"If the other
players can do it, so can you, George. You're no different from the
blasted a ball aimlessly into the air and stormed back to the hotel. Any other
player would have been at least fined and possibly suspended. But not
Chinaglia. Unfined, unsuspended, indeed, unrebuked, he grew darker, more sullen
as game time approached on Tuesday.
His mood was
mirrored at the box office: ticket sales had leveled at a dismal 9,000 on
Sunday. On Monday morning came the surprise announcement: Johan Cruyff, the
legendary Dutch star who had retired in May, would play for the Cosmos. The
English papers stated he was doing it out of the goodness of his heart to
rescue the sagging Chelsea gate. The more cynical said the Cosmos were ready to
help Cruyff with the large financial problems he had incurred while playing in
Spain, a gesture they hoped would persuade him to come out of retirement and
join them next season.
But first the
Cosmos had to deal with Chelsea and all it represented. "The pride of
English football is at stake," said Coach Ken Shellito, "because we
taught Americans the game."
And, of course,
the Cosmos boasted such famous English-trained Americans as Beckenbauer,
Chinaglia and Vladislav Bogicevic. That Firmani went with this array of
international financiers instead of young Americans like Ricky Davis and Gary
Etherington only underscored the pressure he was under to avert another
Even more telling
was the phone call he made on Monday to Coventry City Coach Gordon Milne saying
that the Cosmos were in need of a loan. Firmani was after Steve Hunt, the
22-year-old left winger who played a major role in the Cosmos' two
championships and who at his own request had been transferred to first-division
Coventry after the U.S. season for a nominal $80,000 because he wanted to
return to English soccer. On Tuesday night Milne agreed. Of course, the game
against Chelsea, mired at the bottom of the first division, could not exactly
be billed as a titanic struggle.
All the more
surprising, then, when the largest home crowd in more than a year—some
40,000—turned out to inspect this latest curiosity from the colonies and marvel
at the skills of The Great Man, as one British journalist kept calling Cruyff.
Beautifully balanced and marvelously adroit, Cruyff strolled through the
Chelsea defense with impudent ease. His presence on the field seemed to rouse
the Cosmos as well. For once they did not yawn and roll over. Beckenbauer, in
particular, looked like a man transformed, striding boldly into attack, working
delicate combinations with Cruyff and generally gliding over the field as if on
Out on the flanks
Dennis Tueart and Hunt were in full cry, their sudden, surging dribbles
creating constant confusion in the Chelsea defense. Only some acrobatic
goalkeeping kept the Cosmos from scoring three times in the opening minutes.
When the goal did come, it was, ironically, the work of two Englishmen. A burst
down the left wing by Hunt, a superbly accurate cross to the far post and there
was Tueart leaping to drive a volley into the net. A rout seemed likely.
But though the
Cosmos swarmed around the Chelsea goal, firing a barrage of shots, they were
agonizingly just off target, and Chelsea, in one of its rare sorties to the
other end of the field, equalized with two minutes left. The game ended in a
"They were a
lot better than we thought," admitted Chelsea's Shellito.