the Cosmos certainly weren't complaining.